Juventus’ Top Three Mercato Priorities

With the season just ten days away, Juventus are scrambling to rejuvenate their roster and offer rookie manager Andrea Pirlo significant reinforcements. As the season approaches, Fabio Paratici will be eager to conclude all his mercato business sooner rather than later, starting with the hunt for a new number nine.

Let’s take a deeper look at Juventus’ mercato priorities going into the new season:

1) Sell the deadwood. 

The common theme this transfer window for almost any Italian team has been ‘buy before you sell’. Weston McKennie arrived from Schalke for virtually nothing, while Arthur was swapped for Miralem Pjanic. This indicates that Juventus’s transfer kitty is limited this year unless they can move on unwanted players.

Blaise Matuidi has already joined Inter Miami while Gonzalo Higuain will soon follow, according to reports. Sami Khedira is another player Juventus are eager to part ways with, but the German international is determined to prove his worth to Pirlo. Beyond the former Real Madrid man, Paratici has been unable to move on Douglas Costa, who has spent the better part of the last two seasons sidelined with injuries. Aaron Ramsey is yet another Juventus man whose future is worth monitoring, after failing to make an impact last season despite high wages.

Before the Juventus faithful can dream of a big signing, these are exactly the types of players they need to move on. It won’t be easy and the clock is ticking for Paratici.

2) A new number nine

Juventus parted ways with both Mario Mandzukic and Moise Kean last summer and have failed to replace either ever since. With Higuain declining and on his way to Major League Soccer, Pirlo requested a new number nine for his setup. Edin Dzeko and Luis Suarez are the two most recent strikers linked with a move to Turin, with the Uruguayan emerging as the favorite.

Juventus will reportedly pay Barcelona three million euros with potential bonuses rising to 16 million euros, and will offer Suarez a three-year deal. The entire operation will reach around 45 million euros between wages and transfer fees if recent reports are credible. While Juventus need a number nine and Suarez fits the bill, this is a move that reeks of desperation and resembles the Bianconeri’s past mishaps on the transfer window.

There is currently a dearth of quality number nines available, making Suarez one of Juve’s only realistic options. Paratici’s hands may be tied, but he may regret this move a year or two down the line.

3) One surprise signing? 

After securing a number nine, Juventus could use another profile, be it at fullback or in the midfield. Reinforcing at fullback seems to be down Paratici’s list of priorities, but Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon could be an interesting opportunity. The Spanish giants have made it clear he’s available and he could be available at a decent price. Reguilon’s arrival could make Alex Sandro expendable, freeing up some much-needed transfer budget.

Beyond their fullback needs, Juventus could arguably use another creative midfielder. The likes of Rodrigo De Paul and Luis Alberto have been previously linked with a move to Turin, indicating a move for a midfield maestro may be on the cards. In this sense, Lyon’s Houssem Aouar should be a priority and is reportedly available at a decent price. If Juventus can broker a deal for the French international, it would go a long way at addressing their lack of dynamism and creativity in the middle of the park.

However, let’s be clear – any surprise move is completely contingent on selling their deadwood, something Paratici has struggled with since assuming his position.

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One Transfer Target For Italy’s Top Five

Italy’s top sides have been extremely active this transfer window as they look to significantly bolster their ranks. Inter have already signed Achraf Hakimi, Juve have secured Arthur and Dejan Kulusevski while Napoli brought in Victor Osimhen.

Regardless of their early activity, Italy’s giants are still in the market for unique opportunities. Without further ado, here’s one player each of Italy’s top five should sign before the mercato closes.

1) Juventus: Houssem Aouar. 

The Lyon midfielder showed the world why he’s one of football’s most highly-rated talents last month, propelling the Ligue 1 side into the Champions League semifinals. However, as Juninho, Lyon’s sporting director, highlighted in his post-game press conference, Aouar is available this transfer window and Juventus should do everything it takes to get the French international to Turin.

Lyon has set the asking price at 50 million euros for their star man, which represents fair market value in an inflated window. Given Juve’s midfield woes, Aouar should be their number one target – even after Weston McKennie’s arrival. It may not be feasible financially, but Aouar would finally allow the Turin-based giants to put their midfield problems once and for all.

2) Inter – Emerson

Inter have done extremely well in recent transfer windows, significantly improving their roster with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Nicolo Barella, and Christian Eriksen among others. Antonio Conte’s men competed on all fronts this season, reaching the Europa League final, but now need to take the next step.

The Nerazzurri’s midfield is arguably the best in Italy while their defense finished with the best record this season. Regardless, Inter could use a new left wingback and have since been linked with Chelsea’s Emerson. The former Roma man is already familiar with Italian football and would come at a relatively low cost. Reuniting with Conte could help Emerson get his career back on track and help Inter address a longstanding need.

3) Milan - Sandro Tonali

Milian could arguably use another center-back to add depth to their existing ranks, but should not pass up the chance to sign Sandro Tonali. Inter are reportedly in pole position for the Brescia midfielder, but Milan has recently emerged in the race, according to recent reports. The Nerazzurri need to sell some of their unwanted players before presenting Brescia with an offer while Milan should take the opportunity to pounce. Brescia, however, would prefer to include an obligation to buy in the deal, which Milan is currently considering.

Despite disagreements over the formula of the deal, Tonali should be Milan’s number one target. The Italian international has proven to be an incredible talent this season with Brescia and will compliment Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie in the midfield. Given his 35 million euros price tag, Tonali could just be the steal of the summer.

4) Napoli – Sergio Reguilon 

Napoli has been proactive this transfer window, already securing Andrea Petagna, Amir Rrahmani, and Victor Osimhen. Gennaro Gattuso’s men have since been linked with a plethora of leftbacks across the globe, including Sevilla’s Sergio Reguilon. The Spanish international has taken football by storm this season, bombing up and down the left flank at will.

If recent reports are to be believed, Napoli could get a deal done for Reguilon at a good price. With Faouzi Ghoulam slowing down, they can use depth out wide and the Sevilla man could offer just that.

5) Roma – Chris Smalling

This one’s a rather obvious one, but Roma must do what it takes to bring back Chris Smalling to the club. The Englishman was arguably the Giallorossi’s best centreback this season and formed an uncompromising partnership with Gianluca Mancini. As the season approaches, Roma should stop haggling over the final price and pay Manchester United’s valuation for the defender.

If they cannot agree to a price, they can then shift their attention to Hellas Verona’s Marash Kumbulla. Inter have been heavily linked with the defender, but given they have other priorities, Roma would be wise to insert themselves in a deal for him.

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Not a great time for Manchester as United and City dumped out of European competition

First it was the turn of Manchester City who were dumped out of the Champions League at the quarter final stage against Lyon. A few days later their bitter rivals Manchester United followed suit losing 2-1 against Sevilla in the semi-finals of the Europa League. It’s fair to say that it’s been a bleak week for English football in Europe especially as Wolves exited the Europa League too. But it hasn’t been a good week for football in Manchester either.

Manchester City’s defeat means that they finished the season by ‘only’ winning the Carabao Cup. For a club of its size and budget that return marks a failed season and manager Pep Guardiola will know this. City were supposed to make light work of French club Lyon and advance to the semi-finals. But it was easy to tell early on in the game that Lyon had City’s number.

City remained with the threats and had the superior technical skill but Lyon had the pace of the game in the bag. They could slow it down when they wanted and their tactic of a 3-5-2 worked to perfection.

Moussa Dembele ended the game as the hero as he scored 2 goals which killed the game off and his redemption seems complete after his talents have largely been ignored by the Premier League. In France the media were all over Houssem Aouar. He was deemed as being all over the pitch and always in the right places and was named man of the match for most publications with a 9/10. Aouar has been on the fringes of the French team and these type of performances will only do him good, and he is still only 22 so has that chance.

As for City Guardiola said he has no excuses and that the better team won, but this loss would have been a big blow to him. Having said that with Bayern Munich waiting in the semi finals one wonders if it was light escape for City, it will be interesting to see how Lyon fare against the German team who look incredible.

For Manchester United their sheer momentum and confidence as the Premier League wrapped up simply wasn’t enough to get them past the line and into what would have been a surprise Europa League final. The problem for United is that there doesn’t seem to be a plan b and that is why even though on the night they were better than Sevilla they couldn’t get past them. The Spanish team who have won the Europa League on 5 occasions from the past 15 years may well add to that record.

All in all it has been a disappointing season for the Manchester clubs. City have lost their title to Liverpool and the one trophy they want- the Champions League- continues to elude them. As for United, they finished the season very well and that was good enough to play in the Champions League next season, a major plus point, but they have a long way to go to get back to the top.

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Ligue 1 Fantasy Picks for the Weekend: Matchday 25

It’s week 25 of the French league season, let’s look ahead to the players that could make all the difference to your fantasy team this weekend in Ligue 1.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper: Steve Mandanda- Marseille

There is only one goalkeeper worth talking about and that is Steve Mandanda. He has kept 5 clean sheets in a row and Marseille will play Lille at the weekend. With 61 points Mandanda is ranked as the best goalkeeper currently in the league and he would cost 8.5m.

Defender: Pablo- Bordeaux

Bordeaux have kept 2 clean sheets from their last four games and Pablo has been good at the heart of defence. He has kept 6 clean sheets and even has 3 goals, so a good all round player and he could really be worth adding to your team.

Defender: Yunis Abdelhamid- Reims

Yunis Abdelhamid has been really impressive for Reims this season and the club will be at home to Rennes and determined to get back to winning ways. The defender has kept 10 clean sheets this season and also scored three goals.

Defender: Axel Disasi- Reims

Disasi has 46 points and like his teammate he has kept 10 clean sheets. What has been impressive with Reims this season has been how they do not concede many goals. For example at home the club have conceded 7 goals, only Lyon with 6 have shipped less.

Defender: Laurent Koscielney- Bordeaux

Koscielney has 22 point and has helped his club keep 6 clean sheets this season. Bordeaux have picked up on some form and are at home to Dijon where they will be looking to keep another clean sheet.

Midfielder: Houssem Aouar- Lyon

Aouar has helped with 7 clean sheets and been involved in 6 Lyon goals. He is the invisible player, that just gets the job done. Also Lyon will be looking to get back to winning ways and they could do just that being at home against Strasbourg.

Midfielder: Mehdi Abeid- Nantes

Mehdi Abeid has scored a goal and been involved in two assists, with the way he plays down the flank his club will be looking to him as they try and stop a 3 game losing streak. They will play Metz at the weekend have every chance of winning.

Midfielder: Xavier Chavalerin- Reims

Chavalerin has become one of the most important players for Reims and he has 22 points and scored one goal but also assisted in a further three. Reims are at home to Rennes and have the quality to shape that game if he is on form. He is valued at 6m.

Midfielder: Ibrahim Sangare- Toulouse

This is an interesting one as Toulouse have been so poor this season. But they will be at home to Nice, who have been a little under confident lately, and what do Toulouse have to lose now? Sangare is a risky choice to have a good game but is valued at just 5m and he could come good this weekend.

Striker: Andy Delort- Montpellier

Andy Delort is scoring goals again and could add to his tally this weekend as Montpellier take on Monaco who have a leaky defence. Delort has 9 goals and 3 assists so far.

Striker: Islam Slimani- Monaco

It was really important that Slimani found the net last weekend and that could give him the confidence to continue scoring goals for Monaco. He has scored 8 goals this season and assisted in another seven which has been really impressive.

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Top Ligue 1 Midfielders in 2018/19: Houssem Aouar

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In his professional career Houssem Aouar has only ever known playing for Lyon, and the fans love the midfielder. One of the reasons for this is that Aouar is a local boy and was born in Lyon in 1998 just weeks after France won their first World Cup.

Aouar has grown into his role at Lyon over the last couple of seasons and is now seen as a natural selection when the team plays each season. What caught Lyon’s attention was that Aouar was to be found to be able to play in any position in midfield and he can play as a winger, attacking midfielder and even a holding one- that is priceless for a club and quite rare.

Aouar finished 6th in the European Fantasy League rankings for midfielders in Ligue 1 and ended up with a points total of 60, the same as Ismaila Sarr who plays for Rennes. The player started 35 games last season and was involved in 14 of Lyon’s goals- scoring 7 and assisting in 7. When he played Lyon had 10 clean sheets and he was only booked two times with no red cards showing his maturity and he is still only 21. His value last season was placed at 8m.

It was not a good start to the season for Aouar who in his first five games managed just 4 points. Arguably his best game came in November when Lyon played Guingamp away from home, it was a thrilling match that ended 4-2 to Lyon. Aouar scored a goal and assisted in another and was able to earn 6 points. He earned 6 points in two other games later that season for more assists and clean sheets but was not able to topple that score for one game.

His worst points tally came against PSG when Lyon lost 5-0. Because of his position he didn’t lose points for goals conceded but he did pick up a yellow card and ended the game with -1 point. To his credit this was the only game of the season where he ended with minus points.

Aouar’s best period of the season started when Lyon beat Nimes 2-0 in mid October and ran for the next four games where he remained consistent and so did his club and picked up 18 points.

Lyon chased for Europe but could not catch eventual runners up Lille who had a superb season themselves. However 3rd place for Lyon was good enough to enter the play-offs for the Champions League proper where they will feel very confident that they can qualify from.

The most impressive statement to make about Aouar is that he was Lyon’s best midfielder last season. Better than Nebil Fekir which says everything and statistically better than Tottenham bound Tanguy Ndombele. His future in football looks very exciting.

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Lyon star Fekir once again linked with move away

fekirLyon star Nabil Fekir looks once again set to depart the Ligue 1 outfit – and will hope that this time the deal can make it over the line. The 25-year-old had previously looked set to depart France for a move to Premier League side Liverpool, and had even recorded an interview for LFC TV. On top of that, the Merseysiders held a photoshoot of Fekir in the Reds’ home kit, with the move having looked all but done. However, Liverpool pulled the plug on the transfer at the last minute, leaving Fekir to return to the club he thought he had left to ply his trade once again in the 2018-19 campaign. Suggestions have risen up, meanwhile, that not one, but two top European clubs are keeping tabs on his progress.

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