We choose the best XI from the Italian top flight campaign that came to a conclusion on Sunday, with Juventus winning the Scudetto in unbeaten fashionJuventus are champions, AC Milan settled for second, Inter struggled and Parma, Udinese and Catania surpassed expectations, but which players contributed most to their team's success? Goal.com analyses their performances to determine the stars who rose above the rest to become the cream of the crop from Serie A in 2011-12.
In goal, there is no question that Gianluigi Buffon fully deserves his place. Barring one incident where he miscontrolled a back pass that resulted in a late equaliser for Lecce in a 1-1 draw, the 2006 World Cup winner was back to his very best. He kept an astounding 21 clean sheets and conceded only 16 goals in the league, putting him in the same rank as the world's best shot-stoppers once again going into Euro 2012.
The back line certainly contains some familiar faces as well. Andrea Barzagli has turned out to be an incredible bargain after arriving from Wolfsburg in a deal that reportedly totalled just €600,000. The 31-year-old was the best of a stellar Juventus defence and in his 35 appearances he was virtually immovable. Even more impressive, he picked up only three yellow cards along the way, proving he's a player who puts anticipation ahead of sheer force.
Thiago Silva is often descibed as the 'best defender in the world' and despite not claiming the Scudetto for a second consecutive season with Milan he will have done his reputation no harm at all in 2011-12. The Brazilian is as comfortable with the ball at his feet as he is putting in a last-ditch sliding tackle to deny an opponent, and there was plenty of world-class defending from the former Fluminense star this season.
Catania were one of the league's surprise packages, despite their performances falling off towards the end. The experience of Nicola Legrottaglie proved crucial as the Sicilians broke their club record for points in a single Serie A campaign. The veteran, formerly of Juventus and Milan, was an integral part of the spine of Vincenzo Montella's side which let in just 15 goals on home soil, the fourth best record in the top flight. His impressive aerial presence also proved useful in attack, as he chipped in with five goals.
Napoli were unable to reproduce their heroics of last season and missed out on a Champions League place, but Christian Maggio continued his progression at the club with some suggesting he is now their 'fourth tenor' alongside Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik. It's high but deserved praise for the right-sided wing-back, whose ability to get up and down flank in Serie A was second to none in 2011-12. The best evidence of this was when he pulled up with injury and was missing in late March and early April, a stretch in which the Partenopei won just one of seven matches.
The central midfield highlights the cornerstone of Juventus' success as Andrea Pirlo provided the ingenuity and Arturo Vidal the guile en route to their flawless campaign. The Italy international was a standout from his first official match at the club against Parma, turning in a virtuoso performance in a 4-1 win and it was just the start of several more to come as he racked up 13 brilliant assists, proving he is far from finished after leaving Milan on a free transfer last summer. Meanwhile, the Chilean's workrate in midfield was unrivalled and his ability to snuff out the ball on the pitch countless times per match was a definitive feature of the Bianconeri's play, not to mention his penchant for getting forward as he notched seven goals.
Inter's inconsistencies were well documented this season, although Javier Zanetti was seemingly unaffected. Whether in midfield or defence, the 38-year-old continues to be more energetic and effective than the majority of his younger counterparts. His two performances in the Milan derbies confirmed just how powerful and classy the Argentine still is. It may have been a campaign to forget for the Nerazzurri, but Zanetti became the club's all-time leader in appearances and also surpassed the legendary Dino Zoff on the list of Serie A matches played.
The attacking department is one most Serie A fans would dream of seeing. On the right of a front three is Sebastian Giovinco, who had a coming-of-age-season at Parma. With 15 goals and 13 assists, the 'Atomic Ant' thrived in the latter half of the season under coach Roberto Donadoni, and may finally get his shot at being Alessandro Del Piero's heir at Juventus next season should he return to Turin.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's amazing run of nine consecutive domestic titles came to an end, but it was arguably the former Barcelona man's most prolific season yet. He finished as the league's top scorer with 28 strikes and was arguably the most decisive player in Serie A. So few can carry the team on their backs like the Sweden international as his nine appearances in Goal.com's Team of the Week will serve as testimony. His 13-minute hat-trick at Palermo is a contender for the most dominant display of 2011-12.
Finally, Antonio Di Natale may be ageing, but he simply cannot stop scoring. Many assumed Udinese could not repeat the success from last season, but the forward ensured that while the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Gokhan Inler were gone, the Friuli side were still a force to be reckoned with as he led them to a Champions League play-off berth with his final goal of the season - an effort that exhibited all his technical excellence. As a bonus, Italy boss Cesare Prandelli decided he could ignore him no longer and has included the prolific 34-year-old in his preliminary squad for the European Championship.
| Conceded: 16
|TOTW Apps: 3
|Goals/Assists: 1/1||Goals/Assists: 2/1||Goals/Assists: 5/1|
|TOTW Apps: 3||TOTW Apps: 7
||TOTW Apps: 3|
|Goals/Assists: 3/5||Goals/Assists: 3/13||Goals/Assists: 7/5||Goals/Assists: 0/3|
|TOTW Apps: 3||TOTW Apps: 5||TOTW Apps: 5
||TOTW Apps: 5
| Goals/Assists: 15/13
|TOTW Apps: 3||TOTW Apps: 9
||TOTW Apps: 4