Operation Departures: Paratici’s Dilemma

After securing the signing of Matthijs de Ligt, many lauded Juventus’ mercato and showered their sporting director, Fabio Paratici, with praise. After all, they had just signed one of Europe’s elite young defenders, fighting off Barcelona and a host of other clubs in the process.

However, in recent weeks, in an effort to balance the books, Juventus have looked to offload their high-prized assets on the cheap. First, Moise Kean left for Everton with no buy-back clause inserted in the deal. Then, Joao Cancelo was off to Manchester City for 30 million euros and Danilo, after just a season in Turin. Now, the bianconeri’s top brass are actively listening to offers for their jewel, Paulo Dybala. 

With Financial Fair Play restrictions in place, clubs, at the very least, must show they are spending as much as they’re making; generally speaking. Following the signature of Cristiano Ronaldo and de Ligt, sales were always going to be necessary.

Factor in that Juventus haven’t progressed deep into the Champions League since making the final in 2017 missing out on crucial revenue, it’s clear players were going to be sold. Let’s not forget, the Turin-based giants also reported a significant financial operating loss in their last fiscal year. Fabio Paratici is the man largely responsible with dealing with this, largely through high-profile sales. 

While, in an ideal world, Paratici would find buyers for Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi among others, reality is a different beast altogether. Currently, all of these players are on the wrong side of 30 and are on massive wages in comparison to their output.

Many of them have got a host of offers, but have regularly refused to leave the club. And why should they? Most, if not all, of the offers received for the bianconeri’s wantaways include lower salaries at less prestigious clubs. This has forced Paratici’s hand in his first mercato at the helm and has dictated which players he can and cannot sell. Simply put, there’s a bigger buying market for Dybala than there is for Higuain, for example.

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri recently alluded to this in a press conference.

As I said before, I can talk to Dybala all I like, but the market goes in a certain direction and my opinion counts for zero. We have to cut six players, that’s all there is to it,” said the former Napoli boss, as reported by Football Italia.

When thinking about Sarriball, you would expect Dybala to be one of the first names of the team-sheet. After a season in Massimiliano Allegri’s rigid setup, the Argentine could explode in a false-nine role. In Sarri’s first press conference at the club, the veteran tactician mentioned La Joya alongside Douglas Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo as players he was hoping to count on.

If Juventus are forced to sell Dybala this summer to balance the books, they will undoubtedly regret their decisions to hand Mandzukic and Khedira extensions while failing to definitively offload Higuain. Quite frankly, neither of these three players fit into Sarri’s tactics as well as Dybala does.

Sarri elaborated on this situation further and lashed out against Juventus’ current state.

It puts me in a difficult position. The last 20 days of the market will be difficult for us, it’s an embarrassing situation, because we risk having to leave out players of a very high level,” said Sarri.

It has also affected his pre-season preparation. Given the uncertainty surrounding the transfer window, Sarri has largely rotated between Higuain, Mandzukic and Dybala. Rather than sticking with one preferred front-line and implementing his mechanisms with them, Sarri has been forced to adapt. As a result, it may be long before we see Sarriball fully introduced in Turin.

With just over two weeks left to the mercato, it will be interesting to see who Juventus decide to move. Reports suggest Higuain will join Roma while Mandzukic favours a Bundesliga move. However, as we’ve seen, there are no guarantees and we can just as easily see, fan favourite, Dybala on his way out. Whether you like it or not, buckle your seat-belts Juventus fans, you’re in for a bumpy end to the summer transfer window.

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How Paratici rejuvenated Juventus’ back four

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici has wasted no time this summer, securing Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey on bosmans, and has revolutionized the bianconeri’s back four for years to come. Last week, it was reported that the Italian champions beat PSG and Barcelona to Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt. The highly rated 19-year-old wasn’t the only defender Juventus signed, as Paratici also completed deals for Genoa’s Cristian Romero and Sassuolo’s Merih Demiral. Since 2011, Juventus’ success has largely been built on their resolute backline and the famous BBC, yet, recently, with their key defenders on the wrong side of thirty, they’ve shown signs of wear and tear.

Last season, Leonardo Bonucci returned to the club after a poor year with Milan, and has looked a shade of his former self, making routine errors. Recently, it’s been reported that Bonucci may be on his way to PSG, if the sides can agree on a fee. Chiellini, on the other hand, has been solid as ever, but has been regularly sidelined with recurring injuries. As a result, Juve’s 70 million euro swoop for de Ligt is a no-brainer. The Dutch international is arguably the world’s most talented young centre-back, and will immediately establish himself as a leader in Turin. Alongside the veteran presence of Chiellini, expect the Dutchman to take his game to the next level.

Other than de Ligt, Paratici turned to three Serie A talents to rejuvenate the defence: Demiral, Romero and Roma’s Luca Pellegrini. Demiral has already asserted himself as a regular with the Turkish national team and can even feature at right back. At just 15 million euros, the former Fenerbahçe youth product may prove to be the bargain of the summer.

Romero, by contrast, will likely remain on loan at Genoa for another season and is one for the future. His 30 million euro price-tag shows that Paratici holds him in high-esteem, but another season with I Grifoni will allow him to keep growing.

Outside of central defence, Paratici took a risk and swapped Leonardo Spinazzola for Pellegrini and just under 10 million euros. Throughout his loan spell with Cagliari this past season, Pellegrini demonstrated immense upside, registering two assists in 23 appearances.

Spinazzola has struggled with injuries in the past but appears to have put his fitness concerns behind him. In fact, he was arguably the best player on the pitch in Juventus’ comeback win against Atletico Madrid. Despite this, Paratici went ahead with the swap. While Spinazzola is more ready now, the former Roma defender arguably has a higher ceiling, but will need playing time to grow. With Alex Sandro struggling for form, expect the 20-year-old to be given ample opportunities.

Juventus’ defence has long been their strong suit, but this past season’s shakiness was undoubtedly a rude awakening for their top brass. Paratici has since acted proactively, securing four talents within two weeks, all of which can be elite in the right environment. While the bianconeri’s revolutionized backline may not be the BBC of old, they have all the potential in the world to write their own story, and for that, Paratici must me commended.

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Where next for Simone Inzaghi?

Simone Inzaghi

Since being appointed as Lazio’s interim head coach in 2016, Simone Inzaghi has transformed the biancocelesti into one of the league’s most compact sides, and has consistently delivered silverware, winning the Supercoppa in 2017 against Juventus, and most recently claiming the Coppa Italia this season after dispatching Atalanta. The two trophies are indicative of Inzaghi’s good work at the club, but it may be time for the Italian tactician to consider his future, and evaluate the possibility of joining one of Italy’s elite.

With both Juventus, and Milan considering him for their managerial vacancy, Inzaghi would be wise to wait before committing his future to Lazio. While club president Claudio Lotito and Inzaghi have an excellent rapport – to a point where the former views his tactician as ‘his son’ – it’s time Inzaghi demands more.

Given the current roster at his disposal, it’s clear Inzaghi’s gotten the most out of them, and has arguably seen his side peak. If they are to build off their two trophies, and consistently qualify for the Champions League, an aspiration shared by the entire club, they will undoubtedly need reinforcements. Going into next season, Lazio could arguably use another centre-back, a wing-back, and another striker to compete with Immobile and Caicedo.

Since Inzaghi’s hiring, Lotito has been conservative in the transfer market, and has opted for minor reinforcements rather than a complete squad upheaval. While this helps build chemistry, Lazio will need to dip into their transfer funds if they want to compete with the Milan clubs, and fierce rivals Roma. As the competition grows, so does their need to spend.

If Lotito guarantees Inzaghi a higher salary and more say on the transfer market, the Italian tactician should heavily consider remaining at Lazio for the foreseeable future. However, the managerial vacancy at Juventus may complicate affairs.

The bianconeri are far and away the best side in Italy, and don’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, coaching Juventus is an enticing prospect for any manager, let alone an up and coming Italian one like Inzaghi. Given his positive relationship with Fabio Paratici that goes back to their childhood, the Lazio tactician could emerge as a front-runner for the role. His experience in Serie A will undoubtedly put him near the top of Juve’s list, but he’s not there alone.

In recent times, Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri and Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino have also been linked to the vacancy. In any case, joining Juventus would allow Inzaghi to take the next step in his career, and is a unique opportunity to grow his trophy case and reputation within the peninsula.

Milan, on the other hand, are frankly a less enticing option at the moment, but their appeal cannot be discounted. Despite their recent struggles, the rossoneri remain one of the league’s sleeping giants, and have improved significantly since last season. A lot, however, will depend on Champions League qualification, and whether or not, they will pip Inter or Atalanta to the final spot.

If they manage to claim top four, and promise to reinforce in key areas notably centre-back and left-wing, Inzaghi may be tempted to abandon his Lazio post for greener pastures.

While managing the biancocelesti has given Inzaghi the exposure and the necessary experience to take the next step from the primavera, managing one of Juventus or Milan may be an opportunity he can’t afford to turn down at this point in his career. After all, there aren’t many top class managers currently on the market, and by mere process of elimination, Inzaghi may find himself in contention for the jobs.

Much like he has done his entire career, expect Inzaghi to seize the opportunity and continue to propel his managerial career forward. That is, unless, Lotito makes him an offer he can’t refuse…

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Squad Overhaul on the Horizon at Juventus

With Juventus conceding six goals in their last two games, question marks have been raised about Massimiliano Allegri and his side’s ability to deliver the Champions League for the first time in 23 years. In just over two weeks time a clash against La Liga giants Atletico Madrid awaits where the stakes could not be higher. A round of sixteen exit would be a disastrous end to an indifferent campaign for the bianconeri; a campaign in which European success was stressed from day one at Villar Perosa. Despite signing Mr. Champions League himself – Cristiano Ronaldo – the Italian champions look no closer to winning Europe’s elite competition than they were last season. In fact, you could argue their chances at winning it all are lower. If Juventus’ recent woes are anything to go by, it means a squad overhaul is on the horizon.

After whimpering out of the Coppa Italia in embarrassing fashion against Atalanta, Juventus hosted newly-promoted Parma. For the first time since March 2012, the bianconeri lined up without one member of their famous ‘BBC’ trio and fielded a hardly inspiring centre-back partnership of Daniele Rugani and latest acquisition Martin Caceres. Since Mehdi Benatia’s departure, reports have surfaced that the Juventus brass would entrust Rugani with a bigger role moving forward, however, it’s safe to say, the defender failed in his first real test.

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Globe Soccer Awards recap

dubai

Juventus had a satisfactory night at the Globe Soccer Awards, where they brought home few awards. Cristiano Ronaldo was named player of the year and also had the best goal: “First of all, happy new year. 2019 is here, so 2018 is the past. I got off to a good start with this fantastic award for that beautiful goal, unfortunately against my current team, so I can not be completely happy. I thank the fans, because football would be nothing without them. My objective for 2019 is to keep scoring, everybody knows how hard it is. I have netted 700 goals in my career and I believe this was my prettiest one.” Continue reading

Paratici’s new powers and Juventus international call-ups

paratici

The Italian site Calcio e Finanza released this week some documents related to the last board meeting, which took place on October 25, and ratified the exit of Giuseppe Marotta and the promotion of Fabio Paratici, who now holds also the title of head of the technical area on top of the sporting director one. The papers show his new responsibilities, but also how the major decisions are meant to be made in a collective way.

Paratici can now authorize new purchases for up to €25M with his signature alone, while for the ones up to €50M is required also the John Hancock of the vice president Pavel Nedved and those above €75M have to be signed off by the chairman Andrea Agnelli. Continue reading

Fabio Paratici talks plus international call-ups

paratici

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici received yesterday the Manlio Scopigno Award and talked to the press in that occasion, starting with his new leading role: “Operating behind the scenes suited me, not just because of corporate choice, but due to my character. Things will change now, but I will keep working to make Juventus more competitive. I share this award with my co-workers and I dedicate it to Giuseppe Marotta, who groomed me and taught me a lot. I will forever be thankful for what he has done.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo: “He has our full support, we hold him in high regard. Continue reading