Hellas Verona were one of the surprise packages of Serie A last season, with a stupendous start to the season putting them in the European spots heading in December, before the team seemed to tire in the second half of the season. Coach Andrea Mandorlini managed to find a very successful balance of experience and young talent last season, and he will be hopeful of recreating that mix, despite this summer's changes.
Verona have, of course, lost one of the brightest young stars of Serie A this summer, with Juan Iturbe going to Roma for €22 million, but have otherwise quietly had a very good mercato. Rafa Márquez looks to have a little bit of gas in the tank after an excellent World Cup, and should bring leadership to a sometimes chaotic defensive unit, while Nenê and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos also bring solid Serie A experience and depth. Add in the potentially dynamic Giorgi Chanturia and some funds that can be spent in the winter, and Verona may come out as a team from the Iturbe deal.
Of course, there remain question marks in the squad, and the club's clear continued reliance on Luca Toni for goals may prove a worry. Verona must be very cautious to avoid a second season slump after such a solid first campaign on their return.
His half-season revival at Fiorentina two years ago was a surprise, but nothing compared to what Big Luca pulled out of the hat last season. Before coming to Fiorentina in the summer of 2012, Toni was 34 and playing in the UAE; this summer he is 37 and was the second top scorer in Serie A with 20 goals the season before. It's hard to remember any end of career reversals quite so dramatic, but unfortunately for Verona, Toni is (probably) mortal and will only grow older. His ability to continue to score goals and involve the team remains equally crucial as they search for someone to fill his role in future.
Key departures and arrivals
In: Rafa Márquez, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Giorgi Chanturia, Ivan Martić, Nenê, Antonio Luna, Artur Ioniță.
Out: Juan Iturbe, Rômulo.
Reasons to watch
Aside from their always-entertaining (and sometimes terrifying) ultras, Verona boast an intriguing collection of many cult nearly-good-but-never-quite-actually-good players. Add to that ensemble one Rafa Márquez and a sprinkling of Luca Toni, and Cagliari might have a solid challenger for the 2014-2015 "hipster's choice" Serie A side.
Where they might finish
Concretely in the middle of the table, perhaps in less inspiring fashion than last year. Much depends on the chemistry of the group with the new additions, and the fitness and continued form of Toni.