Italian football took major strides in the right direction this season, with (luck of the draw aiding) AC Milan and Internazionale finding themselves in the Champions League semi-finals, AS Roma in the Europa League final, and Fiorentina in the Conference League final. While they didn’t walk away with any trophies, they all came ever so close to doing exactly that, but none of them came close to Napoli’s 90-point haul in the league, the highest of any team in the top five leagues this season. If I had to pick any one league for a newcomer to football to watch next season, it would be Italy as there are just so many teams that could realistically win the whole thing. Before we look forward however, let’s look at the season that was.
Tom Starke Award: Best Goalkeeper
Retaining his spot from the 2022 awards, the winner of the Tom Starke award is SS Lazio’s Ivan Provedel!
Serie A’s official award agrees with me on this decision as pictured above, as Provedel also received the best goalkeeper award from them. Provedel was marvelous throughout the season, bailing Lazio out of many tight corners. Lazio conceded the second-least goals throughout the season despite inconsistent defensive performances, and it was all down to this beautiful diving Italian. He becomes the fourth player to retain his spot in the awards after Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Éder Militão.
Dante Award: Best Defender
Previous winner Bremer and his teammate at Juventus Danilo pushed the eventual winner hard, but ultimately there was no question that the recipient of the Dante award would be Napoli’s Min-Jae Kim!
The South Korean international was imperious. Unmoving. The definition of an unstoppable object. If it wasn’t for a certain Dutch libero I would’ve labelled Kim as unequivocally the best center back in the world. Kim’s ability to hold attackers in place and push them away without having to put himself in positions where he must make a tackle or block is beyond comprehension. He is the definition of an ‘aura’ defender. He doesn’t make a tackle unless he needs to, and he very rarely needs to. Solidity in human form.
Xabi Alonso Award: Best Midfielder
2022’s best player winner must settle for a lesser title this time around, but make no mistake, he is still a threat: it’s Lazio’s Sergej Milinković-Savić!
‘SMS’ was amazing for Lazio this season too in a deeper role, more concerned with build-up from deep and late runs rather than playing as an advanced midfielder in the thick of things. Lazio’s new system focused more on the wings too, taking further attention away from the middle where SMS was more of a safe presence than the fulcrum of attack. This deeper role is not one that SMS was as outwardly dominant in, but he still showed his class by putting his stamp on games week in week out. He didn’t get even close to the same amount of goal contributions as last season, but once again this is down to the change in role more than it is a downtick in the Serbian’s performances. He is still a complete and world class player, and any team would be lucky to have him.
Milinković-Savić is the first player to be a recipient of two different awards.
Franck Ribéry Award: Best Attacker
You all knew it was coming, the winner of the Franck Ribéry award for best attacker is Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia!
The Georgian exploded onto the scene, with his tricky dribbles and destructive movement between the lines in half-spaces, dragging full backs out of position and making centre backs think twice before committing all season long. 12 goals and 10 assists is a ridiculous return for a first season in top flight football, but Kvaradonna is so much more than just the goal contributions, even if they racked up at an extraordinary rate. He is a picture of perfection in the dribble, he plays the way I imagine myself playing as a professional winger. Toying with full backs not just on the ball but off it too, laying off for teammates, coming narrow to facilitate play through the middle, taking shots from deep, he does it all.
Il Cyler d’Or: Italy’s Player of the Year
It couldn’t be anyone else but the face of Napoli and Italian football right now to win Italy’s best player award: Victor Osimhen!
The Nigerian was ridiculous, with 26 goals and 4 assists in 30 starts. An unbelievable return. Napoli’s game plan was quite simple: stay deep, win the ball and immediately hoof it upfield. That was it. Sit back, relax, and watch Osimhen somehow recover the ball, beat his man and score. All too simple really. Osimhen’s ability to put the ball in the net was matched by his amazing hold-up and link-up play, as he acted as the fulcrum holding up play for the other players to run off him. Osimhen’s pressing was ridiculous, as he simply never let a ball past him unless it was a clearance or optimistic long ball. His pace and strength made it basically impossible to pass through him, and this is all without mentioning the use of that pace and strength in attack. Osimhen’s rapid pace allowed him to be the last man on the counter, running onto balls from deep, and his strength combined with a simply ridiculous vertical leap made him the perfect man to put the ball onto even when there were players around Osimhen to try and stop him. One of the most well-rounded and physically imposing strikers around, and deserving winner of the award.
What do you think of our picks? Is there anyone you would’ve picked instead? Let us know in the discussion below.