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Juventus Winter Mercato meanderings…

December 30, 2015

With the Winter mercato window soon to be opened, it seems a good opportunity to pre-empt the tabloid silliness and focus on the reality of our most likely dealings on the recruitment and sales front.

Firstly, I must mention, that we have no form for major transfers in this period. Perhaps a low key tweak here or there, yet nothing certain to move the Moon in such a way that huge waves are conjured. This is true at a senior level, though the same cannot be said of the youth sector, where there are often prominent additions to the squad in January. Alongside purchases of promising Serie B players who remain on loan until the Summer when decisions can be made of where best to then place them.

Our season has been one of transition and will continue to prove so. The departures of world class talent such as Tevez, Pirlo and Vidal was bound to cause bother. Which I feel we prepared for well enough with our Summer purchases. However, what we could not have foreseen was the horror-show of injuries suffered to key players all over the squad. Which I feel was more responsible for the alarming form of early season, than the change in personnel. Khedira, Asamoah, Mandzukic, Morata, Marchisio, Sturaro, Hernanes, Lemina, Barzagli and Pereyra have all suffered stop start seasons due to physical ailments, some of whom remain still now on the comeback trail.

Allegri has weathered the storm. We have climbed the table to a decent position, finding ourselves well in the running for a scudetto challenge. Trounced our way into the quarter finals of the coppa italia, and were unfortunate to have finished second in a tough champions group yet still qualified.

In recent weeks, form has begun to recover. Results have dramatically improved and a semblance of identity, confidence and dare I say winning mentality has emerged from the darkness. So is there any obvious need for reinforcements?

ATTACK

Dybala has progressed beautifully of late and is clearly developing a sound kinship with Mandzukic, who since recovering from his own injury niggles, is starting to show his beastly best. They are our first choice front pairing. Behind which in the pecking order, Zaza has impressed when given the chance, making the most of his opportunities, whilst Morata has yet to regain his sharpness. The Spaniard has been in and out of the side, seemed lively in the thrashing of Torino in the coppa, other than which a lost soul. I hope its merely physical matters causing the lethargy, yet must mention that the spectre of Real Madrid taking up their transfer option may well be playing its way into his head. What his agent is hearing from Spain and whispering into Alvaro’s ears, we are not yet privy to. It could be a factor. Still, the club have shown their clear investment in rewarding his efforts thus far – of mainly last season – with a pay rise and contractual extension. The rest is up to Morata.

Zaza is a more interesting case. I believe he can improve upon his very physical, fine shooting approach already established. To do so, he needs games. Which – barring an injury nightmare I have no eagerness to embrace in my wake –  he is only going to find sporadically at Juve. Three starts in the league, one in the coppa, barely featured in the champions league. All of which is unsurprising given the competition he faces for a starting berth, yet its equally easy to understand why the player may wish to move to more fertile ground. As part of Conte’s Azzurri squad and a player who has confidence in his abilities and is desperate for a chance to prove himself at the top level, it makes sense that Simone wants to play more. Which simply is not going to happen at Juve, unless Mandzukic is put down by injury.

Rumours of transfer requests are most likely echoes of his agent angling for a move which will line his own pockets with gold. Yet a move may well be on the cards for the 24 year old striker. Palace and West Ham of the premiership seem interested, as do Monaco…And it just so happens that we may well be interested in one of their players, Moutinho.

The figures bandied about seem staggering. Why would a club pay 27m for a player we signed barely 6 months ago for 18m, who has barely featured? It is fair to say that decent strikers always run at a premium cost, especially if purchased midway through the season when the selling club must find a replacement, in most cases.

I would like to see him stay put. Believe that Conte will continue to include him in the azzurri set-up as he values the player’s aggressive approach to the game and his determination. If he does depart, there will be no tears, just intrigue, in who will appear in his stead. For I know of only two attackers whom we have been monitoring. Which are…

Lavezzi, of PSG. Still a regular feature of the Argentinian national side, the 30 year old has experience of Serie A from his time with our fine pals in Naples and could come on the cheap given his contract is expiring in the Summer. Having made only 5 starts for PSG this term, they would probably we willing to let him move on, in the best interests of the player and their bank balance. A tricky, gritty dribbler and creative force who is happy wide left up top, a position we do not presently have covered. Also comfortable across the front line. We could certainly use his experience and flair, yet I believe we have been making chances all season, its the finishing which has stunted our growth, at least up until November.

And then there is the wild card option…the player whose name unfortunately translates into italian to Blood Clot. There is always more amusement than despair to peek at the italian media and find a headline of ‘Juve chases the blood clot!’.

18 year old Cameroon born, naturalised Swiss striker Breel Embolo burst onto the scene last season, alerting many top sides to his natural power and eye for goal through plundering 17 goals and 13 assists from 42 appearances. He has continued to impress this term, currently with 9 goals and 8 assists from 29 games to his name.

I’d prefer the latter. For his age, resale value and explosive talent. Although Lavezzi would be a solid move. It would just leave us a little short in terms of a big man up front if Mandzukic was lost to adversity.

With the 3-5-2 working dam well of late, the Dybala/Mandzukic tandem becoming synchronised and fearsome and Morata waiting in the wings, what chances of playing would any striker who we brought in find at Juve? The same as Zaza has found I presume. They simply provide us with a different option. Lavezzi more dynamic on the wings, Embolo more monstrous through the middle channels, yet he can perform out wide and offers plenty of assists from the flank.

There is another player whose name and talent must come into this discussion. Domenico Berardi. For we are set to sign him in the Summer for 25m. He is not enjoying the best of seasons, yet his Sassuolo side are in good form, and will be extremely reluctant to lose him in January. Also…if we are stacked with quality in his position come the Summer, will he not be advised to head to a club where he will definitely find at least a serious chance of a starting role? I have often thought that we signed Zaza in order to ensure we could collect Berardi next year. Although, my instincts whisper in the ears of my mind that Berardi will replace Madrid bound Morata. Probably next June.

Other than those outlined, there is a very slim chance we will take Lapadula from Pescara to plug the Zaza gap…Unlikely. For whilst we may sign the peruvian italian goal machine, it will be in order to use him in other deals next Summer, from what I have read.

MIDFIELD

Marchisio’s return to both the first eleven and match sharpness has made a huge difference to our fortunes. Khedira remains gathering his focus and huge, yet to be answered questions abound, regarding his ability to simply remain fit and available for more than a week or two on the trot. Sturaro, Hernanes and Asamoah should be right for the new year. Lemina has apparently been given the all clear to rejoin first team training and…Pogba is fine and dandy.

There is also the welcome return to the ranks of Pereyra. Who impressed me greatly in the second half of last season. His ability to work between the lines is classy and was improving month on month. Also he works damn hard. And has decent pace. He will prove akin to a new signing, and also add competition and options for the 1 in a 4-3-1-2 formation. I have high hopes for the Argie.

Hernanes was indeed rather woeful prior to his injury, yet so were too many other players for me to write his season off as a failure. He has great technique in his boots and valuable experience in his head, and I continue to believe he can play a useful role in our season.

Considering how many players we have in the roster who seem set to remain at the club, its strange to see so much focus on creative midfielders in the press. With constant reference to Banega, Gundogan and Moutinho. Only the latter seems viable, yet we would then have three players for an attacking midfield role (deep a la Pirlo or higher up the field) which suits a formation markedly different to the 3-5-2 which has served us so well these last two months.

Yet Moutinho could well slot into a CM role loosely resembling what Pirlo gave us, for his reading of the game and distribution of the ball is top drawer. And I would rather we were spoiled for riches than grasping at crumbs.

Perhaps Cuadrado is worth a mention. Solely because back in October, many thought we would be pushing to secure his full registration, even as soon as January.

I am not a fan. He flatters to deceive. Offers too little end product for the reported purchase price of 22m. Nothing defensively. And there is something about him which doesn’t fit with my idea of lo stile Juve. Likely grinta. Keep him on loan, yet it would be no loss to see him head back to Hiddink.

It appears that we are close to agreeing on the fine print of a move for Rolando Mandragora. The 18 year old midfielder presently on loan from Genoa at Pescara. A regular in Di Biagio’s U21 Italy side since August of 2015, Rolando has impressed in his deep lying CM role for the Serie B high fliers. The fee is rumoured to be 5-7m. With the player set to remain at Pescara until June when he will join us for the pre-season ritiro and be judged accordingly.

Given how the squad is brimming with muscle, bustle and tenacity, and have yet to replace Pirlo, in terms of a truly creative force placed centrally, it comes as no surprise to see continued focus in the papers of our interest in Soriano (Sampdoria) and especially Gundogan. I am a fan of both these players, yet see no chance of grabbing either in January. They are far too valuable to their respective clubs and aspirations for the season to allow them to leave at this juncture.

DEFENCE

Lichsteiner’s return to the fold after recovering from heart surgery had nearly as much impact upon our fortunes as the re-emergence of  Il Principino. His zeal is phenomenal and he does more good than harm in the final third when bombing up the flank. His only natural reserve, Caceres, I feel is likely to be moved on. His antics off the field, combined with a contract which ends in the Summer and constant injury niggles may well lead Beppe to offload him whilst we can still gain a few million gold nuggets. I have always enjoyed his efforts, yet never quite found him the finished product. If he does leave, we MUST purchase another RB, for Cuadrado is a wretched RWB, which leaves…??? Options there are few and far between, at least in the Winter window. Sime Vrsaljko seems our main aim for that position, and I doubt Sassuolo will allow him to leave in January, given their league position and the fact that we are to take Berardi in the Summer for 25m. Yet who knows! They cannot be a Serie A nursery for Beppe to raid when he sees fit. If they have any serious ambition of improving year upon year.

Other than Sime…there is Silvan Widmer of Udinese, who may be worth a peek, yet I feel we are more focused on the Croatian. Sousa seems interested in the Udinese lad, but given my suspicions that Caceres may be moved on, it would be no shock to find us plundering a few million for either Widmer or Vrsalijko.

We look a little thin at CB, in terms of squad depth, with only Rugani the obvious back-up to any of the Bonucci/Chiellini/ Barzagli fortress.

Much has been written of Rugani. And rightly so. For after a wonderful campaign for Empoli he has found himself barely featuring for Juve. Dependable when called upon, yet in absence of an injury to the aforementioned three players, where will his opportunities to impress appear from? The club seems to see him as a future stalwart, and wish him to stay, or at worst move out on loan, yet with no other CBs at the club, other than Caceres, who may well leave and has been more unavailable than available for many moons, I conclude that Daniele will remain at the club. Which may preclude his involvement in the EUROs next Summer, but I have no crystal ball. For maybe he will earn a start or three more, and progress to own a spot in the starting XI.

Out on the other flank, we are very well positioned. Evra is in fine form, with Sandro excelling in every game he plays. No movement there.

BETWEEN THE STICKS

Buffon has been sterling. No major errors, increasingly a spectator as the side becomes more capable and confident, with Neto in the shadows, ready to step into the breach and offer solid back-up. It may well prove a shame for our interest in the astonishing Allisson to have been usurped by Roma, yet we have Audero and Leali. The latter of which, continues to suggest staggering potential.

CONCLUSION

Perhaps Caceres will leave, in which case, we will probably strike for a new RB. Other than which, the only other major move which could transpire is that of Simone Zaza and who we would recruit in his wake. As for the little ones in the primavera and extended youth sector, I will wait until cheques have been signed for there is likely to be a fair amount of news on that score, which deserves its own piece.

With the returning players we have a very strong squad with the potential to grow and develop further. Enough to win the league and the coppa italia. Enough to mount a serious challenge against Munich in February. I see no reason for major renovation and conclude that any major moves will happen, as always, in the Summer.

Whilst its exciting to ponder Gundogan especially yet also Vrsaljko and even Embrolo, I cannot see any of these moves happening in January. Yet this is not due to a lack of zeal from Beppe and his prized hatchetman Paratici, on the contrary, it is because their major work – for the senior squad – was performed last June-August, and we are a team through to the knockout stage of the Champions league, fresh from winning 7 in a row in the league and have powered our way into the coppa quarter finals.

There are many more reasons to be cheerful than bitter or concerned. I continue to trust in Allegri and the team behind him wearing both suits and shorts.

forza juve

Something else I feel the need to share…in a world gone berserk, I have a more fiercely burning need to seek comrades…to collide and connect…to form a global militia of decency, to know each other, to plant the seeds of revolution.

And this…

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