All Stories, Club Features

Raiola and his slimy kin…and other black and white mutterings.

July 7, 2017

“When a club is faced by other competitors, especially big European clubs, it has no choice but to accept requests that run counter to any logic,” he told the newspaper.

“We must regulate the role of these professionals, who are sincere but also very greedy.”

Beppe Marotta spoke recently of the problem we are facing, not just as a club, but as a sport, with the horrific, yet unsurprising rise of the agents. Who have become closer to the true owners of a player than any club. To whom they simply loan their asset for a set period, whilst they search for the next mega pay-off received through engineering the next move of the player.

First there was Kia Joorabchian, then Jorge Mendes, and of late, the most prominent member of their cult of extreme greed is none other than Mino Raiola. Who was majorly responsible for Pogba’s departure last year, is now clearly pulling the strings of Donnarumma and will assuredly cause us bother in the future with Bioty Kean.

It is a surreal state of affairs to find the controversy of an 18 year old playing in the first XI of the team he has supported and trained with since childhood…well, perhaps since infancy would be more apt as he is hardly yet a man. The offer made was huge for an 18 year old, he was in a brilliant position, heralded by many as Buffon’s obvious successor, loved by the fans as one of their own. Raiola had (many) other ideas, and of course he would, because his ambition first and foremost is to make as much money for himself as possible. He is aware of the financial muscle of the top clubs, a canny operator with the media and a bullish creep holding all the cards when dealing with negotiations. This has now settled with the kid signing a new contract, which guarantees his departure…when his minder/owner considers the moment opportune to seek the largest fee, for himself. He has played the club and the player like an out of tune banjo, and will continue to do so, not just with AC but with the clubs of all the players he ‘represents’ until or unless some form of serious regulation of agents is put into place.

I find the situation appalling. Yet have become equally appalled by fans who place trophies and star players over any semblance of a club ethos focused on respect, dignity and loyalty. They come across very much a fan more of Raiola’s world than my own. One in which success should and must be purchased, at whatever cost. Loyalty is for amateurs, Greed is for the strong. A mirror of society in so many wretched ways…

We have been a rich club for aeons, and it is churlish for me to suggest otherwise, for we had a very long time indeed where we could compete with, if not outspend most clubs on the planet. However, for a number of reasons, we are not now in that position. We are forced to build a team knowing full well that agents will be able to find deals of mammoth pay rises and huge fees for any of our players, the more-so as we consistently remain near the top of the elite. This is something which endears the likes of Bonucci and Pjanic presently, none more so than Buffon, for these are players who have developed love for the club. They want to win in black and white, not earn the top wage available on the planet. They are part of something bigger and more noble than the lucre. And when players play for money more than glory as part of a team, the game loses it soul.

I felt a disservice afforded to those truly suffering under real trafficking when italian politician, Matteo Salvini labelled Raiola a ‘human trafficker’. For there is an obvious difference between being coerced to move from Milan to Paris whilst earning millions and fighting for the survival of your family. Yet I understand and agree with his muddled assertion.

Raiola represents everything that is horrid of the modern game. And it behooves both UEFA and FIFA to focus on the subject of agents or ‘intermediaries’ as they are now known, if they have any respect for the long tradition of fairness and purity of the beautiful game. For these fiends are running amok, ruining what was once worthy of the passion which now feels not just in others but often in myself as mere echoes of a world long gone…It feels like a longing for a love long finished, which my heart refuses to give up. That retarded knight in the throes of death on the battlefield, the enemy striding away, yet I raise myself on a bloodied shoulder and squeal ‘come back, kill me again’…

Which leads me onto more cynical mutterings of many younger ‘fans’. Who pick up on every rumour and are suddenly an expert on players they have never seen play, yet quickly googled. Who demand changes in management when we reach our second Champions League final in three years, or more annoyingly, suggest and buy into bizarre conspiracy theories of half time fall-outs to explain why we didn’t win. Who call for the club to sign the latest fad player, when others are offering mega money, and yet the players in question have achieved nothing more than a solid season in the apparently indomitable french league and a decent showing in european competition. They seek the showbiz aspect of football, the glitz, the baubles, more than the often heart wrenching mission of loving a club inside out, rising and falling with their fortunes, come hell or high water, and simply demanding, wanting, knowing, feeling that every player in our colours gives his all for the cause.

As a brief, but needed aside…My own analysis of the final is as follows:

We had a plan, which focused hugely on the selected first XI staying on the pitch deep into the second half. We did well in the first, could even have been in the lead, but 1-1 was a fair reckoning. Unfortunately, two key players had knocks, Pjanic and Mandzukic. Max took a risk, for he did not feel the time was right to bring on 1 or 2 subs. It didnt pay off. Mainly due to the lessening of pace and fitness of those two key players, also due to the system which relies hugely upon the 2 CMs covering an immense amount of ground and screening the defence whilst charging through the middle. I like the way it allows out attacking quarter to power forward, but due to the fact that our 2 starting CMs are both very much offensive minded, with little natural defensive zeal, we are prone to lose the midfield, in the middle, which counts for EVERYTHING against top opposition.

Yes, we can marvel at the tackles of Mandzukic, the backtracking of Higuain, but I do not want to see a LW or CF in our own half, let alone defending in our own third. What this leads to, and led to (in the final), is a horrifying routine of finding most the side in our own half, with barely a target to hit facing three or four opponents as an outlet. This was not isolated to the final. Which is important to note. I had seen it during the season, with the same players. Against teams who on paper we should be trouncing.

Max changed the system in February, which added focus to our attacking talent and we became instantly more entertaining, but I had not forgotten the tendency for a side packed with power and technique to on occasion, simply cower…cause me to cringe as I watch us crawl and become unsteady and nervous for a victory or draw or appear to seek damage limitation. Such horror comes down to mentality. Belief. Confidence. Which must be addressed.

How so? Well, the most obvious position we need to strengthen, or simply include a player who is a specialist in the role, is a defensive midfielder.

Pjanic had a good season, a tough season, but was nowhere near as consistently superb as he was in Rome. Where he had often both De Rossi and Nainggolan as extremely physical enforcers in close attendance. In our set-up, he has Sami. Who is physical but not defensively sound, nor is he aggressive, nor is he quick or a monster in the air. Which leaves the central midfield area, where tight games are often won or lost, rather flimsy. Great going forward, other than which…porous.

No, I do not believe in a half time argument, or any other warped theory. We simply lost the midfield, then subsequently lost the game.

This is a problem I have only seen of the juvefc flock, dar black ever expound upon. Perhaps, like myself, he is rather long in the fang, and has watched so much football that he sees beyond the hype and tendency to focus on the top end and back line. We live in an age where the regista and DM roles seem rarely to earn the limelight. And yet…the game has not changed so much to negate the immense value of a physical presence as the linchpin of the side, a player able to screen the defence, scrap, impose himself physically on the midfield, dictate the pace of the game and move forward rarely, solely when we are in the utmost ascendency. A ‘water-carrier’ as possibly/probably my favourite footballer of all time once remarked of Deschamps, is often unheralded, rarely shows any hint of flair, yet without him, players like King Eric would never have found so much space and opportunity to excel in their own particular area of expertise. In short, we need a water-carrier.

Rincon could perhaps do the job, but he is a dwarf. Sturaro has clearly failed to earn the right, in the eyes of Allegri to even be given a rare cameo in his most natural DM role, which leaves solely Marchisio, who is intelligent enough for the role, but nowhere near gifted with the physicality I suspect we need. Mandragora seems capable, but is likely to be loaned out. Bentancur also fits the bill, yet is presently youthful and slender and may not even be registered in our ranks. He probably will, yet what place will he find in the pecking order, with Khedira, Pjanic, Marchisio and perhaps one of Rincon and Sturaro to contend with?

Ideally, we would be seeking a player in the Viera/Keane mould. We lack spite, bite and rarely do I see any of our players, other than Chiellini and Bonucci, throw everything they are into a challenge.

So whilst I am overjoyed to find Bernardeschi for the RW a serious possibility, Keita/Costa for the left, De Sciglio for RB, Schick for vice Higuain, all of it is brilliant, but without a physically imposing linchpin at DM, I fear the same problems of this season past will manifest.

As my certainly kin in passion and berserker zeal juvefc member Seb suggested as part of a lively rant of late…we need warriors, those willing to charge through walls, attack the enemy without fear, for this is something we lack.

This is the main reason I am no major fan of Cuadrado. He epitomises what I feel is a major issue for the side. For he is all bambi heart, with some talent. He looks like he might cry when he falters, he whines emotionally when he doesn’t play and whilst he is clearly more happy than for many moons since leaving Florence, are we to be a club who keeps players because their happiness, not their success in our colours is of paramount importance?

Juan has an appalling mentality as a professional footballer. I respect his devotion to the club, and his improvement, generally speaking, since the turn of the year…yet look at his ‘performance’ in the final…Entering the fray when we were 1-3 down, he picked up a needless yellow, then fell foul of Ramos playing the cunt. This ended the game as a competition. Which isn’t to suggest I am judging him solely on this one game. It is merely an example of his mentality and lack of cutting edge talent, the latter of which he simply does not show regularly enough to warrant a starting berth in a squad which aims for the ultimate glory.

I ponder that he wont recover mentally and emotionally from the final. No doubt players have had their arm around him, dried his tears on their shoulder, but thought whilst doing so ‘we will never win anything with this soppy goon in the team, lovely lad though…’.

We are too nice, too decent, too pleasant. We need some muscle, hustle and gladiatorial menace in the centre of the field. We need Leaders.

If this cannot be found or procured, I will not be horrified if we sign Nzonzi, for at least the DM position is his natural role and he is physically equipped to take the ball, guard the ball, use the ball intelligently, whilst remaining diligent in his defensive duties. He is also huge. We can do better with our money, and I hope we do. Yet even Matuidi has shown me that he can prove more of a bother in the DM role to opponents, than anyone we presently find in our roster…

I would like to believe that the club are very serious in both never standing in the way of any player who wishes to leave (which has its negative consequences, admittedly) and procuring solely players which improve on what we presently have at our disposal. We will soon see.

Until which, I refuse to engage in the energetic plastic fan routine…as I consider our progress sterling. And if 2 CL finals, 6 league titles on the trot, 3 supercoppas and 3 coppa italia titles from the last 6 seasons are not enough for you to continue to support the club as a whole, then my advice is to head back to FIFA on your playstation and find a team with more baubles…

forza juve

(follow me on twitter here)

fall asunder…then wake half baked, pondering my dreams…as meaningfully as if they occurred in my Wake

 

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