ALVISE CAGNAZZO: 10 THINGS WE LEARNED from Serie A's opening weekend

ALVISE CAGNAZZO: AC Milan play it safe with Ante Rebic, Romelu Lukaku rediscovers the Midas touch, and Jose Mourinho’s Roma show their title credentials… 10 THINGS WE LEARNED from Serie A’s opening weekend

  • The opening weekend of Serie A provided plenty of thrills and spills for fans 
  • Most of the big teams triumphed but there were still some interesting plotlines 
  • Champions AC Milan could rely on Croatian star Ante Rebic to deliver the goals
  • Romelu Lukaku got off the mark early after returning from a poor Chelsea spell 
  • Jose Mourinho’s Roma ground out a gritty win to show their title credentials
  • Below, Sportsmail looks at 10 things we learned from Serie A’s opening weekend 
  • Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates

What have we learned this week from the first game week of Serie A? 

The first step in a marathon season, which will be interrupted for 52 days this winter due to the World Cup in Qatar, was enough to help us understand numerous dynamics of Italy’s top division and answer some early-season questions. 

There was plenty to take away from the first 90 minutes of the campaign – below, Sportsmail‘s Alvise Cagnazzo takes you through 10 things we learned from the opening weekend.

There were plenty of thrills and spills as Italy’s top flight kicked off its season at the weekend

1.  Milan playing it safe with Rebic

AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli was very clear when speaking to DAZN: ‘I believe a lot in Ante Rebic’s qualities and he knows it’.

Despite the arrival of striker Divock Origi on a free from Liverpool and the presence of Olivier Giroud, the Croatian has become the focal point of the attack just at the moment when his name could have disappeared from the starting line up. 

Rebic is a player very similar to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino: he can play as a ‘nine and a half’, a central striker, attacking midfielder or winger in a versatile, interchangeable team with no single reference point up front.

Veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 40 – who wore an Avatar-style ponytail – is sidelined until January next year after a knee operation left him with a ‘super fan’ role in the stands as Rebic scored twice in a 4-2 win against Udinese.

Until then, the 28-year-old has the responsibility of replacing him. The first 90 minutes of the season showed he has a stronger inner fire than any other Milan attacker. His desire to be the main man could surpass the fans’ expectations of him.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic out injured until next year, Ante Rebic (right) can step up for AC Milan

2. Hollywood star Mourinho shows Roma title credentials

Jose Mourinho is the perfect man to become the leading man of a Hollywood blockbuster: he is an experienced star who knows every sneaky ploy to win a tactical game of chess with opponents before the first whistle even sounds.

The 1-0 win against Salernitana shows how perfectly the Portuguese understands the strengths and weaknesses of a team that can win the Scudetto despite starting as fourth favourites.

Roma’s skilful negotiations mean they have brought in Paulo Dybala, Georginio Wijnaldum, Nemanja Matic, Zeki Celik and goalkeeper Mile Svilar to the eternal city without spending much at all. Plus, they’ve kept hold of Nicolo Zaniolo!

Jose Mourinho’s Roma showed their title credentials with a 1-0 victory against Salernitana

3. Lukaku already has the Midas touch

It might seem like a negative comment but Romelu Lukaku is ideal for Italian football and badly suited to the Premier League.

The Belgian striker is like King Midas: everything he touches (in Italy) turns to gold and he scored against Lecce just two minutes in to prove his crazy success in Serie A, with Inter snatching a late winner to grab a 2-1 win.

With just a few touches, Lukaku achieved much more than he did in six months at Chelsea.

Chelsea outcast Romelu Lukaku (right) showed why he is perfectly suited to Italian football

The Belgian striker scored just two minutes into his second Inter debut in a 2-1 win over Lecce

4. King Vlahovic shines for Juventus

With his performance in a 3-0 win against Sassuolo on Monday, Dusan Vlahovic showed he has overcome his groin problem, won the media battle with those who labelled him a ‘flop’ after just six months and made it clear he is a top player.  

Vlahovic has physical strength, talent and the knack of scoring goals: his double in the Old Lady’s opening fixture proved his character and the former Fiorentina star is a candidate for Serie A’s top scorer alongside Ciro Immobile and Romelu Lukaku. 

He showed off his prowess in attack, winning and scoring a penalty and using his cunning and intelligence to score with his weak foot from Angel Di Maria’s assist. 

If Juve do well this season, much of their success will be down to the killer instinct of the young Serbian, who dreams of being the first person born this millennium to become the top striker in Italy. 

Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic (right) can compete for the ‘Capocannoniere’ Golden Boot award

5. ‘Scugnizzo Kvara’ proving success of Napoli scouts

Napoli, in discovering Georgian star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, tells us top players don’t always have to have sky-high costs, with his extraordinary physical strength and dribbling making him the best low-cost purchase in Serie A. 

The bearded 21-year-old with a teenager’s face is a hurricane sweeping away doubts about his ability to adapt to the Italian top-flight, scoring his side’s opening goal in a dominant 5-2 win away at Verona on Monday.

‘Scugnizzo Kvara’ – translating to ‘urchin Kvara’ because of his scruffy appearance – is already idolised by Napoli fans and his role in manager Luciano Spalletti’s front three, alongside winger Hirving Lozano and striker Victor Osimhen, seems safe.

Kvaratskhelia can improve further under the Tuscan coach and demonstrate how talents scouts can improve the quality of the club without destroying the club’s income statement.

Now Napoli can look to the future with more confidence. And by the way, anyone wanting the wideman, who cost around £9million from Dinamo Batumi in July, must today shell out at least £25m. 

Georgian star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (pictured) already looks like a brilliant signing for Napoli

6. Juric would be perfect for the Premier League

Torino boss Ivan Juric seems almost a cartoonish figure at times – fighting with everyone, kicking off easily and always controversial – but always seems to pull off successful results despite all that.

After losing captain and key player Sasa Lukic 12 hours before their season opener against Monza in an ‘unexpected mutiny’ which saw the Serbian midfielder dropped, Juric’s side took their first three points of the campaign.

The Torino dressing room is a powder keg but Juric never fails to make normal players perform like top players, improving them both in terms of performance and personality.

He may not have the English aplomb or the French eloquence but from Genoa to Verona and now Torino, he always makes the most of the players he has.

Juric would be perfect for any Premier League club: he has the Eastern European warm blood but he is a great manager who 100 per cent from the 24 players he has at his disposal under Torino chairman Urbano Cairo.

Torino’s Ivan Juric would be perfect for the Premier League as he maximises players’ potential

7. Immobile is the Serie A King

It took 90 minutes to remind Italian football that Ciro Immobile is the greatest striker in Italy. Immobile is a guarantee of goals and he has a brilliant ability to become a key player year after year.

He is a leader built over time, an increasingly strong personality that led him to be one of the first great and charismatic Lazio representatives when he clashed with Bologna’s Marko Arnautovic for celebrating a goal in front of the Lazio fans.

He always scores, Ciro Immobile, because he is the perfect player for Maurizio Sarri’s style of play. The ex-Chelsea boss has decided to turn him into a copy of Gonzalo Higuain, the Argentine hitman who scored bucketloads under Sarri at Napoli.

Former Juventus and Genoa striker Immobile is perhaps the player who best knows all the dynamics of Italian football and who is not afraid of all the great strikers who challenge him every year to take the ‘Capocannoniere‘ golden boot title.

Lazio’s Ciro Immobile proved once again that he is the greatest striker in Italy at the moment

8.  Upheaval and confusion for Berlusconi’s Monza

The greatest fear of the Monza fans is that club owner and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been hit by the curse of the ‘failed revolution’ in the world of football.

That is the phenomenon where large investments risk compromising a team’s season by taking away the heart, soul and identity of a football team. 

New loan signings in defender Marlon Santos and striking pair Gianluca Caprari and Andrea Petagna disappointed on their debuts.

Meanwhile, the best performers in the 2-1 home loss against Udinese were goalkeeper Michele Di Gregorio and forward Dany Mota, who have both been at the club for some time.

Coach Giovanni Stroppa will need time and above all patience, two characteristics hardly compatible with the DNA of Berlusconi and CEO Adriano Galliani, who have bet much more than the £60m investment in recent years on the success of Monza.

Fans fear there could be a repeat of the 2000s-era Como side, which under the guidance of chairman Enrico Preziosi had a disastrous season after replacing three-quarters of the players who had contributed to the growth of the team.

Monza fans fear too much upheaval after several new signings could have a catastrophic effect

9. Lecce aren’t going anywhere in Serie A

Lecce have shown in just 90 minutes that they are not a fleetingly glimpsed comet in Serie A, destined to pass through quickly, and be relegated after just one year following their promotion from the second tier. 

The team have acknowledged 100 per cent the difficulty of the new season but also know it can be a positive campaign which could offer pleasant surprises. At the moment Lecce seem to be much stronger than Serie A regulars Sampdoria. 

CEO Pantaleo Corvino has signed strong but little-known players, betting that new Gambian striker Assan Ceesay can become one of the top five goalscoring strikers this season.

With a little luck, Corvino and Lecce will be able to hope to obtain survival before the end of the campaign. Why all this enthusiasm? Simple.

They showed up very well against heavyweights Inter, and without a last-gasp lapse in concentration, would have gained a valuable point in the standings. They’ll have many more opportunities to be more fortunate.

Newly promoted Lecce (right) showed they aren’t going anywhere in Italy’s top division

10. Falcone impressing on the big stage

As a child, Wladimiro Falcone starred in a Carlo Verdone film, and as an adult he became the man of the moment for Lecce in Serie A.

The goalkeeper starred in the movie Honeymoon, one of Verdone’s masterpieces, and is now the leading man for Lecce. 

Fans at the Via del Mare stadium already love the new loan signing for all the times he kept out Inter striker Romelu Lukaku in their 2-1 defeat on Saturday, as a number of incredible interventions won him the man of the match award. 

A great season in Salento could earn him a place as the third goalkeeper in the national side, and his great reliability is amazing after so many years spent on the bench at Sampdoria.

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