Juventus may be coming off a triumph in the Italian Supercup, but the Italian champions are in serious danger of relinquishing their stranglehold over Serie A. Milan and Inter have run away with it in the first half of the season, with the Bianconeri trailing Stefano Pioli’s side by 10 points already. As the second half of the season approaches, Juve’s midfield woes have become more apparent.
Manuel Locatelli has been heavily linked with a move to Turin, reuniting him with his idol Andrea Pirlo. The Sassuolo midfielder has taken Italian football by storm this season, establishing himself as one of the league’s elite deep-lying playmakers. In many ways, Locatelli is exactly the type of profile Juventus lack in the middle of the park. Comfortable in possession, the Italian international would be a significant upgrade on Rodrigo Bentancur and could slot in nicely next to Arthur. His 40M euro price-tag will seem like a bargain in 2 years time.
Beyond Locatelli, Juventus is reportedly interested in a sensational swoop for Paul Pogba. Mino Raiola – the Frenchman’s agent – sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world when he claimed his client was on the market come the summertime. Pogba allegedly would appreciate a move back to Italy, where he has played the best football of his career. The major stumbling block, however, is his pricetag as he won’t come cheap. Manchester United will, at the very least, be seeking to break even on the midfielder, demanding well over 100 million euros.
Other than the increased price-tag, it will be interesting to see where the World Cup winner would slot in Pirlo’s system. Pogba does not thrive in a double pivot and may just be an awkward fit between the lines alla Aaron Ramsey. Juve should think twice before pulling the trigger and ask themselves whether they have what it takes to accomadate the French international.
If finances are tight, Juve can always shift its focus to Udinese’s Rodrigo De Paul. The Argentine midfielder is crying out for a move to a bigger club and is more than ready for the step up. De Paul is arguably the best fit for Pirlo’s Juve, given his ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker or roam between the lines. The Udinese man would walk directly into Juve’s starting 11, usurping Aaron Ramsey in the trequartista role. De Paul boasts an impressive engine and is versatile enough for Pirlo’s hybrid 4-4-2/3-5-2 formation.
The final option for the Bianconeri is Lyon’s Houssem Aouar. Juventus has been heavily linked with a move for the French midfielder in the past and could just return for him this summer. A dynamic midfielder by trade, Aouar has all the tools to emerge as a bonafide creative threat for Pirlo’s Juve. At just 22 years old, the midfielder has his entire career ahead of him and would make for an excellent fit in Turin. Aouar thrives when tasked with linking up the midfield and the attack and has even shown he can play in a double pivot.
Fabio Paratici often says it is incredibly difficult to improve on Juve’s current roster, but the reality is, any of these midfielders would become starters in the side’s current setup. While a Pogba reunion may steal the headlines, Locatelli and De Paul are arguably the better fits and would come cheaper. Given Juve’s working relationship with Sassuolo and Udinese, the Italian champions can negotiate a crafty deal for both midfielders, without sacrificing the club’s finances. Aouar remains an interesting option should either midfielder become unavailable, but the next step for Juve is ridding itself of its deadwood.
Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot, and Rodrigo Bentancur have all shown glimpses of their potential, but are the furthest thing from consistent. Only once these midfielders are sold can Juve begin dreaming of De Paul and Locatelli.
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