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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Sarri analyzes the Inter friendly

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Juventus beat Inter on penalties on Wednesday, with Matthijs De Ligt scoring an own goal and Cristiano Ronaldo finding the net on a free kick with the help of a deflection. Gianluigi Buffon then denied three opponents in the shout-out. Here is how Maurizio Sarri commented: “De Ligt was part of the portion of the game where we played worst and he has no responsibility in that, while Cristiano Ronaldo had the usual high-quality performance. I sense that we can improve a lot in the offensive plays, especially velocity-wise, which would enhance him even further.”

On the progress compared to the Tottenham outing: “All things considered, we had a similar display, since we had a subpar rhythm in the first half, where we struggled to defend with a high center of gravity and we tracked back. 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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Juventus resumes training and Sarri’s staff finalized

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Juventus practiced yesterday for the first time under Maurizio Sarri and was almost at full force, as only Cristiano Ronaldo and Blaise Matuidi will join later since they went deep in Nations League. There were no healthy scratches, so no sale is really imminent and nobody has been frozen out. Few players had a differentiated program due to injuries: Mattia Perin, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, Wojciech Szczesny and Sami Khedira, who went under the knife for knee clean-ups, Marko Pjaca, who tore his ACL in March, Aaron Ramsey, who suffered a thigh strain late in the year at Arsenal, and Douglas Costa, whose issue is unclear. Only Perin and Pjaca are in danger of missing time at the beginning of next season. 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?

Sarri elaborates on his ideas

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Coach Maurizio Sarri gave an interview to the club’s TV today: “My first impression was that I realized that I arrived at a very important club. I had the fortune of working at Chelsea last season, which emerged in recent years, but the history is different and way longer here. Then the people do the rest: I have seen a tight, streamlined and coherent group of executives with a strong mentality.”

On English football: “I had weighed a lot last year’s choice, it was an extraordinary experience. In this moment, Premier League, in terms of visibility, is the most important and richest championship in the world, the technical level is extremely high, the infrastructure is amazing and the atmosphere in the stadiums is fantastic. Serie A has been left behind, we hope to improve and to go back to being what we were 20 years ago: the reference point in the whole football word.” Continue reading

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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Opinion: Sarri a coherent but risky choice

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The Maurizio Sarri era officially started earlier this week so it is time to revisit the club’s choice to part ways with Massimiliano Allegri and appoint the former Napoli and Chelsea boss. If the management wanted to benefit from the spark provided by a new approach, then the decision is sound because Sarri is as different as possible from his predecessor, without making an appointment that is too out of the box.

Starting from their personalities, the current manager can often come off as gruff, while Allegri was surely way more personable and wittier. That is neither here or there when it comes to winning on the pitch, but it is a first glaring thing that sets them apart. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading