The Serie A has grown into a particularly competitive league over the past two years and owes its unprecedented success in no small part to a new generation of prodigious midfielders. Italian football has always been defined by strokes of technicality and tactical acumen and the Serie A's current crop of players are set to define a new golden generation.
Juventus have dominated Serie A for the better part of the past decade but have seen their stronghold challenged by worthy contenders in recent months. The likes of AC Milan and Inter Milan have risen from the ashes yet again this season and could potentially mark a new era for Italian football.
Over the past several decades, legendary midfielders like Andrea Pirlo, Rui Costa, and Michel Platini have graced Italian football with their poise and prowess. Some of these midfielders have become successful football managers today owing to their impeccable tactical acumen.
While the midfielders in the Serie A today have a long way to go before they can be named in such an illustrious bracket, there are a few names on this list that have discernible shades of their great predecessors and can potentially form the next purple patch in Italian football.
#5 Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo)
Sassuolo have enjoyed an exceptional season so far and all currently battling the odds to push for a top-four finish in the Serie A. While Domenico Berardi and Jeremie Boga continue to steal most of the limelight at the club, Manuel Locatelli's quiet composure often tends to go unnoticed.
The former AC Milan midfielder pulls the strings for Sassuolo and has thrived in Roberto De Zerbi's double pivot. Locatelli is known for his vision and extraordinary passing range and is often termed the natural heir to legendary Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo.
Sassuolo have set their sights on a European spot this year and rely heavily on their prodigious midfielder to guide them across the finish line week after week. Manuel Locatelli has emerged as one of the most consistent midfielders in the Serie A and will play an integral role in his side's ambitions this season.
#4 Hakan Calhanoglu (AC Milan)
Hakan Calhanoglu's career at AC Milan did get off to a slow start but his talent was never in question. The Turkish midfielder has arguably hit his peak with the Rossoneri this season and is well on his way to becoming a local legend at the club.
Calhanoglu's set-piece abilities have given AC Milan several important victories this season. The midfielder is also known for his surging runs and is equally adept at making an impact on the game from a wide position.
AC Milan seem intent on shattering Juventus' domination in the Serie A and could potentially clinch their first Scudetto since 2011 this year. Hakan Calhanoglu is a crucial cog in Stefano Pioli's set-up at AC Milan and will need to maintain his exceptional form for the rest of the season.
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#3 Henrikh Mkhitaryan (AS Roma)
Serie A giants AS Roma seem to have a knack of getting the best out of players that have been written off by a larger European consensus of sceptics and analysts. Henrikh Mkhitaryan endured a difficult few years in the Premier League but has now managed to rediscover his extraordinary abilities in the Italian capital.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has started all of AS Roma's 16 league games this season and has registered eight goals and seven assists in the Serie A. The experienced Armenian star often occupies advanced positions on the pitch and his vision and technical ability have propelled AS Roma into an impressive third place in the Serie A standings.
With the likes of Bryan Cristante and Jordan Veretout doing the heavy lifting in the midfield, Mkhitaryan has been able to express himself with the Giallorossi and has often led from the front. AS Roma still have an outside chance of mounting a title challenge this season and will have to pin their hopes on their newfound talisman.
#2 Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan)
While AC Milan have grabbed most of the headlines for their sensational resurgence over the past year, local rivals Inter Milan seem intent on spoiling the party with their relatively silent rise to the top of the Serie A standings. Antonio Conte's side has often missed a creative spark in recent years but has now found the ideal solution in the young Nicolo Barella.
The 23-year-old midfielder has cemented his place in the Nerazzurri starting eleven this season and remains one of his side's most inventive players. Inter Milan often suffer without an orchestrator on the pitch and Nicolo Barella's intelligence and spatial awareness make him a prized asset.
The midfield prodigy has already made his way into the Italian national team and his performances this season are indicative of a naturally gifted footballer. Barella is arguably the most talented player on this list and could potentially define Italian football for years to come.
#1 Franck Kessie (AC Milan)
AC Milan's recent resurgence has been a direct result of a massive uptick in the fortunes of the club's array of talented midfielders. While Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali have been impressive at times in the Serie A, Franck Kessie is arguably the most reliable of the trio at the moment.
Kessie's importance to AC Milan has been particularly evident during his absence this season. The Ivorian midfielder has missed a few games through injury and the Rossoneri have suffered as a result. Franck Kessie is a dynamic presence on the pitch and his all-round ability gives AC Milan a distinct cutting edge against their title rivals in the Serie A.
AC Milan still have plenty of work to do to cement their position at the top of the Serie A standings and will need Kessie to replicate his early-season form in the coming months. The midfielder has scored five goals in the Rossoneri's campaign and will need to take it up a notch to take AC Milan to an unprecedented Serie A title.
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