This mercato has been one of major upheaval, and with the transfer drawbridge soon to be raised I thought it timely to delve into the figures and soothe the concerns of some, whilst also offering further evidence of the continued excellence of our sporting director and his side-kick.
Despite the mega spending, which can be analysed in various ways, we presently appear economically close to breaking even on the recruitment front. Which may shock some. It certainly comes as a pleasant surprise to me. For such talk has abounded of the money spent on Higuain that the general consensus has appeared to point to leaning towards speculating to accumulate, investing beyond our means under the assumption that we will recoup the outlay of gold and even churn a profit in terms of sporting achievements if not through future sale value of our investments.
As I plough my way through the following moves both in and out of the club, we must bear in mind that Zaza appears set to depart for 28m – a stunningly healthy 10m profit for a player who has been at best on the fringes of the first XI – which just happens to be around the figure we appear prepared to pay for Matuidi…Yet more balancing of the scales. However, I suspect that the potential value brought to bear on the field makes that move very much in our favour. Further confirmation of wily business acumen from Beppe and Fabio.
Benatia 3m loan
Total net spend – 157.5m
Total net sales 158.7m
Difference Purchases/Sales Net Profit 1.2m
Which seems extraordinary given the strengthening of the squad in many key areas.
Essentially we have sold 1-2 first team players and brought in 3-5 likely regular first team players. If Matuidi or Witsel appear in the ranks, the situation will feel even more encouraging, for all those we have signed can stake legitimate claims for the first XI, failing which they vastly strengthen the bench. And provide plentiful options for deploying alternative formations to the tried and tested 3-5-2. They allow and encourage us to evolve.
The major purchases
It is easy to say we overpaid and I would agree, but when taking into account the market, in which mainly the premier league riches have distorted prices globally close to ludicrous, the shock lessens. I like the idea of purchasing the very best players of Serie A, focusing at home before rolling the dice with players who have yet to be tested in the very tactical domestic competition. Yes we dream of champions league glory, and the club are making brilliant moves to bring that dream closer to reality, yet for me, and I assume the club in turn, the domestic title is our bread and butter.
We have lacked an out and out goalscorer since Trezeguet departed many moons ago. A player whose prime function is to seek out goalscoring positions and put the ball in the net. As his stats from last season show – 38 goals, 3 assists – Gonzalo is a pure striker. Who rarely plays in any stance other than facing the goal. His form last season was incredible. True enough Sarri set up the side to make the most of his talent, and it worked amazingly well. Without him, Napoli stumbled, and although they have purchased some new strike power, that stumble may well continue. In one fell swoop we took the jewel of the crown from our major rivals of last season, and filled a glaring gap in our own arsenal.
The only superior players, of proven world class finishing, appear Aguero, Bale, Ronaldo and the Barca boys. All of whom would have cost much more, in both transfer fee and wages. And we would have been forced to pay well above the odds to prise them from their present moorings.
It may take some time to see the best of Higuain in our colours, yet I believe the price should be largely ignored, especially given the net spend appears presently a profit! We have purchased what we needed and not over-extended ourselves financially to do so.
By market standards, the Bosnian was a steal. Even more-so than the Argentine, how he will fit into our system, or rather how Allegri will adjust the system to accommodate his talents, will prove pivotal in our campaign. Again this is an exceptionally important player taken from one of our rivals. He brings creativity and immense mental fortitude. The ability to unlock tight defences with moments of genius aligned with superb set piece delivery is a welcome addition to the flock. Whilst Allegri has suggested he could prove world class playing deeper than we have seen him at Roma, his lack of physicality and experience of screening a defence is of some concern, yet if we can sign a natural DM, the option to play him higher up the field appears. In the final third he can be phenomenal. Further back? We shall have to wait and see.
I have long despised him. Partly due to his face, mainly due to his bothersome antics, which often sicken the soul. However, a new leaf has been turned and I am suddenly appreciative of his huge experience, stellar fitness and ability to produce flair and impressive distribution from wide. He will need to learn fast that in Italy, the flashy plays second fiddle to industry and guile in the defensive phase. In Europe, he could well make a major difference, as he has won everything there is to win and remains a world class talent.
The wild card, purchased at a reasonable price with unknown but seemingly solid potential. He helps to fill the Morata hole in terms of pace in the final third, and also brings plenty of tricks, an eagerness to dribble and connect the play and has no fear making the most of goal scoring opportunities. He may well prove the apprentice for Dybala, yet if Cuadrado is procured, the Croat offers the obvious counter balance on the left in a 4-3-3.
At the price, he was well worth a gamble, for by the market lunacy of modern times, 9.5m is mere pocket change. He was atrocious when I saw him here in Melbourne, yet nothing much can be made of the first pre-season friendly. Clearly he was back to somewhere near his best for the season opener against Fiorentina, during which he kept things simple, grew in confidence as the game wore on, but confirmed to me that he is not ready to offer the assurances required in the all important role of regista. Like some others, I am unsure of his best position. Is he a box to box midfielder? Is he an attacking central midfielder? Can he protect the defence and dictate the tempo, pick out passes from deep? More questions than answers surround him, but given we apparently received numerous offers for his services during the Summer, the club obviously see potential. And I am happy to place my faith in their judgement.
Highly experienced, exceptionally fit, hard running, uncompromising in the challenge, technically capable. The price (and time) may well be right for the frenchman to enter the fray as a much needed warrior in the midfield. He has bite, tenacity and Deschamps for one considered his value to the French side so important that he was prepared to move Pogba into a position where he has never been at his best, in order to accomodate Matuidi in his natural role.
Given we can sign him on a free next Summer. And perhaps already have a deal in place. If PSG continue to thwart our efforts to sign Matuidi, Zenith may see sense and cut us a deal on the cheap. Even if we were to pay 20-25m, I have no doubts it would be a sound investment, which we could recover if the move fails, by selling the Belgian on next year. He will still be at an age where his value remains high. Yet why ponder his failure? For all measures point to an accomplished midfielder, able to cover, tackle, greatly affect the tempo of a game and support the offence with simple, intelligent distribution. He may have been our target all along, with Matuidi simply a smoke screen.
We have continued to renovate the squad which has assuredly been improved. And the cost of this strengthening is close to $0. To upgrade our attack, midfield and defence at such a paltry net outlay is a masterclass by Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici.
Last season, Allegri had plenty of work to do, given the departures of several key players and the injury nightmare which haunted us till the very end. This time round, he has different riddles to solve. Namely working out how best to accomodate the proven talents of Pjanic, Alves and Higuain. Whilst continuing to nourish the blossoming of Dybala and bringing through the likes of Pjaca, Lemina and Rugani. It is these areas where Il Mister will earn his stripes.
Also worth mentioning…the return of Asamoah cannot be understated. It is akin to signing a new dynamic, powerful, highly experienced midfielder, who knows the league and the club ethos. And then there is the prospective return of Marchisio…For many, myself included, our bandiera.
We have by far the best equipped squad domestically and the 6th straight scudetto should be our major focus. In terms of Europe, we have added experience, guile and hunger to augment an already stellar line-up.
If all goes to plan, we have a side capable of achieving glory on all fronts.