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Making the Grade: Secco's Report Card and an Evaluation of Gli Big's

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Let's be honest, Secco's first two summer mercatos were a disaster. We can perhaps forgive him for the first one, given the absolute chaos that surrounded the club in the summer of 2006. Boumsong and Almiron were two of the worst signings over the last several years, period. I cringe when I see Boumsong play. I think Mexes is a "good" defender and not a world-class one, but the fact that Boumsong plays instead of him for les Bleus is pretty clear evidence that Domenech's personal feelings and astrological beliefs are a little too wacky to manage France. Then again, Mexes last game for France was pretty atrocious.

But that's a different topic. I stressed several times at the end of this summer that I was impressed with Secco's mercato and I thought he did a very solid job. Nothing legendary, but a very good job we should all be pleased and satisfied. I think you can really get a good feel for his success when compared to others, including the prices. And no, I cannot believe I'm saying this. At the end of last season, I gave him a 2 for ratings. Tiago, Almiron, Boumsong, the only signing he made that made a real impact was Grygera on a Bosman and Iaquinta, though he would become a supersub. So without further ado, here is my mid-season report card for various big clubs, perhaps to highlight Secco's success. (Dear lord, I've praised Molinaro recently and now Secco. Shoot me)

MILAN:
Everyone knew what Milan needed. A strong center-forward and a defensive rejuvenation. Last summer Borriello was heavily linked to Roma, and I said one season proved nothing. I do take a bit of pleasure in the fact that a certain Romanista pointed out Borriello's statistics were very similar to Amauri, implying they were equal in ability. No doubt Amauri would have been a brilliant buy for Milan, but they decided to get Dinho and the other half of Borriello. No significant changing of the defense.

Zambrotta- B-: Zambro is quite obviously past his best, but they did get him for a decent price. Clearly a stopgap measure though...along with Senderos.
Senderos- C+: Last season Phillipe was disastrous for Arsenal, why the hell would you snap him up as defensive cover? The fact that they signed him on a loan clearly means it's a temporary measure because they didn't want to actually invest in defense.
Dinho- B: He's scored some important goals, but his transfer fee could have been far more useful in signing Amauri instead. You already have Kaka and Seedorf, he was pretty unnecessary. Still looks a shadow of his past, but at least he's playing unlike his compatriot Adriano/Ronaldo.
Borriello- B: Just like his game for the Nazionale, he's been guilty of some pretty awful sitters with Milan. A slightly higher grade because I think he will come good. He'll never be a world-beater but I think he provides a good threat that Milan hasn't had in a little while.
Cardaccio + Viudez- N/R: They haven't played yet. Investment for the future, but that doesn't help Milan's case for a Scudetto this year.
Antonini- B: He played well for Empoli, but he hasn't convinced me yet. It'd be nice if he got to play a bit more.
Sheva- F: Step in the wrong direction.
Abbiati- A: This was one of the smarter things Milan did. For all of Gallani's talk about Dida and Kalac, it was clear that neither would cut the grade. Of course we Juventini know Abbiati quite well, who did excellent when he was in Turin. Hasn't made any horrible errors yet, that's a step-up. Milan never invests big in a goalkeeper, so Abbiati is probably as good as it's going to get.

Mercato Grade: C: Simply put, they didn't get what they needed. Borriello, Abbiati, and Zambrotta were alright signings/recalls, but Dinho, Sheva, and Senderos probably shouldn't have been signed. Minus some points for not dumping Emerson and Dida, although we all knew Dida's massive pay packet would be difficult to offload. Milanistas are biting their fingernails for the next mercato. Will Gallani get what Milan needs to be dominant? Or will he continue adding to his 2003-2004 Galacticos squad?

INTER:
Coming off of two (?) consecutive Scudetti, Inter didn't need to change much, just tweak to Jose's preference and an assault on the Champion's League. Continuing with his 4-3-3, Mourinho went after wingers, presumably to flank Ibra much in the way Malouda/Kalou/Wright-Phillips flanked Drogba at Chelski. They didn't need to change much, but their mercato sucked.

Muntari- B+: The only real signing that has more or less settled in. If you thought Secco loved defensive midfielders, take a look at Branca. Cambiasso, Muntari, Dacourt, Vieira....oy. He's played decently thus far, but still hasn't shaken the card-accumulating habits he's had in the past.
Quaresma- F: A man doesn't get the Bidone d'Oro for nothing. Ricky has looked awful whenever he's played, offering very little but questions of why Inter spilled out so much for him, including Pele.
Obinna- N/R: Highly rated young player, was signed by Inter with the intention of going on loan to Everton. Didn't get a work permit, and now rides the pine in Milan. Scored a nice goal against Roma, but that's about it. One for the future, but he should have been sent on loan in August, if not to Everton, then, y'know, maybe Chievo. Anyone know how much Inter paid for him?
Mancini- C-: He'd probably get an F if Inter had forked out as much money for him as they did for Quaresma. Mancini hasn't looked as awful as Quaresma, but he's still made very little impact. Mourinho has more or less reverted to (Roberto) Mancini's formation because of these two duds. An interesting case, he looked pretty poor the last few months at Roma, but I wonder if all sides would have been better off had he taken some anti-depressants and stayed. Roma could have used him, Inter isn't, and Mancini would be getting playing time, albeit with a smaller paycheck.

Mercato Grade: C-: For the amount of money, the signings were pretty awful. Juve's refusal to bring in Stankovic has paid dividends, as he's been one of the best performers of the season. Kinda ironic. At various points, Adriano, Crespo, and Cruz have looked destined to leave. Obinna probably will, so Mourinho needs to figure out what he's going to do up front with Ibra. Team's performance hasn't really been hurt by the non-transfers, though.

ROMA:
Roma got men for the positions they needed, unlike Inter or Milan. I don't think they got the best men for the job; their signings for the most part were big-club rejects, ie- Riise, Baptista. The depth is still a little iffy.

Riise- C+ Cicinho, Cassetti, Tonetto, Panucci...Roma decided to add to their list of mediocre fullbacks. Of course, he became the pariah of Liverpool after scoring an inexplicably idiotic own goal against Chelski in the Champion's League, a diving header that Cicinho would repeat a few months later against Bologna. He's looked crap thus far, and I doubt he'll do better than mediocre.
Julio Baptista- B-: Unlike many of the above mentioned transfers, Baptista isn't complete trash, but he's incredibly average. A few good years at Sevilla followed by flops at Real Madrid and Arsenal. If Spaletti decides to stick with his 4-2-3-1 in the future, it seems the trequartista position is better filled by Aquilani, Pizarro, or Perrotta. Baptista hasn't really wowed at out-and-out striker either. Good backup? Sure. Can Roma win with him starting? Meh.
Menez- A-: No, he's not the next Zizou, and no, neither is Gourcuff. My only question about the Menez signing was if Roma needed him now, or in the future. Certainly a promising player, but that was about it. He's struggled a bit, but he's starting to display all his potential. Pacey, skilled on the ball, young; Jeremy certainly has a bright future ahead of him.
Artur- B: I'll be very honest and say I have not watched this guy much, but Roma was sending out Curci (long overdue) and a replacement was needed. Romanistas have had a few heart attacks with this guy, but he looked confident in the last game I saw him playing.
1/2 of Vucinic- B: I think they overpaid.
Loria- C-: Couple people (Romanistas) mentioned Juve was interested in him this summer, I never heard anything though. Thank god. This guy has looked totally out-of-sync, slow, dumb, and just about every negative adjective you can think of, no wonder he never got a chance out of the Juve youth team. He isn't a completely worthless defender, he just can't handle pacey strikers. Ferrari's having an excellent season at Genoa, that was one poor trade.

Mercato Grade: B- : This was a Secco market. A few atrocious signings, a few decent ones. Coulda used one or two more signings, but at least they filled positions they needed. Shame they gave up Galloppa.

FIORENTINA/LAZIO/NAPOLI: I'm not going to go as thoroughly into their mercatos. (no offense intended to the tifosi of these teams, I'm just lazy) At the start of the season they all looked genius. Corvino had snapped up Gilardino, Jovetic, Melo, and Vargas. Marino had swooped for Maggio and Denis, and whoever heads up Lazio had finally signed Carizzo, Zarate, and Rosenthal. These have been hit or miss, for the most part. Gilardino, Zarate, Melo, and Maggio have settled in and made a solid impact. Rinaudo, Jovetic, and Carizzo have been average, (though Carizzo is much better than Nonno Balotta) and Vargas and Brocchi have been less-than-impressive.
Fiorentina: B+ (Comotto can't replace Ufjalusi)
Lazio: B+ (Carizzo, Rozenthal, Zarate, Brocchi, solid. No major flops)
Napoli: B (Didn't uncover another Hamsik/Lavezzi, but Maggio has been great.)

JUVENTUS:

The squad had been more or less totally revamped over the last 3 years, and it was pretty solid last year. We just needed some backup and a few tweakings. Overall, every signing Secco made this summer has done adequately, and with the exception of Poulsen (who I'm not giving up on) they have integrated beautifully.

Amauri- A+: We all knew this guy was straight beast. What none of us knew, of course, was that Trezeguet was going to have major reconstructive knee surgery. Had he not, Amauri's signing might get a different grade, but goddamn, has he delivered. It's gonna be tricky as hell figuring out how ADP, Trez, Amauri, Iaquinta, and Giovinco are all going to get enough playing time.
Poulsen- B: Some might say it's a bit generous, but we signed him to be Zanetti's backup. The guy has succeeded in the Bundesliga, in La Liga, and with the Danish national team, I'm sure he'll come good. He's been unfortunately to be sidelined thus far. We switched from Nocerino to Poulsen for 1million euros extra, is there anyone here that disagrees we traded up?
Ekdal, aka Mellberg's son- N/R: It was pretty clear from the get-go we didn't sign him to play much. Inter and Chelski were hot on his tail a few years ago. He's got a few minutes here or there, but he's only 19 so no rush.
Mellberg- B+: When you compare him to Loria and realize we paid nothing for him, it makes his transfer look brilliant. After a trial by fire v. Gilardino, he's looked confident and has merged well into our system. Can play center-back or right-back capably. How about that absolutely monstrous tackle on Drenthe in the Champion's League...
Manninger- A+: This without a doubt was Secco's best signing, period. We got him for cheaper (!!) than Artur. I don't know how we snuck in and nabbed him, he wasn't a secret. Playing for Siena last year, he was one of the best keepers of Serie A. Aside from a (fairly large) mistake against Inter, Manninger has played excellently, far above what I would expect from a reserve keeper. When we found out San Gigi would be out for 3-4 months we panicked, but Alex has shown we have nothing to worry about. I remember this summer we swapped Belardi for Chimenti, and we Juventini (including yours truly) were outraged that Chimenti would be our 2nd keeper. It's pretty clear in the end that Secco was planning otherwise the entire time.
Chimenti- N/R: He's our 3rd keeper. I'm pretty sure we swapped him to sweeten the deal for Manninger and because he seems to get along with the squad well alla Peruzzi in Germany '06.
Giovinco, De Ceglie, Marchisio- A+: The only one we had to buy back was the 2nd half of PDC's contract from Siena. Great stuff from the management to put faith in these three youngsters and recall them to base. Each have had dazzling games, but more importantly, none have had terrible. These piccoli gobbi are not benchwarmers, they have shown they are Juventus material. Particular kudos to Marchisio who has just been excellent in center-mid the entire season.
Knezevic- C- He's like Senderos except rather than having played for Arsenal, he defended for a team that got relegated. I'm alright with signing him on a loan as backup, especially since Andrade decided his career should end, but he's going to be out for 5 months, injured. What. the. hell.

Mercato Grade: A-: We could have used another center-back considering Knezevic decided to tear his knee alla Andrade. Mellberg and Poulsen have done well as reserves when called upon. Manninger has been superb in goal. Amauri has been tearing it up, and Marchisio, De Ceglie, and Giovinco have all impressed with the time they've been given. Tiago has started to prove his worth, so we have 2-3 players per position who have all proved to be up for the challenge. I'm glad we sent Almiron on loan to Fiorentina, although I wish we had sold him instead. Overall, though, the mercato were intelligent, well thought out, and we have a solid squad. When you consider our mercato v. the other of gli big, I think he did well.