Not since Marchisio have we seen a bona fide home grown star emerge from the youth sector to find a place in the senior side. I could include Giovinco, yet he is long gone, retiring before his time to run rings around the hapless MLS crowd…The wait seems inexorable. Yet have faith, comrades, for I believe we are soon going to begin reaping the rewards of the seeds sewn since Beppe and Fabio were air-dropped into the fray to begin the recovery from the dreadful Secco years.
The senior squad has been totally revamped and is now close to unrecognisable from the stable inherited by the dynamic duo. Yet improving the senior outfit is clearly far easier a task than scouting, signing and developing the next gem in the mega rough at youth level. This is because senior players are signed on the basis of proven quality shown elsewhere, whereas it is a far less certain roll of the dice when it comes to the little ones. A player can appear dazzling at 16, yet by the time he reaches 19, his peers have caught up and his previous sparkle has vanished. So many factors are at play – physical development, coaching, injuries, adjustment to a new city, new culture, guiding forces, true romance. Any one of which can derail the nourishment required for a young starlet to mature into a senior player able to produce such top drawer performances that they earn an opportunity within Allegri’s phalanx.
With success offering ever greater riches, the need to succeed has become extreme at the top level of the game. Each position in the squad is hugely valuable and whilst fighting for honours on many levels we cannot afford to blood youngsters when the stakes are so incredibly high. Hence the loan system. Which Marchisio and Giovinco both utilised before finding a serious chance to impress at Juve. With coaching out of our hands, this opens the possibility of poor management derailing the development of young talent.
New rules come into play from next season onwards, which demand we include 4 players who have spent 3 years between the ages of 16 and 21 in our youth set-up, and 4 players who have spent 3 years in the same period at any Italian club. They need not be Italian.
Presently, only Marchisio meets the first category. The second category is more easily satisfied – Buffon, Bonucci, Zaza, Berardi for example. Which leaves us 3 places to fill. Maximum squad size is 25. Which means we need 3 more players who have spent 3 years between 16 and 21 in our youth sector.
Mirante, who seems a possibility to replace the outgoing Neto, may well be one of those 3. The other two? Audero could come in as a third choice keeper. The final player? I have only a mild inkling, for to sign Alves could negate any chances at first team action for Lirola. Romagna is an option, but as 5th or 6th choice CB his development may be stunted? Yet that moves naturally towards the debate of whether a youngster learns more from training alongside established stars with juve standard coaching or through regular first team football at a lower level of competition and coaching.
There has been major discussion of B teams, which would allow the top sides to deploy a second team in Serie B or below. It seems likely that this will present in a similar fashion to the german league structure wherein these B teams cannot be promoted to the same league as their A team counterparts. The implementation of any such scheme – which I would hugely welcome – is loosely ear-marked for the 17/18 season. Much discussion remains to be had between all clubs affected. For whilst it would suit Juve, what of the teams in Serie B and below? Surely these leagues will need to be expanded, yet by what number? Which sides will be afforded a B team entry?
Regardless of such ideas, we must contend with the present circumstances which means more loans and transfers with first option transfer fees ; which is basically the new co-ownership routine.
I best begin this assuredly lengthy analysis with an outline of the progress of our most likely to succeed players already plying their trade at senior level…
Gabriel Appelt – 22 – CM – Leganes (Segunda Division, Spain)
The arch-angel has been in brilliant form for Leganes who have silenced the doubters through gaining automatic promotion to La Liga. Gabriel has played 40, scored 8 with 4 assists.
Threatened early doors with a thunderous strike from range before poking home the winner in Leganes recent 0-1 victory away to Real Ovideo.
Talks were held in January regarding a full transfer for the loanee which led to a potential EU1m fee which included a first option on his services in the future. Definitely one to keep an eye upon as he will be playing on the big stage next term.
His talents have always seemed geared towards a regista. Strong on the ball, loves to tackle, create, drive forward and support the offence. Progressing well.
Expected Outcome – Too tricky to say. If he impresses in La Liga, perhaps we will bring him home thereafter, or in the least, do a Morata and sign him then sell him for a higher value or in exchange for a more suitable option, in the process establishing a new feeder club routine.
Ouasim Bouy – 22 – CM – Zwolle (EREDIVISIE, Holland)
Finally, the young dutchman has found a season absent of chopping and changing clubs and injury and the result of which has been very promising indeed. Returning to his motherland Bouy has been a mainstay in the Zwolle midfield, who only just missed out on a Europa League place. 8 goals and 14 assists from his 28 games is a wonderful achievement for a player as often deployed as a ball playing centre back as the fulcrum at the base of midfield.
Tested the keeper early, produced a delightful assist for the equaliser, scored a beautiful goal through opening his body and blasting past the keeper in the box and capped a perfect performance with a header for 3-1.
Ouasim was touted as a future star when we signed him from Ajax many moons ago. An ACL injury suffered whilst on loan at Brescia curtailed his journey, after which he has moved from Germany to Greece before finally Holland. With his form excellent throughout this campaign and Raiola as his agent, I see him as a potential Juve option in the future. He has class on the ball, can tackle, create and score. Shares many aspects of his game with Appelt, yet has more technical ability.
Expected Outcome – Another loan beckons, yet as he has progressed, he must either stay at Zwolle or be loaned to a stronger club. Its a shame that he seems out of consideration for the obvious Marchisio opening, yet we also have Mandragora to ponder and perhaps it is prudent to leave him where he is developing well enough.
Mame Thiam – 23 – LW – Zulte FC – (Jupiler Pro League, Belgium)
Senegalese front man Big Mame has been enjoying himself in Belgium, his lightning pace and eye for goal leading to 9 strikes and 3 assists from his 29 outings. His side finished 6th before tumbling out of the final stages to Anderlecht.
Expected Outcome – Loan to a Serie A side or continued loan in Belgium.
Tasos Donis – 19 – CF/SS – Lugano (Swiss Super League)
Former primavera star, Donis took his time to make inroads into the first team of Lugano, yet has since proved his worth this calendar year. 9 goals and 7 assists from 32 games is a fair return for a youngster. Clearly he needs more time to develop and as he has found form in Switzerland it may be best to keep him there, if a Serie B club cannot be found.
Unfortunately his side were pipped at the post in the Super Cup final (which would have led to Europa league participation), yet still secured their league survival
Expected Outcome – Remain at Lugano or Serie A/B loan.
Of our other loanees plying their trade in foreign pastures…
Vykintas Slivka (21) Den Bosch (Juplier League) – CM – Played 32, scored 3, assists 2.
Joel Untersee (22) FC Vaduz (Super League) – RB – Played 22 – 2 assists.
Zoran Josipovic (20) FC Aarau (Super League) – CF – Played 28, 6 goals.
Nico Hidalgo (24) Granada B (Spanish 3rd tier) – RM – Played 32, 4 goals.
Alhassane Soumah (20) Videton (Hungary top flight) – CF – Played 16, 1 goal.
Vajebah Sakor (20) Valarenga (Norway top flight) – CM – Played 12, 1 goal, 1 assist.
Younes Marzouk (20) Westerlo (Juliper League) – CF – Played 2
Marcelo Djalo (22) Murcia (Spain 3rd tier) – CB – Played 5, 1 goal
Albert Roussos (20) Panthrakikos Komotini (Greek Super League) – CM/RM/RB – Played 4
Laurenţiu Branescu (22) Omonia Nicosia (Cyprus) – GK – Played 4
Alberto Gallineta (24) Naxaar Lions (Malta) – GK – Played 12….Conceded 41! There must be some mistake…? Unfortunately not. For the consecutive 8-0 poundings against the mighty Hibernians FC and Balzan Youth are enough proof of surely one of the worst campaigns of any keeper of any era. Not much hope for Alberto!
Moving back to Italy…
Nicola Leali – 23 – GK – Frosinone
(old video yet offers a valuable glimpse of his talents)
It was a tough season for the young pretender to Buffon’s crown, yet one which offered plenty of practice as plucky Frosinone put up a half decent fight against the drop, which unfortunately proved fruitless. From our perspective it can only be a positive experience for Nicola to have been the ever present number one for the vast majority of the season in the top flight. It seems that the player – understandably – is keen on bedding down at a club, rather than hopping each season to new pastures.
Expected outcome – Deportivo La Coruna, Atalanta, Empoli and Fiorentina have all been linked with the shot stopper. Most likely he will move on loan with the right to purchase, and possibly our right to counter that purchase or retain first option on his signature for the future.
Marcel Buchel – 25 – CM – Empoli
The Lichtenstein international produced a solid 2016, breaking into the first team and making 10 appearances before the curtains closed on the Serie A road-show.
Expected outcome – Sale for 2-5m, loan with right to purchase or used as a makeweight in a deal for Saponoara!
Luca Marrone – 25 – CM/DM – Verona – 25 appearances, 1 goal and 5 assists.
Back to playing regularly but sent down with Verona, Luca will be looking to find another top tier club to continue his career. Rumours abound of Donadoni’s eagerness to take him to Bologna. He looked a fine player in the making during his time with Juve, comfortable in the Bonucci role as a ball playing CB yet at his best in central midfield.
Expected outcome – Loan to Serie A side. Or sale with first option/ set transfer fee.
Frederico Mattiello – 20 – RB – Verona
After recovering from a brutal break of the leg delivered by perennial pigfucker Radja Nainggolan in early 2015, the lightning of disaster struck yet again in October of the same year when the highly promising Mattiello received a terrible knock to his ankle during a training challenge which yet again fractured the right tibia. The season has since been one of recovery and recuperation and we can only hope that such trauma has not ruined his career before it has truly begun. Sincerely I wish the youngster well and hope beyond all else that wherever he ends up next season he finds an end to his ongoing injury nightmare.
Prior to his appalling 2015, Frederico had represented Italy at U16, U17 and U20 level.
Alberto Brignoli – 24 – GK – Sampdoria
Unable to dislodge the highly experienced Viviano, Alberto managed just the one token appearance this season, against his parent club in which he performed far better than the 5-0 scoreline suggested.
Expected outcome – SPAL, newly promoted to Serie B appear favourites to sign him on loan as first choice for next term.
Dropping down to Serie B…
Too many to contend with in-depth, so I will adopt a quick fire effort –
Son of former AC Milan poacher, Simone Ganz has forged a solid 15/16 campaign in front of goal and seems possibly heading to join Cagliari after their promotion to Serie A…Pol Garcia is interesting Avellino…Mandragora, a player I was keen to see head to Turin, is blushing at the covetous advances of Sassuolo (where he would head as part of the Berardi deal, fixed price buy back fee) and less enthusiastic about Bologna…Ambitious Avellino are gunning for Mattia Vitale as well as Primavera shot-stopper Audero…Cagliari are keen to retain Andres Tello, yet Empoli may also throw their name in the hat…Magnusson has made the Iceland squad for the EUROs…
Other than which the printing press has as of yet avoided consulting the tea leaves on the remaining starlets. No doubt there will be plenty of movement, all of which I will cover before the new season begins.
As with all our loanees, the very least we can hope for is their selection, and by and large, far more than few are playing regularly, which bodes well for the future, in terms of their development and our ability to offer their services to secure any blossoming talents which emerge nearby.
Finally the primavera…another novella to be conjured! For it has been a superb season for Grosso and his young lions. Which deserves more than merely rumours and stats.
We won the Viareggio tournament, reached the final of the coppa primavera, topped our league campaign group for the scudetto then reached the final only to lose on penalties 7-6 to Roma. So close to the treble. Which comes as a surprise, solely due to the my lack of faith in dear Fabio, whose managerial acumen is very much a work in progress. Regardless, as I have mentioned elsewhere many times – since beginning my focus on the youth sector 5 years ago, I have seen bright flashes in the pan, yet never a sizeable bunch of very promising youngsters coming through the ranks side by side. Until this season.
Brilliant opener from Kastanos, the Cypriot regarded as one of the finest ever to emerge from the island nation, picked up at 15 for the tidy sum of 100k. Yet back to the match…Del Favero was at fault for the equaliser, poor handling offering an easy tap in for 1-1. Czech wonderboy Macek – who set up the first, won the penalty with a rather theatrical dive, to allow our Argie Vadala to convert for 2-1. Even more soft was the penalty awarded to Palermo, with Severin winning the ball cleanly, but the ref seeing otherwise. 2-2!…Heroics from Del Favero kept the scores level before Di Massimo won then converted from the spot the winner for a splendid victory and shiny piece of silverware to add to museum!
The pick of the bunch through the course of a magnificent campaign have been Macek, Clemenza, Di Massimo, Cassata, Lirola, Pozzebon, Favilli, Kastanos, Blanco, Audero and Romagna. Which is not to lessen the impact of the rest of the squad. I sincerely believe that some of these players have the potential to aim for the senior squad, yet must proceed along the traditional rites of passage and prove their mettle with the big boys en-route to glory.
Also worth a mention is 16 year old Bioty Kean. The Italian born Ivory Coast boy wonder has made waves this season, scoring at a phenomenal rate (20 in 26 games), turning out for the U19s aged just 15, moving up the ranks of the Italian national youth sides, and continuing his outstanding form (3 in 4 for the U16, then 5 in 8 for the U17). The kid is clearly something special. Unfortunately, his agent is Mino Raiola, which works both for and against us. And whilst his father and the club wish for Bioty to progress to the U19s for next season, wheeler and dealer supreme Raiola is advising him to hold out for a secured move to foreign pastures before signing his first professional contract.
The only negative I can find from the in-house youth sector endeavour is the ACL injury suffered by Luca Clemenza, who had been a vital part of our success. At his age, the recovery should be certain, and I will be interested to see whether we find him a loan club in Serie B after he has worked his way back to the field, for he was in brilliant form in his attacking midfielder role up until he found ligament Hades.
It seems a former life when I mentioned the new home grown requirements of next season and beyond, yet it makes perfect sense to revisit that former TGP and ponder our options…
Reports suggest that it is close to certain that Neto will be sold or loaned at fixed purchase fee, and in his place as vice-Buffon will perhaps come Mirante. Which will be 2 of the 4 who have spent enough time in our nursery to meet the new regulations. I am fine with Mirante, who is clearly capable and highly experienced. Bologna however, appear understandably keen to retain his services, or are simply holding out for the best deal possible.
Talk of Audero coming in as number three has been leaning towards a preference for his development to be better served by playing regularly elsewhere. Instead, Carlo Pinsoglio could come in as our number 3. A player of proven ability in the second tier, too long in the fang to potentially develop into a world beater so why not bring him home eh?
The fourth player could be Luca Marrone. Returning from relegated Verona. Able to deputise in the regista role and at the heart of the defence. It may well stunt his progress, yet this leads to the old argument of whether a player learns more from regular first team action for a lesser side or through playing a bit part role at Juve and training alongside the elite. A discussion for another occasion, or below!
Other the Marrone, the longer shots are Romagna and Lirola. Both defenders have excelled this term, especially Lirola. However, with Alves due to sign and Lichsteiner our mainstay, the Spaniard would see little action and I would prefer to see him playing senior football week in, week out. Romagna is a more interesting option, though if we sign Mustafa or Benatia, the youngster would be 6th choice centreback, which doesn’t bode well for first team action.
Marrone, Mirante and Pinsoglio seem the wisest choices, taking into account experience, age and the need for other options to prove that they can step up to senior level and continue to shine.
Most promising talents –
Just when I thought I had crawled over the finish line, in last position, I see the umpire urge me on, the spectators dismayed at my apparent demise before…before what eh??? Well to pre-empt the inevitable discussion of promoting from within, I will paint the bare bones of of the thing, no doubt repeat some of the above and allow others to add their own flesh.
Squad size is maximum 25. Which must include 4 players who have spent 3 years in our youth sector between the ages of 16 and 21, and 4 players who have spent the same at any italian club. The former will be in bold, the latter underlined.
GK – Buffon, Audero
CB – Chiellini, Barzagli, Bonucci, Rugani
LB – Evra, Sandro, Lirola
RB – Lichsteiner, Alves
DM/CM – Marchisio, Pogba, Lemina, Khedira, Padoin, Asamoah, Sturaro, Marrone
CF – Mandzukic, Dybala, Zaza, Berardi
It is close to a done deal for Berardi. Hernanes seems to be on the move to China. Neto is also to leave to seek regular first team football and as for Morata…I find it hard to believe that the club have any eagerness to retain him if his comments of late are accurate, for we seek only the players who have juve first and foremost in heart, mind and ambition. Pereyra is likely also on his way out after failing to recapture even a semblance of form after returning from injury early 2016. Which leaves us a squad of 21 players, 4 spaces left, still needing to fill at least 2 of those spaces with players who have spent 3 years between 16 and 21 in our own youth ranks.
(…as much as it will break many a heart, Padoin may also be departing after several years of sterling service to the cause. He barely featured last term, despite maintaining full fitness and he may well seek a new adventure whilst still capable of proving useful at a high level, which would free up another vital spot in the squad where we can expect to improve, especially in terms of technique.)
The only obvious absence in the squad are natural wingers. Who can add width from the midfield regions, hug the flank, yet we have the width from our full-backs, and higher up the field Dybala and especially Berardi, can naturally stretch the play wide up top and perhaps a little deeper (moreso in Dybala’s case).
There is also – until Marchisio returns from long term injury – a hole in the DM role. Appelt is staying in Spain with Leganes to continue his adventure and sample the delights of la liga. Bouy is an option, yet I do not believe he had three years in our youth sector. Which leaves Luca Marrone.
Audero seems a solid choice for third choice keeper. So in he comes. Which leaves one spot still remaining of the home grown at Juve flock required.
Lirola has been the star of the primavera and is ever more spoken of as possessing enough talent to move seamlessly into senior football. Yet we will then have 3 RBs. The thinking may be that he can learn his craft more wholesomely through training with two of the best in the game, Lichsteiner and Alves, perhaps be offered the odd start in the coppa italia and assuredly, one of the two seniors will be injured or suspended at various times during the season.
Had Clemenza avoided the ACL injury, perhaps he would have been considered, yet this is sadly not the case.
Lirola, Marrone, Audero seem the most obvious choices. Which meets all our requirements in terms of the new regulations and leaves us just 2 spaces to fill in the squad. One of which must be an experienced back-up to Buffon. One spot left. Unless we sell.
The situation therefore, due to the new regulations, appears rather more tricky than first glance suggests. Beppe and Fabio have a huge amount of work to do in terms of balancing on one hand improving the squad and on the other meeting our quota of home grown players.
If Mirante is signed, it frees up an extra spot in the place of Marrone. Though I would like to see him given a chance to impress.
I am of course interested in your own suggestions, yet make them viable. Think about the quality in front of them in the squad in terms of experienced, proven talent at the top level and the present make-up of the roster. Then conjure your 25.
And now, with the wind wailing and my left ear burning – which the folklore from my motherland suggests someone is thinking of me in a loving or fond manner – I must smooth out any creases and hit PUBLISH. Return in the morning hopeful of comments and discussion to join and rub virtual shoulders with others of this wonderful community.
My apologies for the lack of in-depth reportage on each and every player mentioned. Truly I despise presenting solely stats, for the game is never valuably analysed from mere numbers, yet the youth sector is huge and consider that I neglected to mention anything of our plethora of players plying their trade below the second domestic tier…for instance – Jimmy the Fox (Giacomo Volpe), the 20 year old goal-keeper who was awarded young player of the year at Serie D side Gubbio where he was first choice throughout their promotion campaign.
Bear in mind that our seniors trounced the league and coppa italia despite dealing with the departure of three world class players and then succumbing to a season of consistent injuries squad wide, and our youth team were mere whiskers away from achieving a memorable treble. Both the present and future is clearly of sublime promise.
Looking forward to joining you below.