Today it was reported that Juventus beat fierce rivals Inter to the signature of Atalanta’s highly-rated Dejan Kulusevski. After spending last season with gli Orobici’s youth setup, the 19-year-old was loaned out to Parma this season and has since broken onto the scene in Italy, with four goals and seven assists in 17 appearances.
Beyond his output, Kulusevski has established himself as one of the league’s rising stars and is a major reason behind Parma’s positive start to the season. The Swedish international will remain at the Tardini for the rest of the season to continue his development. But who exactly is Kulusevski?
Position: Attacking midfielder/winger.
Height: 6’1 (186cm)
Preferred Foot: Left.
Since arriving in Italy, Kulusevski has proven to be an extremely versatile player, capable of playing through the middle or on the wing. Given Parma’s counter-attacking setup, the 19-year-old has often been deployed on the left-wing, making the most of his impressive pace. The former Atalanta man thrives when tasked with running behind opposition defences, however, is equally capable at picking the final ball.
In fact, only Lazio’s Luis Alberto has more assists (11) than him this season. Kulusevski’s departure next summer will leave a gaping hole in Parma’s attack as he has played a direct role in 11 of gli Crociati’s 24 goals this season thus far. Moreover, the 19-year-old is currently averaging 2.4 key passes per game and has registered over 30 shot assists on the season already.
For context, Juventus superstars Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo are averaging 1.8 and 1.7 key passes per game, respectively. Bar Pjanic, no Juventus midfielder comes close to Kulusevski’s production in the final third. And even then, the Bosnian international’s output still pales in comparison to the Parma man. While it remains to be seen if the Swedish international can translate his breakout season to a big team, one thing’s for sure: He will add some much-needed creativity, precision, and unpredictability to an otherwise machine-like and sloppy Juventus.
Given his creativity and versatility, it begs the question: Where exactly will Kulusevski fit in Sarri’s plans? The question itself raises more questions than answers. After all, the Parma man can play a multitude of roles and Sarri is yet to define his best formation with the bianconeri. Is it a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-3-3? Time will tell.
From a young age, the 19-year-old mainly featured as a trequartista, but has since evolved as a winger under Roberto D’Aversa’s watchful eye. He’s also played deeper in the midfield with Atalanta’s youth teams and has incredible progression numbers to match a mezz’ala role. As the season wears on and Kulusevski joins his new team in the summer, his role will undoubtedly become clearly defined. There is much uncertainty surrounding his position as of right now, but he will provide Sarri with valuable tactical flexibility.
Another factor to consider in this equation is Juventus’ future acquisitions: Will they finally splash the cash for a big name midfielder? The bianconeri are in dire need of a technical midfielder since Pogba’s departure, but appear to have addressed that with Kulusevski’s signing. While the two players couldn’t be more different in terms of what they bring to the table, the Swedish international has proven to be quite the creative force in the final third. The reality is Juventus wouldn’t drop nearly forty million euros on him if they didn’t believe he can play a significant role as early as next season.
Moving forward, Kulusevski will need to demonstrate his end-product on a more consistent basis. After all, it’s only his first season in the top flight. Regardless, the 19-year-old appears to have all the tools necessary to take the next step in his career and establish himself as an elite creator at the top level; as long as the bianconeri are ready to properly accommodate him and give him the playing time he requires to fully develop. If Kulusevski and Juve can do this, he’s exactly what the Italian champions have been missing all these years.
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