The Italian Serie A has proven to be a graveyard for several star players. Flopping in the Serie A, however, does not have to mean the end of the world. Here are some of the game’s very best who left Italy as zeroes but turned out to be absolute heroes in England!
5. Marcos Alonso
A product of Real Madrid’s youth academy Marcos Alonso had a rather unremarkable career during his stint at Italian club ACF Fiorentina between 2013 — 2016. The full-back amassed only 58 appearances for La Viola and eyebrows were raised when Antonio Conte requested Chelsea FC to sign the spaniard.
Installed on the left-side of Conte’s 3-5-2 formation, Alonso was a revelation. With his defensive duties minimized, Marcos Alonso was allowed to showcase his refined technique on the ball. His innate ability to make late forward runs coupled with a wand of a left-foot made him a formidable attacking threat. The full-back netted 6 times in 31 games during his first season, as Chelsea won the Premier League title.
4. Philippe Coutinho
Serie A powerhouse Inter scouted Coutinho during his youth days at Vasco de Gama and paid €4 million to secure the services of the 16-year old teenager. It never quite clicked for The Brazilian midfielder in Italy, he made sporadic appearances with flashes of brilliance but overall he never delivered on his promise. After 3 underwhelming campaigns with the Nerazzurri, Coutinho made his way over to Merseyside to sign for Liverpool FC for a fee worth £8.5 million.
The diminutive playmaker took a bit of time to settle in England but following his second season at Anfield, Coutinho came into his own. The midfielder was voted Liverpool Fans’ Player of the Season and Liverpool Players’ Player of the Season in back-to-back seasons. By the time of his departure to FC Barcelona Coutinho’s stock had risen to monumental heights, and in 2018 a fee of £142 million saw the Brazilian move to Spain.
3. Edwin van der Sar
Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar moved to Juventus from Ajax with the Eredivisie, KNVB Cup, Dutch Supercup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Champions League, and UEFA Super Cup already under his belt, becoming the first non-Italian player to play in goal for The Old Lady.
Although he performed admirably in his two seasons in Italy, Juve finished runner-up in Seria A on both occasions, and failed to win a major trophy. The Italian media scapegoated the keeper for a couple of high profile mistakes which proved costly for the Turin club in their bid for silverware. In 2001, Juventus signed Gianluigi Buffon and the Dutchman was deemed surplus to requirements.
In a move that sent shockwaves through Europe, Edwin van der Sar opted to sign for newly promoted Premier League club Fulham in the summer of 2001. His exploits with The Cottagers caught the eye of Manchester United which would become the goalie’s eventual destination.
Upon signing for The Red Devils in 2005, the Dutch keeper would go on to have a trophy-laden career, one that even rivalled his glory days with Ajax. He kept 135 clean sheets in 266 appearances for Man Utd en route to the Premier League (x4), UEFA Champions League, and Club World Cup titles.
2. Dennis Bergkamp
The prodigious talent of Dennis Bergkamp was evident even during his youthful days at Ajax, and so it was no surprise to anyone when the forward went on to fulfill his potential in Amsterdam, scoring and assisting 141 goals in 237 appearances on route to success in the Eredivisie, KNVB Cup, UEFA Cup, and European Cup Winners’ Cup.
The two time Dutch Footballer of the Year moved to the San Siro in 1993, signing for Internazionale for £7 million. Serie A was not kind to the Dutchman. Bergkamp a player who demands supporting runners in all directions to make the most of his passing and vision, found himself isolated in the defensive nature of Italian football, his creativity stifled. After two torrid seasons at Inter Bergkamp moved to England to join Arsenal.
Up until Bergkamp’s move to North London, Arsenal were viewed as “boring.” The playmaker is credited for changing The Gunners style of play, bringing a degree of flamboyance and creativity that was a new and exciting. Bergkamp was pivotal to Arséne Wenger vision of breath-taking attacking football. The Dutchman won the FWA Footballer of the Year, and the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award as Arsenal won the Premier League title.
1. Thierry Henry
After winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup on home soil as a burgeoning young talent, Henry moved from AS Monaco to Juventus in January of 1999 for a hefty £10.5 million price tag having scored a modest 20 goals in 105 appearances.
The Frenchman struggled to find any decent form, finding the transition difficult against the rigid and disciplined structure of Serie A football. A change in the dugout also didn’t help the striker’s cause, he was deployed on the wings and more strangely at wing-back. Henry managed only 20 appearances for Juve with a measly goal output of 3. Shortly thereafter, disagreements with club director Luciano Moggi saw the Frenchman move to England to join his compatriot Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, just 6 months into his stay in Italy. The rest as they say is history.
Henry would go on to become arguably the Premier League’s greatest ever player. The striker became the club’s highest-ever goalscorer with 226 goals in 370 appearances. Henry spearheaded The Gunners to two Premier League (2001/02, 2002/04) and two FA Cup (2001-02, 2002-03) trophies. His list of personal accolades include: Premier League Player of the Season (x2), Premier League Golden Boot (x4), FWA Player of the Year (x3), and PFA Player’s Player of the Year (x2).