With the season drawing to a close, the third domestic title on the trot almost sewn up and a chance of our first piece of silverware in Europe since 1996 on the horizon, it seems a good time to begin judging our squad and anticipating our moves in the summer mercato. ( I refuse to count the inter-toto cup of 99′)
Starting between the sticks, Buffon has been back to his best this term. At 36 years of age he still has at least another campaign at the top level, and will remain our number one beyond the Summer. Behind him in the pecking order, Marco Storari is 37 and whilst still a brilliant back-up option, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him leave when the transfer window opens. He will not be pushed, but perhaps moving to a club where he could play consistently would offer him more satisfaction than adding medals to his trophy cabinet from the bench.
Nonetheless he remains one of the finest reserve keepers at any club. And I hope he stays, for his rich experience is incredibly valuable, to call upon when needed and also to pass onto the the goalkeeper we will sign to replace third choice Rubinho, who has played a grand total of…1 game since his signing in 2012.
As for which player will fill the Brazilian’s boots, the smart money is on Kevin Trapp. The 23 year old Eintracht Frankfurt shot-stopper was in talks with Juve during the January mercato and some sources suggest a deal is already in place for June. Take a peek at the video, Trapp seems amazing…
There is also the Leali option. Nicola has continued his brilliant form in Serie B (after winning ‘goalkeeper of the year’ award at Lanciano last season) whilst on loan at Spezia. Still…he remains one for the future. And I can’t see us taking any player into our ranks, until they have cut their teeth in the top flight. Leali is clearly an extremely promising talent, yet we will not know his true worth until he finds a starting berth at a Serie A club, which won’t be Juve.
17 year old Simone Scuffet has had a breakthrough season at Udinese. A club with whom we share good relations.
And finally we have Perin and Bardi…
Our first choice options at centre-back are as good as any team. With Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci offering exceptional strength, backed up by Caceres and Ogbonna. The one thing that strikes me about that group is a lack of natural leadership. Only Andrea Barzagli has this in abundance, and it shows, in our defensive potency when he is absent. Leaders are important in any team. Players capable of rising up against the storm, showing their team-mates that their feathers are not ruffled, and inspiring by example. The more of these natural born warriors able to maintain balance at all times in the squad, the better.
With rumours emerging of a possible deal with Parma involving the exchange of Giovinco with Paletta, I suspect that its the Argentine’s leadership ability which is attracting our covetous glances.
The only possible improvement to an already top notch rear-guard in the middle is to add Leaders. With Masi and especially Rugani developing well in the second tier we appear well set at the back for the present and future. We have been mentioned alongside Garay (Benfica), Mangala (Porto) and Dragovic (D Kiev). Having seen Garay first hand last week, I would also be keen on finding Beppe investigating his team-mate Pereria, who looked a modern day Montero in his outing against us in the europa league semi-final.
Continuing through the middle, intentionally so…It seems highly unlikely that Vidal, Pirlo or Marchisio will depart. The question of Pogba remains open. He has excelled this season. Proven himself dependable and consistently capable of performing at a level rarely seen of a player lacking experience. To prise him from our ranks will take a mega offer, I suspect at least 50m. Only a very small niche of clubs would consider such an outlay. PSG and Madrid are the two most viable candidates. If he goes to PSG I expect Verratti to be part of the deal. Yet I suspect he will remain, for one more season. In which case, with Asamoah also more than capable of adding depth to the midfield, the engine room of our team needs no tinkering. Other than the potential for the purchase of a regista…or attacking midfielder.
22 year old regista Daniele Baselli seems a prime candidate. Yet to prove himself as a first team regular at Atalanta, I feel we could well make a move for a stake in the player, but the idea of bringing him into the squad over the Summer seems less concrete. Success at international U21 level is encouraging, and interest from other sides may well force our hand. With Marrone failing to impress at Sassuolo, it makes sense for us to begin looking elsewhere for a potential successor for Pirlo.
As for the established players, we must not forget Freddy Guarin. His exchange with Vucinic was thwarted at the last minute. Bags were packed, wages were agreed. It would come as a welcome surprise to see the move resurrected in the Summer. And I would see it as a great piece of business. For the colombian is capable of driving forward from midfield and has a wonderful shot from distance. With the right coaching, he could become a true star.
The other player who keeps popping up in the tabloids and beyond is Romulo. Owned by Fiorentina yet playing for Verona, who have the option to sign him outright, the dogged midfielder appears an interesting proposition. Recently called up to the italian squad, the 26 year old brazilian, at home on the right of midfield or as a right wingback, has enjoyed a wonderful season in Verona. His five goals and eight assists are something to cause teams other than Juve to take note of his progression. At home moving forward, yet dependable in the defensive phase, Romulo appears a player worthy of our consideration. If Isla is sold, I would be excited to see him appear in our ranks.
Up top, the situation is far more open to discussion. Tevez has been a brilliant signing. Llorente is finding his feet and the net. Which leaves us to analyse the remaining trio.
Quagliarella seems certain to exit. His card may have been marked long ago when he launched muffled insults with Allessio through his jacket after been substituted. Delving more deeply…as we must…Fabio’s game has always seemed more individually focused, than the collective zeal demanded by Conte. His playing time has been paltry and for many moons he has appeared 5th choice for our starting two berths in attack.
Mirko was as good as gone in January. And I presume his ghost will depart the premises when the transfer window re-opens. If Guarin comes in return, all the better. Regardless, I will be pleased to see him leave. His efforts have helped, but we are stepping up a level, and Mirko simply cannot supply quality on a consistent enough basis to warrant an extended stay at Piedmont.
By far the most intriguing of the trio is Giovinco. Whilst his recent form has been interesting, at 27 years old, the player himself must be weighing up his options. Even taking his injuries into account, five starts in the league is hardly what he would have hoped for at this stage in his career.
He proved his potential at Parma, with 15 goals and 16 assists from 36 Serie A matches. Yet failed to transplant that form to Juve last term, and this season he has rarely impressed. His chances of playing regularly seem slim, given our system involves two front-men and his direct competition for a starting spot is Carlos Tevez, who is a vastly superior player, in terms of all round potency. Conte defends him often. The fans are equally often against him. So what will Seba do???
I hope that he chooses to leave. Not because I do not rate him, but due to my conclusion that his chances at Juve have now passed. He is at a stage in his career when he should be playing regularly, aiming to demand of Prandelli consideration for la nazionale. He simply cannot do that playing from the bench at Juve. Rumours abound regarding his transfer to…Torino, as part of the Cerci deal. And to Parma as part of the Paletta deal.
I would like to keep him on board, but feel that without the horrible situation of a long term injury to Tevez, he will remain, eager from the bench. We may rue his departure, but whilst he remains valuable in monetary terms, I expect him to leave.
So with the central phalanx appraised, its high time I focused elsewhere, for its the flanks where the real action can be found.
If various reports are to be believed, Conte’s extension of his contract is heavily tied to his demands for additional strength added to our wide positions. I hope this is true, for whilst the 3-5-2 has served us very well indeed, we have reached a point where I feel such rigidity is holding us back.
Whilst I can count myself amongst the crowd who have offered criticism of Conte’s blinkered gaze on the 3-5-2, the fact of the matter is that the formation appearing pitch-side rarely remains stuck to that shape. We morph between 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 often within the course of a game. The wingbacks alternate between wingback and winger. The main bother with this is that we have a natural central midfielder as our LWB and a natural fullback as our RWB. Why not play to our strengths, and deploy a front trident of offensive players??
I touched on this matter a week or so back, and am forced to revisit my own words now.
At the very top level, when quality is matched equally on both sides, it is the tactical genius which wins matches. Often with a dose of luck, but its the effort to find that luck by exploiting the weaknesses of opponents which I am focusing upon.
When was the last time you watched a Juve game and felt that Conte has produced a master-stroke???
I saw Mourinho recently outfox Blanc’s PSG side in the champions league. I saw Martinez bamboozle Wenger in the premiership. When does Conte alter his tactics to pounce on an opponents failings?? Either with his initial deployment of our players or substitutions mid-match?? Our coach seems to either sub like for like, or replace an offensive player with a defensive option when a lead seems good enough to win a game.
Which other elite club continues to deploy 3 centrebacks???
Conte has been sporadically vocal vis-a-vis the lack of options, but is this a valid reason for sticking to the 3-5-2??
Partially I agree. For we have the players to attempt something different. As we did, to good effect, against Madrid, late last year. Yet it is fair to see only the close to the grave Pepe as our major wide option in the final third.
I would only be concerned if Conte did not see the problem. He does. Hence his demand for more quality on the flanks. Only once his demand has been met, can we truly judge him as a tactician. His potency at man management is already beyond any doubt. Yet as with the team he has created, his development depends largely on how we move ahead, on how we attempt to bridge the gap between domestic dominance of the highest order and concerted improvement on the continental stage.
Asamoah has proven an outstanding signing, But let us not forget, that we purchased the player on the back of consistent magnificence, as a marauding central midfielder at Udinese. I would like to see us procure a naturally talented wingback, or left fullback. Coentrao seems the likely focus. And having played seldom for Real Madrid this season, I hope he is open to a move. There is also the Kolarov option. Yet his skill seems best deployed with a defender behind him on the wing.
Finally we have Lulic on the Beppe radar. A player who has proven capable in any role on the left flank for Lazio.
On the opposite side we find the ultra dependable Lichsteiner and still struggling to find his best output at Juve, Mauricio Isla. The Swiss locomotive has been a little hit and miss this season, though his efforts and defensive dependability remain classy. As for the Chilean…I expect to see him move this summer, for he has been given plenty of chances, and has yet to show any sparkling form. If he heads out and Romulo comes in, it will be a solid piece of work by Beppe.
Moving further up the field…Cerci seems the most obvious choice. Trickery, dribbling, as able to assist as to find the net himself, I suspect he is our main target in the mercato. Much to the dismay of an understandably large contingent of juventini, the price of bringing him into the fold will almost certainly involve the loss of our 50% stake in Ciro Immoble, who has enjoyed a quality season (as has Cerci).
Adding the 26 year old to our roster will surely lead to a major change in formation, as would the following, were they to arrive.
Next on the list is Menez…
Available on a free this Summer, a Beppe speciality, the frenchman knows the italian from his time at Roma. He has displayed – sporadically – wonderful ability, and the only thing missing from his repertoire is a strident mentality. The one area where Conte cannot be faulted is man management. It could be a marriage of mutual benefit.
Menez can play out wide or through the middle. Which again, suggests a change to our tactics.
Manchester United are in complete disarray. Major renovation is likely during the Summer regardless of which manager they choose to replace Moyes long term. Nani is a player who has been linked with us for many moons. Conte is said to be an admirer.
With only five premier league starts this season, the player could be eager to move on. He is fast, loves to dribble and shoot from range, capable of dazzling finesse though the application of his brilliance has been questionable at times. At 27, the portuguese winger still has his prime ahead of him, and could be a brilliant signing.
Returning to Serie A we find two other ideas for the wide roles in such dire need of renovation. Firstly the Colombian hit-man Cuadrado. The tricky winger is co-owned between Udinese and Fiorentina, and with their player impressing regularly both clubs will be eager to cash in. However, as Di Marzio put it a few months back…
‘Juventus has been looking for a winger of Cuadrado’s caliber for quite some time, but while they have a great relationship with Udinese (they acquired Iaquinta, Pepe, Asamoah, Isla from them in recent years) it’s safe to say Tony Soprano and Phil Leotardo got along better than Juve does with Fiorentina. ‘ hohoho!!
A great plan, but unfortunately we must conclude it’s death on the vine. Whilst on the subject of Udinese, with whom – as Di Marzio mentioned – we share great relations, there has been talk of our interest in their Argentine flair-merchant Roberto Pereyra. A former regular for his national U20 side, Roberto has blossomed in 13/14 in Guidolin’s 3-5-2, deployed on either flank and several times in the middle. His work ethic and creativity would be very welcome and he looks certainly one of the more interesting options to improve our ability to break down tough opponents.
Before ending this hellishly long appraisal of potential transfer matters, I will mention the other names in the hat who operate more centrally, players who could augment or replace members of our current midfield.
Ivan Rakitic of Sevilla is comfortable in Pirlo’s role as he would be in replacing Pogba. Whilst he is less than likely to provide solid defensive cover, his efforts further up the field are often magnificent. The Croatian has scored 15 and made 19 assists for Seville this season. We have apparently had interest in the central midfielder for a year or three.
William Carvalho, 22, of Sporting Lisbon is another name in the frame. A regular for his club side and a newcomer to the national side of Portugal, the dynamic midfielder is not short of admirers, with Manchester United and Arsenal said to be chasing his signature.
Last on the list we find Alex Witsel of Zenith St Petersburg. Another tough tackling midfield star with a bright future ahead of him. The Belgian is attracting interest from several top premiership clubs.
If the evolution of the squad is aimed at improving our potency in the champions league, then I expect us to be chasing proven quality, rather than taking a chance on youngsters. The spine of the team is strong, and its our wide options which need vast improvement. Although adding top class strength to any area will be welcome. Defensive errors cost us dearly in Europe this term and bringing in to the ranks more assured, experienced talent to the back-line is probably in Conte’s thinking.
Finally, I must spare a moment to consider the stakes we have in several of the most promising young strikers in Italy and beyond. Boakye, Rossi, Diagne and company are reserved for the youth report due in May. Which leaves our Serie A prospects to rate and consider whether any warrant a place at Piedmont.
Simone Zaza and Gabbiadini have clearly not done enough to find themselves in the reckoning. Yet two of our players have indeed stuck out…and made major progress this season.
As things stand at the time of writing, Ciro Immobile, whom we co-own with Torino, has amassed 21 goals and 3 assists from his 27 Serie A starts this term. Any team could clearly profit from his industry and sharp-shooting, but we have heard very little from Conte regarding the 24 year old. Is his game too singular for the demands of our system?? All of our strikers are required to be as potent at team-work as they are at putting the ball in the net, and it is this area where I feel Conte is far from satisfied with the skill-set the striker is presenting on a regular basis for his club. Also working perhaps against any potential move is our interest in his team-mate Cerci, with many assuming we will use our stake in Immobile to lower the price for the flying winger.
The other explosive youngster surely deserving of a mention is Domenico Berardi. Up until the start of February, the talented Sassuolo front-man was the hottest prospect in the country. His hatrick against Sampdoria in November followed up with a outstanding haul of 4 goals in the January demolition of AC Milan. His star was shining ever so brightly. And many Juventini were sure that we would be bringing him into the fold during the summer mercato.
Since then, Domenico – along with his side – has struggled to repeat the consistency, scoring just the solitary goal and suffering from ill discipline which has led to suspensions. His talent is undoubted, but the manner in which he exercises his natural gifts can be volatile and haphazard. Has he done enough to deserve a place in our offensive department??? I presently think the answer is No. What could force us to act is interest from another club of decent stature. The player himself would surely wish to remain in Serie A, and even if Sassuolo survive, there will be suitors able to offer him a stronger squad and possibly also European football.
Not much has been written in the Italian press about his future, so it seems those Juventini eager to see him appear in our colours must play a waiting game. My own view is that he will be purchased outright, then co-owned or loaned to another club as part of a deal for another player we wish to place in our first team squad.
Other than the players I have mentioned above, there is one other, an outside bet, the one I desire more than any other, whom it has been reported as giving his blessing to the move to Turin. His name is…Alexis Sanchez. And I am surely not the only one, who would be ecstatic to see him arrive.
(Please feel free to comment below, the disqus routine should be up and running now…and a sign-up option on the left to be kept abreast of new posts. Cheers, TDF)