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Serie A’s most expensive starting XI ever

Italian football looks to be back on the way up after several years in the doldrums, with a series of impressive Serie A signings having revitalised the division.

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Matthijs de Ligt have made the switch in recent seasons, and we’ve decided to look back at some of the biggest signings in Italian football history.

Here, in an attacking 3-4-3 formation, is the most expensive XI in Serie A history…

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon – €53m

Regarded by some as the greatest goalkeeper of all-time, Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon’s record as world football’s most expensive goalkeeper stood for 17 years before being broken last summer.

Buffon moved to Juventus from Parma in 2001 and would go on to become one of the club’s greatest ever players, making over 500 appearances and winning nine Serie A titles.

Named Serie A goalkeeper of the year a remarkable 11 times since the move, he was also crowned as the division’s Player of the Year in 2016/17.

Capped a record 176 times by Italy, Buffon would leave the Turin side in 2018 after 17-years for PSG, only to return a year later where he continues to provide competition and back-up to Wojciech Szczesny aged 41.

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Centre-back: Lilian €41.5m

France international Thuram would move with Parma teammate Buffon to Juventus in 2001, and would help the club to two league titles prior to the Calciopoli scandal which saw Juve relegated to Serie B.

Inflation makes record transfer fees difficult to figure, though Thuram’s move was believed to be worth in the region €41.5m 18 years ago.

A consistent and dominant defender, Thuram was regarded amongst the world’s finest in his prime, whilst his versatility in being able to play centrally and at full-back made him a vital member of the Juventus squad.

Juventus’ 2006 demotion saw several key players leave the club, with Thuram moving to Spain with Barcelona.

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Centre-back: Matthijs de Ligt – €75m

Arguably the most in-demand player of the 2019 summer transfer window, Italian champions Juve won the race to sign Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt.

The teenager had captained the Dutch side during a surprise run to the Champions League semi-finals, scoring to help eliminate Juve in the quarter-finals, and established himself as one of the brightest prospects in world football.

Despite competition from the likes of Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, De Ligt would move to Juve in a €75m deal, making him the most expensive defender in Serie A history.

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Centre-back: Leonardo Bonucci – €42m

A stalwart of Juventus’ recent dominance of Serie A, Bonucci would win six successive league titles with the club between 2012 and 2017, before a fall-out saw him join rivals AC Milan in a €42m move in 2017.

His move to the San Siro would prove a major disappointment, however, failing to replicate his previous performances with a series of below-par displays.

After just one season in Milan he would return to Juventus, rejoining the club in a swap-deal for Mattia Caldara, winning a seventh league title in 2018/19.

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Right-wing: Gaizka Mendieta – €47.7m

Having seen playmaker’s Juan Sebastien Veron and Pavel Nedved depart the club for Manchester United and Juventus respectively, Lazio spent big on Spanish midfielder Gaizka Mendieta in a bid to replace their outgoing stars.

Mendieta had been part of the Valencia side which had reached successive Champions League finals at the turn of the millennium and moved to Rome in a €47.7m deal in 2001.

Despite his reputation, his sole season at Lazio would prove a major disappointment, failing to score in 20 Serie A appearances. He would be loaned back to Barcelona the following season and then Premier League side Middlesbrough, before joining the latter on a permanent basis in 2004.

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Central midfield: Rui Costa – €43.8m

Having established himself as one of Serie A’s finest midfielder’s during a seven-year spell at Fiorentina, Portugal international Rui Costa became AC Milan’s club-record signing in 2001.

Fiorentina manager Fatih Terim had left the Viola for the San Siro and opted to take the playmaker with him, where Costa would enjoy a successful five-year spell.

Terim would not last long in Milan, though Costa’s spell proved fruitful. He would win a host of honours including Serie A and the 2003 Champions League, before returning to first club Benfica in 2006 following the emergence of Kaka.

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Central midfield: Joao Mario – €45m

Another Portuguese international, Joao Mario headed to Inter Milan in the summer of 2016 for a fee worth in the region of €45m. Having come to prominence at Sporting Lisbon, Inter invested heavily in the promising midfielder as they looked to revitalise a squad which had slowly deteriorated since their treble-winning campaign in 2010.

He would make 30 Serie A appearances in his debut season but failed to establish himself as a key figure as Inter struggled to a 7th-placed finish, before being loaned out to Premier League side West Ham in his second campaign.

Mario would return to Inter in a bit-part role last term, before once again being loaned out – this time to Lokomotiv Moscow – in 2019.

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Left-wing: Douglas Costa – €40m

The fleet-footed star moved to Serie A initially on loan from Bayern Munich in 2017, before impressing the Juventus hierarchy sufficiently for them to spend €40m to bring him to the club on a permanent basis the following summer.

The Brazil international brings explosive acceleration and creativity to the wide areas and has been a valued squad member in two seasons in Turin, winning back-to-back titles with the serial Serie A winners.

His influence dropped slightly last season following the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Bernadeschi, though he is likely to figure regularly as Juventus seek an elusive third Champions League title this season.

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Forward: Gonzalo Higuain – €90m

A record of 71 goals in just 104 league appearances saw Juventus raid Serie A rivals Napoli for their prolific Argentine forward, who had been amongst Italian football’s best forward’s since a move from Real Madrid in 2013.

His Napoli haul included a Serie A record of 36 goals in a single season, prompting Juventus to splash €90m to bring him to Turin to strengthen their attacking options. Back-to-back Serie A titles were secured in his first two seasons at the club, but despite scoring 41 goals in 75 league appearances for the Old Lady, he was allowed to leave for loan spells at AC Milan and Chelsea in 2018/19.

The 31-year-old has subsequently returned to Juventus where has been reunited with former Napoli and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, where he will be hoping to once again score prolifically and win more major silverware.

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Forward: Romelu Lukaku – €80m

A prolific Premier League career prompted Inter Milan to spend €80m on the Manchester United forward in 2019, Belgium’s all-time record goalscorer having been tasked with being the focal point as the Nerazzurri look to end Juventus’ dominance of Italian football.

Inter are seeking a first league title since 2010 and will hope Lukaku’s goals can fire them to success, the 26-year-old having scored 42 goals in 96 appearances during a two-year spell at Old Trafford. Two goals in two Serie A appearances has been a promising start for the former Everton and Chelsea forward, who despite his critics continues to score regularly at the highest level.

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Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo – €112m

Having failed to taste European success since Champions League glory 23 years ago, Juventus broke the Serie A transfer record to secure the signing of Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in a bid to end their wait for Europe’s top prize.

The acquisition of the competition’s greatest ever goalscorer was seen as the final piece in the jigsaw, and despite a quarter-final exit last season Ronaldo impressed in his first season in Italian football. An eighth successive Scudetto was secured with the Portugal international hitting 21 league goals, the 34-year-old being named as Serie A’s Most Valuable Player.

The five-times Ballon d’Or winner will be hoping to make an impact on the Champions League once again this season, looking to win the competition with a third different club and for the sixth time personally in his illustrious career.

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