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From Giovinco to Matri: A Winter Mercato Review

February 2, 2015

It’s rough having a January birthday. I mean, it is convenient, since after Christmas most stuff gets a price cut, but, nowadays the winter mercato is always messing with my birthday. Last year, Juventus and Inter tried and failed to swap Mirko Vucinic for Fredy Guarin. That was rough. This year things changed a little bit. The day before my birthday, Sebastian Giovinco was officially announced as a Toronto F.C. player. I wasn’t too upset about that.

The moral of the story is this: the winter mercato is a crazy time. Unlike during the summer, when teams can bask in a veil of ignorance for the upcoming season, the January mercato is a time for desperate gambles and forced hands. The month started with rumors of Xherdan Shaqiri to Juventus, now he’s an Inter player. In fact, we ended up with Alessandro Matri back at Juventus. It’s a wild time. This is why I try to ignore the rumors, and just wait until clubs officially announce moves.

With that said, Juve’s mercato still needs to be discussed in detail. There were not really any huge moves in a Juventus context – in an MLS context, yes – and some fans may be discouraged at the lack of marquee signings. They have a point, although Juve’s success on all fronts this year doesn’t really lend these concerns any urgency. Still, it’s hardly a mercato full of joy and surprises for Juve fans.

There were some sneaky good moves made by Beppe Marotta, far more important than loaning Alessandro Matri to be a 5th string striker. For example, Daniele Rugani was purchased in full. He will join Juventus in June, and he is likely to be a star centerback for us in the future. He has put forward a very strong season with Empoli this year – impressive both for his performances and the team around him – which only built off of his fine Serie B campaign last season. Rugani is a heavily hyped centerback prospect, and Juventus is a great place for him to live up to the hype.

Similarly, Marotta also signed a host of even younger talents to Juventus. You can see all of these moves on the transfer page of this site. Of course, many of these players won’t pan out, but some will. One thing Marotta has been great at during his Juve tenure is swooping up promising young players.

Speaking of young players, Stefano Sturaro will also be joining Juventus. The midfielder, purchased over the summer but loaned back to Genoa, is also well hyped. He’s not been as strong as Rugani this season – as much as you can compare a midfielder to a centerback – but he put in good work at Genoa and has promise. Juve’s midfield is already crowded and full of studs, but Sturaro’s arrival allows for Simone Padoin to be used more often in wide areas, as well as in midfield.

Of course, the Padoin point could be null and void since Paolo De Ceglie came back to Juventus from Parma. This move basically only happened because Parma has not paid their players in months. Antonio Cassano left for the same reason, but De Ceglie is owned by Juventus still and thus came back to Juve. While De Ceglie offers some logistical flexibility since he is a home grown player, he’s also not very good. With Asamoah injured, I do expect to see him play a little bit at left back. Hopefully, the De Ceglie who scored two goals versus Inter in November is the one who shows up. Otherwise, De Ceglie could end up as in the awkward Marco Motta position: unwanted.

Finally there are the striker moves. As mentioned before, Giovinco is off to Toronto FC in Major League Soccer. Originally he was to come in the summer, but Juventus and Giovinco managed to come to an agreement, and he will be starting with Toronto immediately. The season starts in March, so we will soon see how this Juventus product fares in MLS.

Giovinco is of course being replaced by Alessandro Matri. Matri, who has had mixed results since he left Juve last summer – his Milan run was awful, his Fiorentina time alright, and he was actually pretty good for Genoa – will be the last choice striker, I imagine. The alternative to Matri was rumored to be Pablo Osvaldo, who has fallen out with the club at Inter, as he has at basically every club he has played at barring Juve. I was very fearful of Osvaldo coming to Juventus. He’s not really any better than Matri, and he is a very bad locker room presence. Last season, Antonio Conte kept him in line. I am not sure if Max Allegri could do the same, much as I like Max.

Additionally, a striking prospect was sold off. Manolo Gabbiadini was sold to Napoli early in January. The news of this move first emerged in December, and it seemed a bit odd. While Napoli paid a decent fee, Gabbiadini had been discussed as part of the future striking corps at Juventus, along with the likes of Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza. Instead, Gabbiadini will be plying his trade with Napoli. He’s start off alright for them, too, with one goal in three appearances.

It was really an uneventful market for Juventus. Depth players were shuffled around, promising young players’ arrivals were arranged, both in the present and the future. And of course, Marotta and Fabio Paratici brought in a bunch of Primavera players. While some fans might have wanted a flashier mercato, sometimes it’s best not to make any huge changes during the winter mercato.

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