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Transcending the Odds: Empoli’s Guide to Taming the Financials

Italian football is currently facing financial austerity, and small clubs are seeking creative ways to remain competitive while adhering to sustainability measures, as the big 3 (Milan, Inter, Juve) dominate the league. Empoli is one such club that moves in and out of Serie A, and their best finish came in the 2015/16 season when Giampaolo led them to an 11th place finish. Empoli’s recruitment strategy focuses on scouting within Italy and Scandinavia with a buy low, sell high approach. They complement this with developing players within their academy, and their youth division is currently enjoying a good spell with Tommaso Baldanzi being touted as one of Italy’s best upcoming players.

Here, we try and compile some of the best exports out of Empoli, moreso in the last 8 years and some of the latest talents.

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Francesco Caputo

A late bloomer in Italian football (like all strikers in Serie A) Caputo came to the limelight the season Empoli were relegated. His goal scoring heroics had given Empoli a glimmer of hope but 16 goals that season was not enough as they would go down.

Nedim Bajrami

The tip of Andreazzoli’s diamond (4-3-1-2) Bajrami was one of Serie A best attacking mids with 9 goals and 6 assists in the 2021/22 season. However his exploits was not enough to warrant him a move to the big clubs but Sassuolo saw his talent and forked €6M for his signing.


Ismael Bennacer

One of the best prospects to have come through the 18/19 team that went down to Serie B was Ismael Bennacer. A midfield metronome for anotherwise lackluster team, Bennacer had been signed from the Arsenal academy after he failed to make it to the first team. He won the AFCON 2019 edition and was named the best player of the tournament before guiding AC Milan to the Scudetto in the 2021/22 season. Bennacer now is one of the most coveted #6 in Serie A if not in Europe.

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Giovanni Di Lorenzo

Captain of Napoli and Spaletti’s go to man at Napoli and now the Azzuri, Di Lorenzo is one of the best Right Back in Serie A. A player that combines pace, defensive discipline and flair, Di Lorenzo was a crucial part of the historic Scudetto winning Napoli team of 2022/23 season.

Mario Rui

A unorthodox full back Mario Rui was instrumental when Sarri was at Naples and later for Spaletti. An Inverted Full back who isn’t the defensively sound he aided Spaletti and Sarri in terms of building out from the back. Perhaps a tad bit underrated, he rose to prominence under Giampaolo at Empoli who later tried to sign him in his short stint at Milan

Daniele Rugani

A 6 time Scudetto winner with Juventus, Rugani is perhaps one of the biggest disappointments in Italian football in the last decade. He was supposed to takeover from the likes of Chiellini, Bonucci in the heart of the defense of big club and country. After a breakout season with Sarri at Empoli, his growth stagnated with coaches preferring the experience of the famous BBC defense than to give Rugani a runout. One can wonder what Rugani could have been if he had more playtime.

Guglielmo Vicario

Spurs fans were left wondering who their new signing was when Tottenham decided to break Empoli’s club record for the biggest sale when they signed Vicario for €20M. For those familiar with Serie A they had already seen his wonderful shot-stopping abilities. A traditional keeper who is not the greatest with the ball at his feet, Vicario impressed new boss Ange who made him the number 1 keeper leaving Lloris to leave London after a lengthy spell.

Samuele Ricci

The base of Andreazzoli’s midfield Diamond, Samuele Ricci is what the Italians would call as a Regista. With great play making abilities Ricci directed the play for Andreazzoli’s side and was crucial to the managers tactics. Torino picked him up for a cool €8M and it is only a matter of time before a big club knocks on Torino’s door as Ricci is only 22 years old.

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Mattia Viti

Following their 14th placed finish in 2021/22 season the main question was as to who would sign Mattia Viti. A talented CB who was growing well in the Empoli ranks Vitti was picked up by OGC Nice under the noses of Italian clubs for a slick €13M. However, things did not go as planned at Nice which has promoted the French club to loan him out to Sassuolo so as to not hinder his development. At only 21 years of age he could afford a few setbacks in his career.

Rade Krunic

Described by his coach Stefano Pioli as tactically intelligent, Krunic grew into Milan side from utility player to now a starter. Initially starting as a #8-#10 hybrid to now playing as a #6, Krunic’s involvement in the last stretch of games at Milan were somewhat crucial to help Milan win the Scudetto.

Kristian Asllani

Slated as a backup for Brozovic at Inter, Asllani was one of the brightest talents in Serie A in the 21/22 season having one of the best games in his career against his future employers. Still only 21, Asllani can play in a wide variety of roles across midfield and is another prospect for the Azzuri midfield which is already teeming with talents. If Inzaghi can utilise him and realise his potential then Asllani can be the true replacement for Brozovic.

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Hamed Traore

A player that came to the stage in Empoli’s now famous match against Inter. After their relegation to Serie B, Sassuolo took him and he had a breakout season under Dionisi in the 21/22 season with 8 goals and 4 assists. A replacement for Jeremy Boga his pace and direct style of play made him a hot customer for defenders to handle. But an injury in the 22/23 pre- season and Traore lost momentum before Bournemouth picked him for €16M. Still only 23, Traore is yet to hit his stride at Bournemouth.

Maurizio Sarri

A man who started out as a banker Sarri captivated the crowd at the Castellani with his fast attacking style of play previously not associated with mid table teams in Italy. Comparison with Guardiola were rife in terms of their ideologies and his Napoli side is one of the most stylish teams to have emerged from Italy in recent seasons. Perhaps if he worked for teams with bigger budgets he would have won more trophies.

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