While Paul Pogba leaving Juventus for Manchester United in the summer of 2016 hardly came as a surprise, Italian football was left in a state of shock when the Old Lady reinvested nearly all of the world-record €105 million transfer fee in Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain.
The Argentine attacker had just broken Serie A’s single season goals record but he was 28 and, far more importantly, Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis had no intention of selling his star striker to the club’s most hated rivals.
However, Juve remarkably agreed to meet the €90m buy-out clause in Higuain’s contract and the former Real Madrid man was only too happy to move to Turin, sparking uproar in Naples.
The Bianconeri had bought Higuain to win the Champions League and they very nearly ended their 21-year-wait for European glory, but they once again fell at the final hurdle, this time against Real Madrid.
As it was, they were forced to settle for another historic domestic campaign, becoming the first Italian side ever to win six successive Scudetti, and three consecutive doubles.
As well as signing Napoli’s best player in Higuain, Juve did likewise to Roma by activating Miralem Pjanic’s release clause for a bargain €32m, while strengthening their defence with Medhi Benatia and, even more significantly, Barcelona legend Dani Alves, who arrived on a free.
There was also plenty of new faces at Inter, including Ever Banega, Joao Mario and Antonio Candreva, but most of them arrived after the departure of Roberto Mancini, who had grown frustrated with the club’s refusal to sign his primary transfer targets.
Frank de Boer was installed as the Italian’s successor just before the start of the new season and, therefore, forced to work with players he would never have bought, chief among them Santos starlet Gabigol, the first statement signing made by the club’s new Chinese owners, the Suning Group.
Milan also had a new boss in Vincenzo Montella but the Rossoneri had little money to spend, with Pescara striker Gianluca Lapadula (€9m) their most expensive new arrival.
Cash was also in short supply at Roma, though the Giallorossi did enact their option to buy Mohamed Salah for €15m, which proved a steal, and their gamble on Tottenham flop Federico Fazio paid off.
Inter’s season began among much intrigue but even more confusion, not least because new boss De Boer couldn’t speak the language. Amid reports of dressing-room discontent, he was sacked at the end of October after a 1-0 loss at Sampdoria - the Nerazzuri’s fourth defeat in their previous five games.
Milan, by contrast, lifted the doom and gloom around San Siro with a side based around several exciting young Italians, with whom they earned a 1-0 win over Juve at the Giuseppe Meazza on October 22.
However, the resurgent Rossoneri, perhaps unsurprisingly, ran out of steam at the tail end of the season, winning just one of their final seven games. They still finished sixth, though, and that was enough to secure a long overdue return to European competition - with the added bonus of it coming at the expense of their city rivals, who came home seventh under new boss Stefano Pioli.
Napoli topped the table after four rounds but had the wind knocked out of their sails by losing to both of their title rivals, Roma and Juventus, in October. The loss of in-from forward Arkadiusz Milik to a serious knee injury threatened further disruption but Maurizio Sarri experimented with Dries Mertens as a ‘false 9’ and the Belgian flourished, scoring a staggering 28 goals overall as the Partenopei stormed home in third place by winning 10 games during a 12-match undefeated run.
Roma had looked best equipped to usurp Juve, with both Edin Dzeko and Salah in the form of their lives. Indeed, Luciano Spalletti’s men reeled off four-game winning streaks on five separate occasions during the season but they were repeatedly undone by untimely defeats.
The Giallorossi did, at least, manage to postpone Juve’s title-winning party by defeating the Bianconeri 3-1 in Rome on matchday 36 but Allegri’s side wrapped up a historic sixth Scudetto with a comfortable 3-0 win over Crotone the following weekend.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
Napoli may have only finished third but Sarri was rightly recognised for his side’s sensational football over the second half of the season.
EDIN DZEKO - 29 GOALS
After a calamitous first season at the Stadio Olimpico, the Bosnian enjoyed the best season of his career, scoring 29 times to beat Mertens to the Capocannoniere award by one goal.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
DRIES MERTENS evoked memories of Diego Maradona with the delicate chip that left Torino goalkeeper Joe Hart completely rooted to the spot.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
ALISSON; CANCELO, KOULIBALY, CHIELLINI, SANDRO; MILINKOVIC-SAVIC, PJANIC, NAINGGOLAN; DYBALA, ICARDI, IMMOBILE.
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
Juve’s tame loss at Fiorentina in January changed the course of the season, as it prompted Allegri to ditch the club’s tried-and-trusted 3-5-2 formation in favour of a daringly offensive 4-2-3-1, which sparked the 16-match unbeaten run that effectively won them the Scudetto.