Fast forward ten years, however, and the financial growth of English football’s top tier coupled with the simultaneous economic crisis that has crippled the Italian top-flight have made the Premier League an much more appealing destination.
Britain was certainly a coveted port this summer, with Daniel Osvaldo, Stevan Jovetic and Erik Lamela swapping pizzas and sophisticated red wines for full English breakfasts and pints of ale.
Osvaldo, Jovetic and Lamela arrived on these shores on the back of excellent Serie A seasons and with hefty price-tags on their backs, but so far they’ve all failed to make an impact in English football.
Of the three imports, Osvaldo is definitely the one whose Premier League got off to the best start, as the Southampton striker can at least claim to have secured a starting spot, a luxury which neither Lamela nor Jovetic have been afforded so far.
The 27-year-old has however done little to justify his inclusion in the Saints’ line-up, scoring only once in seven appearances, and is yet to demonstrate he was worth the £13m Southampton paid Roma for his services after he netted 16 goals in 29 Serie A games last season.
Osvaldo’s time in the Italian capital was far from idyllic however and the Italy striker is famously remembered for punching his former teammate Erik Lamela, after the Argentine had opted against setting up Osvaldo in front of goal and had went for goal himself instead.
The 21-year-old isn’t likely to be threatened by disgruntled teammates anytime soon, as he’s been restricted to just four appearances in the Premier League – all of them as a substitute – for a meagre 72 minutes on the pitch.
Things have gone marginally better in the Europa League, where the Argentine has started three games and registered an assist but was substituted in two of his three appearances.
Spurs’ summer spending spree in the summer means Andre Villas Boas is still looking for his best XI, while Andros Townsend’s rise to prominence has further limited Lamela’s options but the Argentine’s £26.5m price-tag is becoming an elephant in the room increasingly hard to ignore.
Having scored 15 and assisted five in 33 Serie A games last season, Lamela is undoubtedly capable of scoring and setting up goals, but he’s clearly yet to convince Villas Boas that he’s capable to do so in the Premier League.
Lamela and Osvaldo’s woes are emphasised when one considers that while they’ve struggled to adapt to the Premier League, their former club has won nine games out of nine in Serie A, scoring 23 and conceding just once.
A pantomime villain during his days at Arsenal, Gervinho’s been a crucial figure in Rudi Garcia team’s superb start to the season, scoring three and assisting just as many in his first eight Serie A appearances, while another face familiar to Premier League fans, Carlos Tevez, has got his Serie A career off to a flyer.
The former Manchester City striker has slotted in seamlessly at Juventus, scoring five in his first nine games while Stevan Jovetic, one of the players City purchased to replace Tevez, has had very limited opportunities to show his worth.
The Montenegro international, widely considered to be one of Europe’s most promising talents, has so far managed only three Premier League appearances – two of which as a substitute – before succumbing to injury.
The former Fiorentina man scored twice against Wigan in the Capital One Cup but those goals aren’t enough to justify the £23m City spent on him last summer and, much like Lamela, Jovetic faces strong competition for a starting spot.
History shows that many players struggled throughout their first months in English football and Osvaldo, Lamela and Jovetic have enough talent to prove the doubters wrong and go on to become success stories in English football, but at the moment they’re far from fulfilling the promises that accompanied them to England in the summer.