The recent transfer window showed us how tricky extensions for veteran players can be for clubs. Even a team like Juventus, who are usually universally praised for the way they handle themselves on the market, found themselves with numerous older players they couldn’t move. The trick is ensuring you aren’t paying someone just to reward them for their past performances, you also have to be sure they’ll be able to perform in the future.
Inter learned this lesson the hard way- following their impressive treble run, president Massimo Moratti decided to keep his nucleus, which was for the most part on the back nine of their careers, even though he had lost the manager that made it all work. This approach is the main reason they found themselves in Financial Fair Play jail for quite some time.
While Juventus didn’t win a treble, they locked up Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira last year to new contracts that left many people puzzled. Once Max Allegri left Mario Mandzukic dropped in the depth chart faster than Apple stock following Steve Jobs’ passing and finding him a new home has been rather challenging. At least Khedira found a new fan in Maurizio Sarri, but having so many older players on big contracts (Higuain, Matuidi are also on the list) put Juventus in such a financial bind that they were doing all they could to make a plusvalenza on Paulo Dybala after previously sacrificing Joao Cancelo and Moise Kean.
Now Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici finds himself at another crossroads with Juan Cuadrado and Blaise Matuidi who have expiring contracts. Both have become surprising full time starters under Maurizio Sarri- Cuadrado has performed so well that there has been no drop off from Joao Cancelo and Matuidi has been constantly praised by his new manager for his tactical intelligence.
Will Paratici be scared off from what happened this summer? He would be hard pressed to find a better right back than Cuadrado on the market, the Colombian’s ability to cover multiple roles is especially valuable to a club competing on multiple fronts like Juventus so at least a one year extension seems reasonable. Matuidi is a bit more complicated since the bianconeri signed two starting caliber midfielders on substantial Bosman deals with Emre Can and Rabiot.
At least Juventus have a decent margin for error when it comes to these decisions because of their enormous revenues. Napoli on the other hand have to continue to be very prudent when it comes to veterans, it’s no surprise that when it comes to adding new players they tend to always go with young players who have the upside to at least bring a plusvalenza down the road with the added benefit that they tend to have lower wages.
De Laurentiis and sporting director Giuntoli are in a very tough spot with Jose’ Callejon and Dries Mertens- two players who have massively outperformed the transfer fees needed to acquire them. Napoli have tried to prepare for life after these two brilliant players- they brought in Simone Verdi last year to see if he could replace Callejon and more recently Lozano to become the new Mertens, but so far this hasn’t worked out.
On paper you have to admire the thought process here- Napoli spent significantly to acquire Verdi and Lozano essentially a year earlier that they were needed to see if they could move on from Callejon and Mertens. Verdi ended up being a significant bust and has also struggled significantly since joining Torino at the very end of the last transfer window, while so far Lozano has been the least brilliant new addition to the team (this is a nice way to say he’s been flat out bad but needs to be given way more time since he just arrived in Serie A).
De Laurentiis wasn’t afraid to take the negotiations with Mertens and Callejon to the public sphere recently by stating that if “Mertens and Callejon won’t to go live a shitty life in China” to essentially get paid it wasn’t his problem. While that wasn’t exactly diplomatic, especially when you consider how much Mertens has embraced the Neapolitan life style to the point of earning the “Ciro” nickname”, he also isn’t exactly wrong, but because he has such a small margin for error with this decision he has to use the tools at his disposal.
Everyone loves beginnings- hope always springs eternal, when a new addition arrives, fans tend to focus on all the positives they can bring to the table- but once you’ve had a player for awhile, deciding to continue to the relationship can have far reaching consequences. Napoli and Juventus are now on the clock…