Approaching February on a nine-match winning run, Juventus are set to challenge Napoli all the way in their bid to retain the league crown for another year. However, soon must come a time for investment in the future, and it is a process which began with this January’s transfer window. In long-term practice, this means focusing on players under 25 with the ability to shoulder the responsibility of title challenges year in, year out. So how would the five players linked to Juventus in January fare, if they end up making those moves this summer?
Good times, but they cannot last without long-term planning.
As a fullback, Darmian has found the rigours of the Premier League to be just a shade too punishing, finding his game time limited at Manchester United as the Red Devils’ search for a league title continues into a seventh year. By several accounts, he has already resisted the lure of Roma, but Napoli set to be Juventus’ only true rival in the coming years, the pressure would be off him. As a two-footed defender, his versatility would be an obvious boost for Juventus, but Darmian’s lack of playing time will affect his chances of being courted by Juventus once again this summer. This plays to the advantage of another reported Juventus target, Jose Gaya, provided that they would contest a spot in the first place, rather than occupy opposite flanks.
Six years Darmian’s junior (as noted on Transfermarkt) Gaya will cost more, but his presence would also give the club a better chance of rebuilding an aging defensive unit, and make him a key component of it once Giorgio Chiellini retires. Gaya has truly come of age this season, which has seen Valencia threaten Real Madrid’s place amongst Europe’s elite, seeing the odds against a top-four finish for the club shorten. As of 7 February 2018, sports betting site Betway price Valencia as odds-on at 1/2 to finish in the top four, but nonetheless, a step up towards a perennial Championship contender is the next natural stage of Gaya’s development.
Gaya has also won a greater quantity of duels compared to Darmian, with a personal win rate of 54.3% compared to Darmian’s (33.3%).
With Can now a done deal, Juventus have an excellent bargain for next season. His shooting ability remains underrated, even after his famous strike for Liverpool against Watford last May. With the likes of Napoli and Inter Milan set to challenge Juventus all the way in 2018/19, it is exactly that element of surprise which could see Juventus once more stroll to a Serie A title. His versatility is also well-known, with the German being able to fulfil defensive duties, which is one of the primary reasons that he thrived during Liverpool’s run to the 2016 Europa League final. With a pass completion rate of 85% alone in the Champions League this term, Can has shown particular composure in the face of continental opposition.
With an overall pass completion rate of 83%, Pellegrini (still just 21 years of age) has all the makings of a ‘midfield general’, with the ability to influence the flow of games and play simultaneously. For all his talent, Can could be far more vociferous, and with Pellegrini also far less hindered by language barriers, Pellegrini has all the credentials to become part of Juventus’ next generation of perpetual champions. There is, of course, no reason to believe that the duo could not work together in the middle, and forge a relatively young central pairing over the forthcoming years.
Cagliari striker and North Korean international Kwang-Song Han was linked with both Juventus and Liverpool on deadline day. While the 19-year-old from Pyongyang has very limited Serie A experience, his strike rate for Perugia as a loanee is evidently enough to make him a suitor to teams that are currently in the Champions League. In the event of a move, his early years in Turin would be spent on loan – nothing at all would change except, perhaps, his paycheck. Undoubtedly the classic ‘long-term investment’, the North Korean certainly has the potential to blossom under the right training regime. With all of that accounted for, it is too early to say for certain just how well he could do at Juventus.
A 7-0 win for Juventus over Sassuolo, in the Bianconeri’s last home league outing on 4 February, was as sure a sign as any that Juventus’ title fight will go to the wire. Gonzalo Higuain, as ever, ran the show but there was poignancy in his mastery. The Argentine striker cannot play at this level forever, and nor can the likes of Georgio Chiellini, Stephan Lichtsteiner or Claudio Marchisio. All of the rumoured targets listed represent a look to the future of the Turin club, as it builds on the strengths of its glorious past and present.