Walt White: “Jesse you asked me if I’m in the meth or money business, I’m in neither, I’m in the empire business”
This week we will look at how Juve is building a team set to dominate Serie A for the foreseable future, next week we will focus on how it can improve in Champions League.
Juve has now won back to back scudetti for the first time since Calciopoli, and is creating an even wider gap with it’s competitors in Serie A. In the past two summers, Juve has brought to Serie A two top players, Vidal and Pogba, while it’s rivals have lost many of their big names to foreign super clubs (Cavani and Jovetic are likely to be next). On top of having the best roster in Serie A, Juve also controls many of the best prospects (Gabbiadini, Boakye, Chisbhah, Leali, Bouy just to name a few) and continues to go after more potential future stars (Regini, Zaza). Juve is doing everything in it’s power to ensure it’s dominance in Italy is as strong as Walt White’s market share of the meth traffic in New Mexico in “Breaking Bad“. Before we rank strikers in order of likelihood of joining Juve let’s look at some quotes and transfer season story lines
Quotes of the Week
Marotta on Marchisio to Monaco rumors:”The will of the player is what counts to take him off the market. His DNA is Juventino” via TuttoMercatoWeb
Marchisio:”Once the Confederation Cup ends I will speak to Juve to understand if I’m still as an important player for them as I have been so far. If not it’s only natural to evaluate other options. Offers? When I speak to Juve, we will understand what is true and what isn’t. I haven’t heard from anyone so far” via Gazzetta Dello Sport
Marotta on Jovetic:”If they put a figure on him, it means they want to sell him. At the moment, we have made some inquiries but not with Fiorentina. He costs 30 million? Everyone has the right to make their own evaluations, but we have paramaters” via TuttoMercatoWeb
Fiorentina’s Diego Della Valle on John Elkann:”Having a certain last name doesn’t necessarily mean that you do good things, we need to have respect even for the good young people that cannot find a job. As an example Jaki (Elkann’s nickname) is very far from being a phenom, yet he has a job of a certain importance. But he is just a young kid who doesn’t understand the world has changed and that you cannot live off just monopolies” via Yahoo EuroSport
Marotta:”Della Valle’s words from last night on Elkann are part of the banter between big entrepreneurs, and I do not believe it would influence a potential negotiation” via Calciomercato.it
Jovetic:”Would I like to work with Conte? With him I believe I could still grow. The high regard is mutual” via Gazzetta Dello Sport
Jovetic:”(Fiorentina president) Della Valle said that he considers Juve like one of the other teams pursuing me? It has been a year that Juve follows me, they told me they want me, and that I come before Ibrahimovic, Tevez and Higuain. Who wouldn’t be flattered? I am, and I don’t consider it a betrayal (of Fiorentina) to admit it” via Gazzetta Dello Sport
Jovetic:”How would I feel about being booed at Franchi stadium in a black and white jersey? When I arrived they said I was a “piccolo Baggio”. Just like him I had a serious injury at Fiorentina. So, I’m not saying I should be welcomed back in same way but almost” via Gazzetta Dello Sport
Jovetic:”England? I’m also considering it, the EPL is a great league just like LaLiga, I have some offers, we’ll see” via LaNazione
Marotta:”Real Madrid told us that at the moment Higuain isn’t on the market. They want to wait for announcement of new coach. Once we know this name, we will meet again to discuss the situation. We have great relations with Real and we will continue to negotiate” via Sky Sport
Udinese president Gino Pozzo:”For Isla we will renew the co ownership with Juve, they will decide where he will play. If they want to move him to a third team it’s fine by us” via Gazzetta Dello Sport
Story Lines of the Week
There has been as much as hysteria on Twitter over Marchisio possibly leaving Juve as there is at the front row of a Justin Beiber show, so let’s just look at the facts. Last summer’s acquisitions of Asamoah and Pogba (although just like everyone else I did not expect him to be this good) prompted me to think Juve was being pro active in finding Vidal’s replacements for the 2013/14 season. I’m very glad to have been proven wrong on that front, as Vidal appears like a lock to remain in Turin. But Pogba’s explosion, caused Marchisio to be moved from his customary position at CM to a more offensive role behind a lone striker, a position he has struggled in both for Italy and at Juve. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, in May Marchisio’s father asked Juve for a contract extention with raise for Claudio (he is currently at 3 million net, only Buffon and Pirlo earn more) which was declined since his current deal expires in 2016. Then came the news of Monaco’s willingness to double Marchisio’s salary (with a 30 million offer to Juve) as well as Manchester United’s interest in Marchisio, which prompted the Marotta quote on player’s will and Claudio’s Juve DNA (it’s in the quotes of the week section of article). The last chapter in the saga, was Marchisio being asked about his future during a Confederation Cup press conference (his answer also in quotes of the week). Personally I don’t think there is anything to get worked up about quite yet, especially when you consider Juve turned down a huge for Marchisio from Bayern Munich last summer. But I would start to get worried Marchisio could be on his way out should Juve acquire a stud left wing back. Remember, Juve just excercised an expensive option on Asamoah, so if Juve also buys a starting caliber left wing back it would mean Asamoah likely moves back to his natural role in the middle as the first alternative to Vidal and Pogba.
At the beginning of the week, it appeared Juve was very close to purchasing Torino CB Ogbonna for cash and combination of players from a group of Immobile, Sorensen, Ziegler, De Ceglie and Gabbiadini. However, after a long meeting with Torino president Cairo it appears there is still a gap between what Juve is offering and what Torino is seeking (I read on some sites they evaluate Ogbonna at 20 million euro). Ogbonna reminds me of the Asamoah acquisition- an expensive luxury purchase done at a time in which you have more pressing needs. On top of needing a top striker, Juve could also use a natural left wing back so I’m not sure investing cash, players and the time it takes to close the Ogbonna deal is the best use of resources for Juve. On the other hand, considering he is left footed, Ogbonna would be a great alternative to Chiellini, who is unfortunately becoming injury prone, and has also played as left back in a 4 man defense in past. Acquiring Ogbonna and keeping him away from Napoli and Milan, who actually really need a starting caliber CB, would also increase Juve’s odds of building an empire in Serie A.
According to transfer season guru Gianluca Di Marzio, Juve is on the verge of acquring Sampdoria striker Simone Zaza (who scored 18 goals in Serie B for Ascoli- many of which you can see here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaEO2NRdPLc). Zaza has also been linked to Napoli and Milan this season. I suspect Juve and Milan made a gentleman’s agreement on Poli/Zaza where Milan would get the midfielder and Juve the striker as they better address team needs (despite the Tevez situation, Juve and Milan have a strong relationship). While Juve has not been able to purchase a big name striker, they do control many of the most promising attackers in Italy (Boakye, Immobile, Gabbiadini) and I tend to see them as lottery tickets- the more you have the better the chances you hit the jackpot, one of these strikers could become a top player (remember Juve also acquired Bonucci and Vidal before they became world class caliber). It would be quite a coup if Juve could purchase Atalanta’s half of Gabbiadini (who is making quite a name for himself in the Under 21 Euro) and send him on co ownership to Samp in the deal for Zaza. This way Juve finds a great place to develop Gabbiadini while also acquiring another lottery ticket in Zaza (Atalanta’s DS Marino, one of the best in Serie A, has stated he does not want to loan Gabbiadini to a rival, which I take as a sign he is ready to cash in on Gabbiadini now). Di Marzio reported Zaza will likely participate in Juve’s summer ritiro before being loaned to either Sassuolo or Parma. Juve is also very close to acquiring Sasuolo winger Berardi (Enrico Passarella wrote about him here http://www.juvefc.com/blog/?p=2532) and promising defender Vasco Regini, who has been compared to Chiellini.
While Juve exercised their option on Asamoah, they decided to “only” renew their co ownership of Mauricio Isla with Udinese. While Isla did not play much for Juve last season (and not particularly well), he was recovering from a serious knee injury and he does fit a long term need for the club more so than Asamoah. There has been a lot of speculation Juve would sell it’s half of Isla to arch rival Inter, a club who has pursued Isla in the past. Considering how much Juve has already invested in Isla (over 9 million) and his young age (he just turned 25) it would be foolish in my opinion to sell him now. It would be very difficult to find a player of comparable talent and age for what Juve would receive in a sale. It’s possible Juve is considering selling Isla because they are optimistic Simone Pepe will be able to fully recover from his injuries.
There some factors to consider when ranking the strikers Juve is linked to in the order of their likelihood of arriving. Do we consider Llorente an almost set starter like Vucinic or simply a rotation striker like Matri/Quagliarella/Giovinco? Llorente’s high salary seems to suggest he will be a starter, but with Conte relying so heavily on what he sees in practice for his lineups it’s impossible to say right now. Other factors include player wages (Juve seems to have an almost set cap of around 4.5 million net), willingness of their club to sell to Juve and competition from super financial clubs.
1. Higuain- many seem to be puzzled as to why Real Madrid wants to wait to name their next coach prior to selling Higuain, a player who has publicly stated he wants to leave. But let’s look at it from Madrid’s perspective, the timing of sale probably has a lot to do with how club would be perceived: 1) Selling Higuain now would make it appear like they are undermining new coach (likely Ancelotti) who wouldn’t get a chance to say if he wants to keep Higuain (even if we know he wants to leave) 2) So far the big off season story for Real Madrid has been Mourinho’s departure, makes sense that Real Madrid wants the next big story line to be the naming of his successor rather than the sale of a big name 3) announcing the Higuain sale around the same time as a big purchase (Bale, Cavani or Suarez) would make his departure less of a big story, and still having him on the roster would make Real Madrid appear less desperate when negotiating the purchase of his replacement. Aside from the timing of the move, I see Higuain as the most likely purchase for Juve because of the strong ties with Real Madrid. Higuain has also already agreed to terms with Juve for around 5 million per season (very close to what Buffon received in his contract extension) according to reliable sources (Di Marzio, LaStampa). While Higuain’s track record in Champions League is mediocre (8 goals in 48 matches- 18 of which as a substitute) he is at the beginning of his prime (will turn 26 in December) and has played on the big stages since 2007. I also like the fact he is of French-Argentinian descent just like the last great striker Juve had- David Trezeguet. Manchester City hiring Pellegrini does concern me a bit, since Higuain had his best season with Pellegrini on Real Madrid’s bench. It would make sense that Higuain would also want to play with Aguero, especially the season before a World Cup. On the bright side, if Higuain does join Manchester City, it would bring Tevez (a more natural compliment to Llorente) closer to Juve
2. Tevez- according to Di Marzio, Juve has agreed to general terms on a contract with Tevez. While that sounds great, keep in mind Juve had done the same with Van Persie and Jovetic last summer as well and then ended up with Bendtner. But in Tevez’ case, this is actually the biggest hurdle to overcome, since his current wages are much higher than Juve is paying it’s top players and Manchester City is likely willing to sell him, since his contract expires at end of 2013/14 season. Romeo Agresti, the Juve reporter for Goal.com, mentioned that it was Tevez’ entourage that initiated the contact with Juve, which would explain why there has yet to be any (reported) negotiation with Manchester City. Tevez would seem like an ideal compliment to Llorente, and while he is known for being a difficult player, I would imagine Conte would be able to deal with him quite well. But so far all of Juve’s actions point to fact Higuain is there top choice and Tevez is a (great) backup plan.
3. Jovetic- about two weeks ago there seemed to be a lot of momentum for Jovetic joining Juve this summer despite fact the Agnelli family and the Della Valle brothers who own Fiorentina, get along as well as Biggie and Tupac did in mid 90s. Then came Jovetic’s interview to Gazzetta Dello Sport which was published last Sunday (you can read highlights in the quotes of the week section of this article), many Juve fans were thrilled to see Jovetic being so open about his desire to join Juve. But it seems the interview backfired since Jovetic was immediately fined by Fiorentina, and the DellaValles are probably even more dead set on making sure he does not join Juve this summer. Personally, I believe Jovetic received awful advice with that interview, considering the testy relationship between Juve and Fiorentina’s ownership (see Della Valle’s quotes on John Elkann) it would have been better to take the approach Johnny Sack used to broker the peace between Ralphie Cifaretto and Toni Soprano, something understated rather than bold. There are still 10 more weeks before the transfer period closes (in theory it has yet to even officially open) so a lot could still chang.
4. Field (Gomez, Cardozo, Negredo, others). In the past few transfer periods we have gotten some last second (awful) surprises with the purchases of Bendtner and Anelka, while I’m optimistic Juve will land one of the 3 players listed previously, there is the potential Juve will strike out on them and will end up with another name.