The tale of De Ligt and Lukaku: the power of the player’s will

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During his tenure as Juventus’ executive director, Beppe Marotta was often mocked for being cheap since his favored way of completing deals was either through Bosman signings or by completing player acquisitions on loan with option to buy. This prudent approach, in addition to two deep runs in the Champions League which brought in significant revenues, allowed Juventus to eventually get to the point where they could afford to sign Cristiano Ronaldo as well as pay his enormous annual salary.

There were two key ingredients in Marotta’s success with Bosman signings: he was never afraid to pay substantial commissions to agents which added up to 80 million between 2014 and 2017 and was always willing to let the player’s will be the main factor in transaction. This strategy was heavily criticized by the club’s fans when the likes of Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez left Turin, but it is now starting to pay huge dividends.

While Marotta left the club to join Inter, Juventus have continued to be the king’s of the Bosman transfer by adding Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot this year and are now using “the player’s will paradigm” to their advantage. Ronaldo wanted to join Juventus last year and his agent Jorge Mendes made the deal happen with Real Madrid and now the same is happening with Matthijs De Ligt.

The uber talented Dutch defender looked to be on his way to Barcelona a few months ago, but while the blaugrana had leveraged their great relationship with Ajax to reach an agreement on the transfer fee, they couldn’t do the same with agent Mino Raiola on his commission as well as De Ligt’s salary. Paris St Germain then were in the driver’s seat but a change in the sporting director’s chair gave an opening to Juventus who are now set to close the deal.

The bianconeri have well established relationship with Raiola- in addition to Paul Pogba, they have also signed another of his clients in Moise Kean recently, they also weren’t afraid to pay him a hefty commission to get the deal done as well as pay De Ligt a huge salary of up to 12 million euro should all bonuses be met. This has been Juventus typical modus operandi- reach an agreement with the player first so they then have leverage when negotiating with his current club.

When the first report of Juventus’ offer to Ajax emerged- 50 million plus bonuses- they were almost universally mocked for making such a low ball proposal. But this is what happens when a club feels like they have no competition and refuse to bid against themselves- in Juventus’ mind, since they were the only club with an agreement on wages and the agent commission (a factor which really cannot be understated since there are big clubs who refuse to compensate Raiola at such a high rate), there was no reason to shot their load on their initial offer.

If that wasn’t enough, during an interview with Dutch paper Telegraph, Mino Raiola revealed that he had an agreement with Ajax that would allow De Ligt to be sold for an offer of 50 million since he had agreed to keep the defender in Amsterdam for the 2018/19 campaign- so all of a sudden Juventus’ offer doesn’t look that outrageous, especially since again they can bank on the player’s will.

Since joining Inter last fall, Beppe Marotta has continued to use the methods that made him so successful at Juventus. Inter signed Diego Godin on a Bosman deal and are now banking on the player’s will to acquire Romelu Lukaku, a striker the nerazzurri’s new manager Antonio Conte has been enamored with dating back to his time at Chelsea.

Lukaku has publicly stated a few times that he would like to play in Serie A and that he considers Conte to be the best manager in the world- verbally he could not have made his desire to join Inter more clear. But actions speak louder than words and Lukaku had already made a significant change by replacing his previous agent Mino Raiola with the more understated (but equally effective) Federico Pastorello.

Pastorello has developed a great relationship with Inter in recent years- Handanovic, Candreva, Asamoah and D’Ambrosio are his clients and he negotiated the deals that brought Antonio Conte and Valentino Lazaro to the nerazzurri. So now that Inter can bank on the player’s will they have to convince Manchester United to let Lukaku go on a deal they can afford- a factor that is complicated by the difficulty to sell Mauro Icardi and Inter’s rightful determination to not include a player like Milan Skriniar in the deal.

Inter’s initial offer to Manchester United involves a loan for 10 million euro and a forced option to buy the striker for an additional 60 million payable over two years. This is essentially a purchase in disguise, it just allows Inter to spread the payments over three fiscal years but obviously on paper it sounds like an almost insulting offer (Manchester United appear to be somewhat open to structuring the deal over multiple years but want 85 million euro).

Marotta’s right hand man Piero Ausilio travelled to London to meet with Manchester United in person to discuss these terms, which can be seen as a sign he thinks the deal can happen, because if not they could have just communicated these terms through intermediaries. Because just like De Ligt already has an agreement with Juventus, Inter felt confident enough to make this type of offer because they feel they have no direct competition- Manchester United would have to find a team willing to pay more but also one that Lukaku wants to join… 

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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De Ligt pain is Todibo’s gain at Barcelona

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In the not too distant past, Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, suggested that he ‘knew’ where Matthijs De Ligt’s next playing destination would be.

The inference was that the Ajax captain would follow his former team-mate, Frenkie De Jong, to the Camp Nou.

It’s thought that a deal had been agreed between both clubs, though the meddling of the player’s agent, Mino Raiola, has ensured that De Ligt will be plying his trade elsewhere. Continue reading

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?

Juventus need De Ligt to continue their defensive dynasty

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The future destination of Matthijs De Ligt remains continues to dominate football headlines in Serie A – as the marquee signing in Italy this summer.

The Dutch defender has been courted by the defending Serie A champions, as well as La Liga winners FC Barcelona, Manchesyer United and French superpower Paris Saint-Germain.

However reports in Italy, and in De Ligt’s native Netherlands, have virtually confirmed his intention to head to Turin before the start for the 20192-20 campaign.

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Juventus Turn to Bosmans to Shore up the Midfield

Following a poor season, the Juventus brass identified the midfield as a problem area and immediately snapped up Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer. Since Arturo Vidal’s departure, Juventus have lacked enterprise in the middle of the park and have been crying for help. Realizing the Welshman alone wasn’t enough, Juventus turned to Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Paul Pogba. Both midfielders are reportedly willing to join the bianconeri, but their astronomical price-tags are proving to be major obstacles as of right now.

As a result, Juventus have since turned their attention to Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot. The Frenchman’s contract is set to expire, and will shortly join the Italian champions on a five-year deal. Since breaking onto the scene in Paris, Rabiot has established himself as one of the most highly-rated talents in football, and will offer some much needed technique to Juventus’ stuttering midfield. However, the only concern with the Frenchman have been some recurring disciplinary issues that have kept him out of the side.

Equally capable of playing in front of the defence, or on the left of a midfield three, Rabiot will slot in nicely alongside Miralem Pjanic, and Ramsey. At just 24 years old, the Frenchman will only improve, and will get to work under Maurizio Sarri, a manager notorious for his ability to get the most out of technically-gifted midfielders. Under the former Napoli tactician, expect Rabiot to play higher up the pitch, near the opposition’s box.

This past season, Massimiliano Allegri often fielded Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can alongside Pjanic, and it often lead to uninspiring displays from the Italian giants. While both are accomplished professionals and offer something in their own right, neither has the ability to progress the ball in the final third and are limited as creators. The addition of Rabiot and Ramsey will go a long way in the final third without sacrificing defensive solidity, and is a good first step at rectifying the midfield.

Without counting excessive signing-on fees and agent bonuses involved in these deals, their acquisitions don’t take away from Juve’s existing budget, allowing them to bolster their side further. In recent times, Juventus have emerged as front-runners for Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, and are ready to table a 70 million euros bid for the defender. In addition, they are also offering the Dutchman 12 million euros a season, in order to fend off interest from PSG and Barcelona.

While de Ligt’s signing may not be directly linked to Rabiot and Ramsey’s arrivals, these free transfers definitely allowed Juventus to reallocate their budget towards the Dutchman and make him a priority once the opportunity presented itself.

Considering Manchester United are demanding upwards of 120 million euros for Pogba, and Lotito is playing hard-ball over the Serbian international, adding Rabiot on a bosman may prove to be the injection Juve needed in the midfield. After all, if it means they can also sign de Ligt, one of Europe’s elite defenders in addition to two midfielders, who says no?

It appears that Juventus, for the first time in four years, will be able to field a complete midfield capable of going toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite. And if de Ligt just happens to be behind them, all the better for Sarri and co.

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Barcelona need De Jong influence in De Ligt deal

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La Liga champions FC Barcelona are becoming increasingly concerned that their deal for Ajax skipper Matthijs De Ligt has derailed, due to interest from rival clubs in the teenage defender.

De Ligt enjoyed a fine season at the heart of the Dutch side’s defence, as they secured the domestic double, and reached the Champions League semi final stage.

However he has been clear in his preference to move on from the Johan Cruyff Arena this summer, with a queue of top sides looking to gain an edge in the race to sign him.

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De Ligt is right to delay the decision on his future

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At just 19 years of age, Ajax’s Matthijs De Ligt has already shown himself to be a true leader of men.

Mature beyond his years, he commands his team with the authority of someone much older.

But the fact is that he’s still a kid.

And FC Barcelona will do well to remember that in the immediate future, whilst the player makes the most important decision of his professional career.

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Is Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt really worth €400,000 a week?

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Death and taxes are two things certain in this life, the other is Ajax selling their best players before they have got full use of them. Frankie de Jong is already a Barcelona player and it seems almost certain that Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt will be leaving in the summer.

French champions PSG have emerged as the forerunners to buy the player and they have reportedly made an offer of around €60m euros to Ajax with future add on’s for the young prospect. It doesn’t stop there though and PSG have reportedly offered de Ligt wages of 400,000 euros a week. This is a stunning amount and PSG obviously mean business if this is indeed true. It seems like it is as when the news broke PSG did not rush to deny it.

But let’s take a few steps back here and ask is de Ligt a player that most of us had not heard of at the beginning of the season worth so much?

True Ajax have just won the Dutch league and followed that up with the cup and it is true that de Ligt has had a good season. With Ajax in the league he was part of a defence that conceded 29 goals all season and kept 15 clean sheets.

But what has really turned PSG and other European superpowers onto the 19 year old was his performances in the Champions League. His team knocked out Real Madrid who had won the competition for 3 years running and then ended Cristiano Ronaldo’s dream by dumping out Juventus. However they couldn’t overcome a passionate Tottenham side who beat them on the away goal rule. Therein lies a problem.

And the problem is a normal one- de Ligt for all his greatness is still a teenager and is still sometimes naïve. He has a tendency to make basic errors- that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good defender, but one should question the money that PSG want to offer Ajax for a player who hasn’t won anything out of the Dutch league and is still so young.

Of course PSG’s answer would be that he will only get better- but surely that is the risk at stake. True everything does point to de Ligt having a fantastic future in football. He is currently captain of Ajax, which in itself is stunning given his age and he is now a regular starter for the Netherlands. And yet it could still not work out as it should for the player.

PSG have laid down a marker and that amount of wages per week has made de Ligt sit up and think. Think because it is fairly obvious that he has Barcelona or Real Madrid more on his mind than PSG. But will he take the money? Both Barca and Madrid one would feel are unlikely to offer de Ligt that type of money at 19- but then again in the world of football who really knows?

 

 

 

Four possible summer transfers for Barcelona

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There’s still three weeks to go before the summer transfer window officially opens, but that hasn’t stopped all of the major European clubs either announcing deals or positioning themselves to do so as soon as it hits midnight on June 30.

Barcelona have already secured Frenkie De Jong from Ajax, and after a string of world class performances since the announcement was made, it already looks like the Catalans are getting a bargain, and a player who is ready made for their midfield.

He won’t be the only new player to ply his trade at the Camp Nou next season, however, so let’s take a look at four more who are being rumoured to be wearing Blaugrana in 2019/20. Continue reading