Some interesting stats from whoscored.com that highlight that the best defenders in Serie A are non-Italian.
In an interesting change, all of Serie A’s top clubs now employ imported players in the heart of defence. The highest ranking defender is Inter’s Hugo Campagnaro (8.17), the Argentinean following boss Walter Mazzarri north from Napoli this past summer. Brought to help the coach transfer the philosophy which served him so well with Napoli, Campagnaro leads a back three usually comprised of Brazilian Juan Jesus and Andrea Rannochia. Rannochia trails his teammates in almost every category, finishing above them only in terms of blocked shots (0.9 per game), and his rating of 7.34 is behind both men.
League leaders Roma boast the best defensive record in the league, conceding only a single goal during the first seven rounds as Rudi Garcia transforms them from the porous side they were during 2012-13. He has done so by building upon a brand new defensive partnership of the Brazilian Leandro Castán and Mehdi Benatia of Morocco. The latter, who’s rating of 7.97 sees him ranked as the league’s sixth best overall performer to date, has registered two goals, 2.4 tackles per game, 2.7 interceptions per game and a pass completion rate of 89.1% since arriving from Udinese. His partner has also made an excellent contribution, adding 2.7 tackles, 1.3 interceptions and 3.4 clearances per game.
Rafael Benitez has abandoned Mazzarri’s 3-4-2-1 formation at Napoli, and with it cast Paolo Cannavaro to the bench. With Raúl Albiol (Spain) and Miguel Britos (Uruguay) firmly implanted in the starting line-up, finding Italian players gaining regular playing time is extremely challenging. Fiorentina duo Gonzalo Rodríguez (Argentina) and Stefan Savic (Montenegro) regularly get the nod from Vincenzo Montella, Lazio boss Vladimir Petkovic opts for Michaël Ciani (France) and Lorik Cana (Albania), while Udinese field Brazilian duo Naldo and Danilo alongside Frenchman Thomas Heurtaux in their back three.
Indeed, as even Milan, home to many of the Azzurri’s greatest stoppers – rely on Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata, the only Italian defenders seeing action on a weekly basis outside of Juventus are at much smaller clubs. Prandelli is therefore forced to opt for players such as Cagliari’s Davide Astori, a product of the Rossoneri youth sector, but a player deemed not good enough to follow in the footsteps of those iconic Milan legends.