5 Premier League Outcasts Thriving In Serie A

Inter Milan's supporters cheer ahead of the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs AS Roma at the San Siro stadium in Milan on February 26, 2017. / AFP / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Football is a funny old game. One club’s flop may be another’s Ballon d’Or winner and vice versa.

One of the more interesting aspects of the currently suspended campaign has been the spectacle of several players deemed surplus to requirements in the Premier League revive their careers in Italy’s topflight in the 2019-20 season.

Let’s take a look at five such cases.

Romelu Lukaku – Internazionale
Inter’s Romelu Lukaku jubilates after scoring the goal of 1-0 during the Italian Cup round of 16 match between FC Inter and Cagliari Calcio at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy, 14 January 2020.

After going under-appreciated at Manchester United, being unfairly made a scapegoat for the club’s troubles and ridiculed for his heavy “first touch”, Romelu Lukaku swapped Old Trafford for the San Siro and made the move to Internazionale.

He hit the ground running under former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and a return of 17 goals is very impressive for a Serie A rookie.

“I made my decision (to leave) around March (2019), and I went to the manager’s (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) office and told him it was time for me to find something else,” Lukaku explained. “I wasn’t performing and I wasn’t playing. I think it was better for both sides to go our separate ways. I think I made the right decision.”

No doubt he did.

Chris Smalling – Roma
Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo (R) in action against Roma’s Chris Smalling (L) during the Italian Cup quarter-final between Juventus FC and AS Roma in Turin, Italy, 22 January 2020.

When Manchester United signed Harry Maguire for a world record fee from Leicester City at the start of the campaign, someone in their long list of centre-back options had to be moved on.

That man was Chris Smalling – another player Red Devils fans loved to hate – who was sent on loan to Roma.

Yet the defender, now fondly referred to as ‘Smaldini’, has been one of the best players in his position in Serie A this season and Roma are hopeful of making his deal a permanent one at the Stadio Olimpico.

Ashley Young – Internazionale
Inter Milan’s defender Ashley Young (R) in action during the Italian Serie A match between Inter Milan and Cagliari at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy, 26 January 2020.

Manchester United’s campaign to populate Italy with Premier League rejects continued apace when captain Ashley Young signed for Internazionale in the January 2020 window.

To be fair to the Red Devils, Young pushed for the transfer when Inter’s interest surfaced, rejecting an extension at Old Trafford to move to Serie A.

His decision was no doubt given urgency by the emergence of Brandon Williams and Aaron Wan-Bissaka which meant the prospect of spending more and more time on the bench despite still being an influential figure at the club.

His transfer to the Nerazzurri has already proven a successful one, with the 34-year-old veteran slotting seamlessly into Conte’s style of play.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Roma
Roma’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan in action during the Italian Serie A match between AS Roma and US Lecce at the Olimpico stadium in Rome, Italy, 23 February 2020.

A disappointing spell for Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Arsenal ended at the start of this season when the Armenian signed on loan for Roma.

Though he has had his struggles with injury this season, a return of six goals and three assists from 13 Serie A appearances suggest that he is adapting well to life at the Giallorossi.

“I prefer [manager Paulo] Fonseca’s football because we’re playing very offensively, we’re trying to have the ball all the time here and of course, I like this kind of game,” said Mkhitaryan of playing for Roma.

Aaron Ramsey – Juventus
Juventus’ Aaron Ramsey in action during the Italian Serie A match Juventus FC vs Parma Calcio 1913 at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy, 19 January 2020.

After 11 years’ service at Arsenal, Aaron Ramsey decided to take on a new challenge and agreed on a high-paying move to Juventus. 

The Welshman scored on his Serie A debut, though in truth he has struggled with some injury issues and been unable to establish himself as he would like.

Nonetheless, there is some promise that Ramsey will become a key man for the Bianconeri under Maurizio Sarri.