Sarri, Bernardeschi and Rabiot react to the Tottenham friendly

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Maurizio Sarri gave multiple soundbites to Sportitalia and Sky after the friendly against Tottenham: “It was a difficult game for us, against a team that has had the same group for years and that has a different level of physical preparation right now. They looked faster and more explosive in the second half, but it is normal at this stage. If we want to play our football, we have to improve in defending higher on the pitch, because in the first 30 minutes we tracked back too much and therefore counter-attacking was complicated. We moved the ball better after the break, we had 20 quality minutes, scoring twice. We were naïve on some lost balls, which generated the goals.” Continue reading

Cristiano returns, Traorè to Sassuolo and corporate news

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Blaise Matuidi have joined the rest of the squad in Turin after the extended vacation due to national team duties. The team will head to Asia next week for two International Champions Cup games, against Tottenham in Singapore on July 21st, versus Inter in Nanjing three days later, and then will face a K-League all-star in Seoul on July 26th. The press reported that Douglas Costa and Aaron Ramsey are not expected to take part to the tour to recover properly from a calf and thigh injury respectively.

Empoli president Fabrizio Corsi announced in mid-June that he had reached agreement with Juventus for the sale of Hamed Traorè, but the player will instead go immediately to Sassuolo on a two-year loan with obligation to buy from the Azzurri, skipping the middleman, meaning the formal purchase by the Bianconeri. The Neroverdi will pay €15M in 2021 and will receive some compensation if the Madama confirms the decision to acquire him then, which is pretty much how the Merih Demiral deal went down.  Continue reading

Mauro Icardi to Juventus: The Pros and the Cons

Recently it’s been reported that Juventus are heavily interested in Inter forward Mauro Icardi and will turn their attention to the Argentine forward after wrapping up their deal for Matthijs de Ligt. The 26-year-old has fallen out with the nerrazzurri, and is no longer in Antonio Conte’s plans for the upcoming season.

Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta recently went as far as proclaiming this in the media. In an interview, Marotta said: “When building a project, you have to find the right profiles. Both players (Icardi and Nainggolan) know full well they are not part of our plans.” 

While these comments may drop the striker’s valuation, it indicates one thing: Inter are prioritizing the squad over individuals. However, these claims do open up an avenue for a bargain for Juventus; but is Icardi worth it?

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On one hand, Icardi is one of the most lethal strikers in the world and can hurt the opposition with limited touches. Much like Cristiano Ronaldo, the Argentine doesn’t need many opportunities to score, and is proven at the European level as well. In this sense, pairing him with Ronaldo could prove to be a masterstroke, especially with Paulo Dybala pulling the strings behind them.

If Sarri plans on alternating between a 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2, two formations he’s used throughout his managerial career, the move for Icardi makes plenty of sense. However, if the former Chelsea tactician plans on going with one striker, Icardi’s arrival will undoubtedly stunt the growth of Moise Kean; something Juventus can ill afford. Kean is one of the peninsula’s most highly-rated forwards and the bianconeri will be looking to make him a centrepiece of the side for years to come.

In a two-striker formation, however, there will be plenty of time to go around for Ronaldo, Icardi and Kean. Meanwhile, Dybala, Federico Bernardeschi and Aaron Ramsey are all capable of playing behind them as the side’s trequartista. As a whole, that’s an elite front-line, which unlike this past season, compliments each other.

On the other side of the debate, Icardi has typically been a negative locker room influence, and resorts to off-field antics when things don’t go his way. When he was stripped of the Inter captaincy, the Argentine sidelined himself with many dubious injuries and refused to train. Then, of course, there’s his agent and wife, Wanda Nara. Nara’s influence on Icardi over the years has only grown and she has shown no regard for Inter this past season.

Much like Icardi, Nara is quick to voice her discontent in public and often plays games on social media. The main fear is that this divisive duo may disrupt the harmony in Juventus’ locker room. With that being said, Icardi has never been part of a team with real leaders, and in Torino, he will have to answer to Gianluigi Buffon, Cristiano Ronaldo and Giorgio Chiellini among others. Rather than being tasked with leading the team like he was at Inter, Icardi’s sole focus will be on scoring goals.

The move to Juventus will also represent much more for Icardi. As Inter’s fiercest rivals, the former Sampdoria man will be joining the bianconeri with a point to prove. It’s not every day that one of the best strikers in the world is outcasted from a new coach’s plans. This chip on his shoulder will undoubtedly spur him to new heights and let’s not forget, Juventus have a decent track record with difficult characters. See: Carlos Tevez.

While Icardi has zero goals in open play in 2019, a red flag of its own, a lot of his poor form can be attributed to the fallout between him and Inter. Once he makes the switch, expect to see an eager and refreshed Icardi.

In terms of price, Inter are reportedly looking for 70 million euros for their star striker. However, due to Marotta’s recent comments, Juventus are confident they can close the deal for much less. If reports are to be believed, the Italian champions will soon table a bid in and around the 40-45 million euro range, and will look to close the deal closer to that mark than Inter’s valuation.

Considering the situation and Icardi’s willingness to join Juventus, the bianconeri would be foolish not to make a move. The Argentine is available cheaply, and is an elite number nine that could propel them to the next level. When presented with this type of opportunity on the mercato, you take it. Ronaldo has shown no signs of slowing down, but he won’t be able to lead the Juventus front-line forever either while the 26-year-old is frankly in his prime. Icardi’s arrival, in this sense, works both in the long-run and in the short-term. There’s a reason these rumours have emerged as much more than pure conjuncture. With the ball firmly in their court, Juventus are a few sales away from making Icardi to Juve a reality.

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Are Juventus simply going to steamroll Serie A once again?

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The Serie A season will be starting next month and it is hard to look past Juventus in winning the league yet again. The Old Lady have won it 8 times in a row starting in 2012 and their dominance has been quite bewildering.

In that time Napoli who have not won the competition since 1990 and the days of Diego Maradona have come runners up 4 times and 3 of those of those have been in the last four seasons.

Juventus don’t just turn up and win of course and they have simply been brilliant over this decade, playing great football and working hard for their wins. But they have not faced a great challenge as the 2010′s have been a real struggle for Italian teams.

In the Champions League the decade started off brightly as Inter Milan won the competition in 2010, but that has been Italy’s only success. Juventus did make the final in 2015 and 2017 only to be beaten by Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.

But this Juventus side going into the 2019/20 season look superior in every way shape and form to any of their rivals and a 9th title in a row looks odds on.

They have Cristiano Ronaldo of course, who in his debut season scored 21 goals in 31 league games and 28 goals overall. He ages of course and is now 34, but this Ronaldo, super fit and super determined and he will be an integral part of the first team in the new season.

What is brand new is their coach in Maurizio Sarri, known as the coach that keeps on failing and smoking Sarri had a brilliant debut season for Chelsea in the Premier League and won the club the Europa League and came 3rd in the league. But Sarri and Chelsea never really got on and Sarri now returns to his home country with the best team.

Juventus are after Matthijs de Ligt and are the favourites to sign the Ajax defender. It almost looks certain he will join the side, then again this is football and you never know, but if Juve can secure his services that will be major.

Juventus have also dipped into getting a British player, this is rare for the side and in comes Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, his style of holding play is thought to be perfect for Juventus. The problem for Ramsey is he was secured under a different coach and now he will have to impress Sarri to play regular games.

Gianluigi Buffon was a surprise return to the team. He will play as back up goal keeper no doubt with a future role as a goal keeping coach more or less secured within the ranks of the club. The legend is coming home and that is good enough for the fans. And Adrien Rabiot who when given a chance for PSG always seemed to be a threat has joined from them. Initially it is on a free, but with performance the forward could end up costing Juventus around 10m euros.

All in all Juventus have spent close to 50m euros,well within their budget and if de Ligt does come that would raise their spending to around 115m euros, fairly ok for such a huge team. Now it is over to Napoli and Roma and perhaps even the Milan teams, just who will be able to challenge Juventus this season?

Atletico Madrid break transfer record with signing of Joao Felix as Griezmann looks set to join Barcelona

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Move over Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix the latest Portuguese sensation has arrived, and arrived he has with a thud of epic monetary proportions. Atletico Madrid made Europe look at them in awe when they announced his signing this week for a cool £113m, making Felix who is just 19, the 5th most expensive player in football history.

Felix looks the part and what little we have seen of him looks quite incredible. For Benfica last season he greatly helped them win the league and from 26 league games he scored 15 times. Overall he played 43 matches and netted 20 times, and for a player to be performing like that at his age suggests that Madrid have spent well.

As for Diego Simeone’s side Felix represents their biggest spending ever on a player and they have come to an agreement with Benfica to pay them 30m in one payment with the rest of the transfer fee coming from instalments. But why have Atletico bought Felix for so much?

Well to put it simply Felix is really being ranked up there with the likes of other Portuguese players who have graced the game in Luis Figo and of course Cristiano Ronaldo, if Felix is as good as he is obviously going to improve Atletico and his sell on price could be fantasy numbers, that will be the long term plan for Atletico anyway as they try and break Barcelona and Real Madrid’s dominance in La Liga.

The other reason to spend so big is that it has been reported that after years of playing with Atletico that Antoine Griezmann is finally leaving the club to join Barcelona for a similar fee that Atletico paid Benfica for Felix, it all rather makes sense then.

Though Griezmann choosing Barcelona is up for debate, wasn’t this the same club who came in for the French World Cup winner last summer only for Griezmann to reject them on the grounds that he didn’t want to be Lionel Messi’s ‘lieutenant’? Of course Griezmann really should have just left it at the core reason for him not joining which was down to loyalty of his club who were, at the time, currently going through a transfer ban.

Back to Felix and not only can he score goals he can create them too and Atletico’s fans look like they will be in for quite a treat. Atletico are also in the Champions League, and the fact that they still have Simeone in the dug out is testament to the clubs owners, who still find the best ways to attract quality players despite the hardships they find themselves each season in Spain. Roll on next season when Felix will do his best to light up the league, and take some of that magic away from Messi.

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Juventus hire new youth coaches plus various tidbits

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On top of replacing Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus also moved on from the coaches of the U23 and the U19 team, Mauro Zironelli and Francesco Baldini, and filled those spots in the last seven days.

Fabio Pecchia was appointed as the boss of the Serie C squad: as a player, he spent a year at Juventus in 1997/1998, while after retiring he managed Gubbio and Latina and then became Rafa Benitez’s lead assistant at Napoli, Real Madrid and Newcastle, before re-assuming the top position at Hellas Verona, where he got promoted to Serie A and then relegated in back-to-back campaigns. He was in Japan at Avispa Fukuoka last season. Continue reading

Aaron Ramsey’s arrival will force tactical reshuffle at Juventus

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It has been a period of upheaval behind the scenes at Juventus ahead of the 2019-20 Serie A season, with the defending champions preparing for life after Max Allegri.

Former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri has replaced Allegri in Turin, with big shoes to fill, as Juventus chase a ninth successive league title in 2020.

Sarri’s ties with arch rivals Napoli mean that he will already be starting with something to prove at the Biaconeri, with some sections of the fan base unhappy at his appointment.

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Three Juventus Players Set to Be Reborn Under Sarri

With the Massimiliano Allegri era officially over, the Juventus brass identified Maurizio Sarri as the man to lead the revolution at the club. While the past five seasons under Allegri were largely successful, there were clear signs of stagnation, especially amongst some of the side’s key performers. With the former Chelsea boss now at the helm, however, expect a rebirth of sorts for many of these players. Here are three Juventus men that are worth keeping an eye on going into the new season.

Alex Sandro (left back)  

When the Brazilian first joined the bianconeri, he was regarded as one of the best fullbacks in the world, and lived up to the hype early on offering some much needed offensive enterprise and flair from the left. However, over the course of the last two seasons, Alex Sandro’s progression has come to a screeching halt, and the former Porto man has looked a shade of his former self.

Luckily for the for the 28-year-old, Sarri tends to get the most out of his offensive fullbacks. At Napoli, Sarri’s tactical setup meant Faouzi Ghoulam played an important role in the final third, and reached a new level under the veteran tactician. Through the use of offensive overloads, Sarri’s fullbacks see plenty of the ball in the opposition’s half, and are seen as much more than mere defenders; a luxury that was not afforded to the Brazilian under Allegri.

At Chelsea, it was much of the same. Whether it was Marcos Alonso or Emerson, both defenders played an integral role in the final third, and progressed as players. Under Sarri, expect Alex Sandro to put his recent woes behind him and re-emerge as one of football’s elite left backs.

Paulo Dybala (attacking-midfielder)

Last season, the Argentine looked out of sorts whenever called upon, and regularly failed to impact proceedings under Allegri. Whether he was playing as the side’s main striker or on the wing, Dybala never fully looked like himself and had his worst season yet in bianconero, netting five goals in Serie A action. Much of this falls on Allegri’s pragmatic outlook, however, la Joya must assume some responsibility and soldier on in the upcoming season.

In Sarri’s first press conference, he quickly outlined that Dybala, alongside Ronaldo and Douglas Costa, will play a key role for him in the final third. At Napoli, the tactician got the best out of Lorenzo Insigne, Callejon and Higuain and turned them into the league’s most feared offensive trios. If his exploits with Insigne are anything to go by, a Napoli player most similar to Dybala, expect the Argentine international to have a big season in Turin.

While it’s still unclear where exactly Dybala will feature given Ronaldo’s presence, he will undoubtedly play a key role in Sarri’s progressive setup, and could finally focus on putting his creativity to use to open up opposition’s defences rather than tracking back. Big season ahead for Juventus’ crown jewel.

Douglas Costa (winger)

The Brazilian, much like Dybala, had a tumultuous season under Allegri riddled by injury problems, and disciplinary concerns. While it was recently reported that the former Bayern man is of interest to French giants PSG, Sarri quickly quashed those rumours and indicated the winger is someone he’s extremely keen on working with.

Given his electric nature, Douglas Costa will fit like a glove in Sarri’s 4-3-3 and will offer some much needed pace and unpredictability in the final third. However, there’s one concern: Sarri’s tactical scheme is one of rigidity and repetition, which may pose an issue to a mercurial player like Douglas Costa.

In any case, if Sarri is able to bridge that gap and demonstrate to him the merits of his setup, expect Douglas Costa to be on his A game next year and torment defences.

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Sarri holds his introductory presser

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Maurizio Sarri was officially unveiled this morning. Fabio Paratici took the floor first: “The negotiation lasted less than a month, we had clear ideas from the beginning, we had to respect everybody. There were two great clubs involved, us and Chelsea, and I would like to thank them for the collaboration and Marina personally, who proved once again she is one of the best executive in the world. The playing style was not central in our decision, we appointed him because we believe he was the best coach possible right now, like we did for Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri at those times. He showed great qualities in Premier League, in Italy and internationally, he is the best suited to lead us. He was our first choice. Winning always comes first, but there is not an exact recipe. We believed the chemistry between coach, team, club and fans had gotten weaker.

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Juventus announce Sarri as their new coach

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It took longer than anticipated, but Juventus finally have their new coach: former Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, who has reportedly penned a three-year, €18M contract. Sarri is coming off a third-placed finish with the Blues and recently won the first trophy of his career by beating Arsenal in the Europa League final. It took a small financial compensation in order to release him from his deal with the English club. Despite the relative success of his tenure, Sarri butted heads with the players and the management and was never embraced by the fans during his time in London and at some point was at risk of being axed mid-season. Continue reading