Albert Einstein once famously said that “insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result” which applies to all sorts of walks of life. This mantra has become very popular with those looking to turn their lives around, but it applies to all sorts of walks of life including football transfers and signings.
More and more clubs are learning that signing older players to long term deals is usually a great way to hamstring your club financially, while focusing on younger players helps you lower your wages while providing assets to make significant capital gains down the road.
Juventus saw this first hand last summer when they were able to make a massive plusvalenza on Moise’ Kean since he was a home grown player while struggling so significantly to move the likes of Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi, Gonzalo Higuain and especially Mario Mandzukic that they strongly considered selling Paulo Dybala to make a big enough capital gain to cover the cost of having such an expensive squad.
While both Matuidi and Khedira found themselves frequently starting so far this season and Gonzalo Higuain had a very surprising renaissance, the squad is so bloated that Emre Can and Mario Mandzukic were kept off the Champions League squad and Adrien Rabiot has struggled to find regular playing time (things could have been even worse had Aaron Ramsey been able to stay healthy).
So with all of this in mind, you can make a case Juventus is engaging in some insane behavior since they are repeating same behavior with the announcement of extensions for Leonardo Bonucci through 2024 and Juan Cuadrado through 2022 (both players have the same agent by the way) despite the fact they are 32 and 31 respectively. On top of that because of their bloated squad, Juventus is carrying a massive wage bill which is now even higher because both Bonucci and Cuadrado
But is there a case to be made that these extensions do have some appropriate reasoning behind it? At bare minimum they have to be better decisions than last year’s puzzling decision to give new deals to Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic? Safe to say the latter is certainly true since at least Bonucci and Cuadrado have been amongst the best players at their respective positions this season which certainly could not be said for Khedira and Mandzukic last year.
Bonucci has certainly come a long way in the past eighteen months. He was a pariah with many fans of the club because of his one season at Milan and upon his return, he was often a liability on defense. When Juventus signed Mathijs De Ligt this summer and acquired the rights to Mehdi Demiral after previously parking him at Sassuolo because they didn’t have a non EU slot available, many expected Bonucci to leave when the first links to Paris St Germain emerged.
Paratici and Sarri have to be thrilled that those talks went nowhere and Bonucci stayed. On top of Chiellini suffering a torn ACL, Demiral looked completely overmatched when he started against Hellas Verona, which aren’t exactly known for having a potent attack, De Ligt has had some fairly significant growing pains adapting to a new league and living up to his price, and despite his former mentor Sarri joining the club- Daniele Rugani is as much an afterthought as Juventus as “Solo” is with Star Wars fans.
Bonucci has been one of the best center backs in all of Serie A this season and has kept the captain armband during Chiellini’s absence even when Gigi Buffon started- a clear sign he’s been fully accepted back at the club after his sabbatical at Milan. But it does remain to be seen how Bonucci’s contract will look like in 2022 and 2023 when he’ll be well into his mid 30s earning over 6 million after taxes.
Juan Cuadrado went from being a super sub to becoming Joao Cancelo’s replacement. There’s a lot of concern when the Portuguese international left Turin because he was such a devastating offensive weapon, arguably the only spark of creativity in Allegri’s pragmatic and predictable offense.
Cuadrado has more than made up for what Joao Cancelo provided offensively, while being nowhere near as much as a liability defensively as his predecessor who had to be benched in key matches because there was serious concern he would make a costly mistake. Now Cuadrado has been so effective that there’s talk Juventus will sell Mattia De Sciglio, who started over Joao Cancelo in those key matches last season, since he has nailed down the starting job.
Considering how thin the market at right back in, giving Cuadrado a new contract until 2022 doesn’t seem that bad because just a few months before the only realistic options to replace Joao Cancelo included overpaying for Trippier, bringing back Dani Alves who had off field issues previously at Juventus or hoping Hysaj could turn his career around.
So while on the surface it looks like Juventus is repeating the same behavior with contract extensions to older players, there are enough mitigating circumstances to say Paratici is right to gamble he can prove Albert Einstein wrong.