Serie A Team of the Season 2011-12
Posted on May 15th, 2012
Gigi Buffon – Juventus
“If this wasn’t my best season then it wasn’t far off,” Buffon told Il Corriere della Sera. Entering the history books after conceding just 16 goals in Serie A, the Jventus No.1 sometimes had little to do, but when called upon, he jumped into action, producing stunning save after stunning save against Lazio and Palermo. His mistake in a 1-1 draw at home to Lecce was an eye-opener precisely because it was the only one he made all year.
Thiago Silva – AC Milan
The turning point in Milan’s season perhaps wasn’t the Sulley Muntari ghost-goal against Juventus, but rather what happened four days later when Max Allegri risked an unfit Thiago Silva against Roma. He pulled up after 10 minutes, missed a Champions League quarter-final with Barcelona and the rest of the campaign. Without the best centre-back in the world and a key playmaker in their system boasting the highest pass completion rate in Serie A, Milan had to give up the throne.
Andrea Barzagli – Juventus
The renaissance man of the season. A member of Italy’s World Cup winning squad in 2006, Barzagli won the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg in 2009 but was almost forgotten back home. Signed by Juventus 18 months ago, he has become indispensable under Antonio Conte and with Thiago Silva was the stand-out centre-back in Serie A enjoying the highest rating among his peers in La Gazzetta dello Sport’s famous pagelle for much of the campaign.
Francesco Acerbi – Chievo
Rarely in the team, out of favour and disappointed not to leave in January, Acerbi was down on his luck at Chievo until the spring when he began to emerge as one of the most promising young defenders in Serie A. Highly regarded for his pace and power, the 23-year-old’s assured displays appear to have persuaded Milan that, while no one can fill the departing Alessandro Nesta’s boots, he is still a prospect worth investing in for the future.
Antonio Nocerino – AC Milan
“If Nocerino can play at the Camp Nou then so can I,” was the mocking refrain among sceptical Milan supporters in September. Wearing the No. 22 shirt, many thought he was unworthy of it until he scored a hat-trick against Parma, prompting the club’s chief executive Adriano Galliani to claim it was like seeing the jersey’s former owner Kaka again. Arguably the value for money signing of the season, his 10 goals from midfield is a Milan club record, bettering Romeo Benetti’s total of seven in 1973.
Andrea Pirlo – Juventus
Ask yourself if Juventus would have won their first Scudetto in nine years were it not for Pirlo? The answer is probably: ‘No’. Milan’s decision to allow him to leave for Juventus last summer came to define this season. Pirlo alone cannot account for the team’s 26-point improvement from seventh to first place in the space of a year, but the overwhelming sense is that he made the difference. “I believe signing a player of his level for free was the deal of the century,” said Gigi Buffon. “Watching him play, I thought: There is a God.”
Claudio Marchisio – Juventus
“I see myself in Marchisio,” claimed Marco Tardelli, the Juventus legend and hero of Italy’s 1982 World Cup triumph. Born and bred in Turin, brought up through the ranks at the club he supported as a boy, Marchisio realised his potential and his dream of winning a Scudetto. Juventus’s second top scorer with 9 goals in Serie A this season, he was as important if not more so in the job he did protecting Andrea Pirlo with the excellent Arturo Vidal and recovering the ball too. An all-rounder.
Sebastian Giovinco – Parma
“It’s a shame the season has to end,” Giovinco told reporters on Sunday. They’re sentiments that are hardly surprising considering Parma won their last seven games in a row, a streak, which owes a lot to a player once held up as the heir to Alessandro Del Piero. A career high 15 goals, including one of the best this season, a sensational dipping half-volley against Siena, leaves the impression that this little big man is much more than a tricky gadget player.
Antonio Di Natale – Udinese
Intimating he might retire at the end of this season, Udinese’s ability to absorb the loss of star players every year will be tested if Di Natale hangs up his boots. A third straight 20-goal plus season, accounting for 44% of his club’s total, went a long way to qualifying them for the Champions League two years running. Their 34-year-old captain and talisman is a player even they can’t replace.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – AC Milan
For the first time since 2003, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not a member of a league championship winning team. And yet from several points of view, this has arguably been his best season to date. Top scorer in Serie A with 28 goals, he is the first player ever to achieve that feat in Italy at two different clubs.
Mattia Destro – Siena
Rewarded with a place in the provisional 32-man Italy squad for Euro 2012, Mattia Destro has made his case to be considered the best young player in Serie A this season. The Siena striker scored 12 goals in his first campaign as a regular. No player under the age of 21 has found the net in the league so much since Roberto Bettega in 1971.
Looking beyond Conte would be folly. By ending an entire season unbeaten in Serie A, a feat achieved only twice before first by Perugia in 1978-79 and then Milan in 1991-92, he ensured a place in Italy’s football pantheon. And yet, so much good work has been done by other managers in the league this season. It would be wrong to overlook the job Francesco Guidolin has done in qualifying Udinese for the Champions League again despite the sales of Cristian Zapata, Gökhan Inler and Alexis Sanchez. Elsewhere, Parma finished the campaign in better form than anyone thanks to Roberto Donadoni concluding in eighth place. Yet perhaps the true revelation of the year were Catania under Vincenzo Montella, who for much of the season played some of the most pleasing and generally innovative football on the peninsula, threatening to break the 50-point barrier only for an indifferent end of the campaign to put paid to that aspiration.
[GK] Samir Handanovic – Udinese
[CB] Giorgio Chiellini – Juventus
[MID] Arturo Vidal – Juventus
[No.10] Alessandro Diamanti – Bologna
[ST] Edinson Cavani – Napoli
[GK] Massimiliano Benassi – Lecce
[CB] Nicola Legrottaglie – Catania
[Mid] Francesco Lodi – Catania
[No 10] Luis Muriel -Lecce
[ST] Fabrizio Miccoli – Palermo