Juventus: Breaking Down the Bianconeri Stars of Tomorrow
Juventus are something of an enigma in today's football world.
There's no Middle-Eastern sugar daddies or Russian oil tycoons pumping millions of dollars into the club. No eye-popping transfers that shift the landscape of Italian football. The Bianconeri have a great youth system, but unlike its counterpart in Catalonia, you hardly ever hear from it.
And yet, Juventus find themselves at the top of Italian football once again in 2012, and the future looks very bright.
This is because the team does an excellent job of pairing veteran players with young talents who have been groomed for stardom for many years, either with the Primavera or on loan in the lower divisions.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of those young talents, and get acquainted with the future of Juventus.
Hailed as "The Next Buffon," Nicola Leali (19) is a very talented goalkeeper currently on loan with Virtus Lanciano in Serie B. He also represents Italy at the U19 level.
Leali has excellent size for the position, standing 6' 2". He has very good reflexes, and showcases tremendous vision and positioning for such a young player.
What Leali needs to work on is his technique and ability in the air.
As you can see in the video, he tries very hard not to give up any rebounds, but he needs to learn you can't catch everything. Great goalkeepers, like Gianluigi Buffon, block out balls to the side of the goal or into open space away from the goal to prevent the ball ending up at the feet of opposing strikers.
Leali uses his open hands on nearly every ball, which showcases confidence and sound technique, but some shots need to be punched away.
Leali is very mature for his age, and will most likely join the senior squad next year as Buffon's backup.
He is seen as Buffon's heir for many at Juve, and has the potential to be starting for the senior squad in five years.
I would have added the entire match Juventus played against Milan in July, but who has time to watch all of that?
Watch the video, or the full game if you will, and try and determine which of the Juventus defenders had never played at the Serie A level before, and had only joined the team less than two weeks prior.
If you didn't know football, you'd say it was Lucio (who looked old, sluggish and generally horrible).
Allow me to introduce Alberto Masi. At 19, Juventus bought half of his shares from Serie B side Pro Vercelli during the summer, and played him at the Trofeo Tim Cup in Bari against Inter and Ac Milan.
Three weeks later, they bought him outright.
I might be skeptical of Leali and his status as "The Next Buffon'", but when they call Masi "The Next Nesta" I can only agree. He just belongs on the field.
He has vision, pace, power and a maturity light-years beyond what you'd expect from someone who can't even order a beer yet. He lacks experience, but that only comes with time and playing minutes.
Juventus sent him on loan back to Pro Vercelli, probably because they expected something out of Lucio. But with his talent, I think there's no chance he's not with the team next year. He looks like a natural fit to replace Barzagli in the 3-5-2, and could already be considered a better option than Leonardo Bonucci.
Disclaimer: I didn't just pick this video because of Dick Dale. Even though it certainly didn't hurt.
Luca Marrone might be seeing a lot of minutes at centre-back this season, but his best position is still at centre-midfield.
Marrone (22) came up through the Juventus youth system, and fans have been waiting for his truly big chance to impress for years.
Known for his crisp passing and vision on the pitch, Marrone has slowly evolved into a very reliable option as a defensive midfielder. He has a knack for scoring with his head, and can be very disruptive to the build-up of opposing teams.
Comparable to Roma's Daniele De Rossi, fans can only hope he develops into a player of similar class. While it seems like a long-shot for him to crack the MVP midfield (Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo), he has the right initials and the play to back it up. And so does this next guy...
After a very long transfer saga, I'm going to assume Paul Pogba (19) needs no introduction to the Bianconeri faithful.
Sir Alex Ferguson is probably still fuming over losing such a player, and rightly so.
The French youth international transferred to Juventus after not seeing not enough playing time with Manchester United, and he has already earned rave reviews during his short time in Turin.
Playing in central midfield, he plays the game like a commander leading his troops. A very good tackler with sound technique and a thunderous shot, he is often compared to Patrick Vieira, but in the Bianconeri's 3-5-2, he seems like a very good fit to replace Arturo Vidal.
Look for Pogba to receive more minutes as the season goes on and the strain of Champions League football takes its toll on the MVP midfield.
Expect him to assume Vidal's position when he bolts for one of his many suitors in the next two years.
Currently on loan to Brescia, Ouasim Bouy (19) is a Dutch youth international that signed with the club last winter.
Playing in midfield, he was regarded as the biggest talent in Holland, before making a controversial surprise move to Juventus. If you're ever in Amsterdam, avoid talking about Buoy at all cost.
Buoy is a perfect example of a box-to-box midfielder that is as adept at scoring as he is at playing the ugly game in the trenches. He has very good leadership and that typical Dutch confidence that some may confuse with arrogance.
Buoy has a very bright future, but he is still a few years away from making an impact with the senior squad. If he can remain patient and work for his chance, the sky is the limit for this young player.
Gabriel Appelt Pires
Regulars player of FIFA 13 have probably heard of Gabriel Appelt Pires (19) by now.
The Brazilian wünderkind and his older brother joined Juventus in April of last year, and Gabriel is currently on loan with Pro Vercelli, along with Alberto Masi.
Appelt plays with a lot of poise and loves to have the ball at his feet. He has a very good technique that he likes to show off, but he doesn't dribble for the dribble, but rather dribbles only when necessary.
He's very good at looking for the simplest solution and letting the ball do the work. Because of this, scouts like to compare him with compatriot and current Real Madrid player Kaká.
If he can work on his scoring abilities, he will be a beloved player in Turin for many years.
Earlier this week, Talksport.co.uk revealed that Manchester United had taken up a keen interest in signing Richmond Boakye (19).
In other words, a team that boasts possibly the deepest strike-force in modern football (Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernández and Danny Welbeck, just to name a few) wants to sign a youngster that was loaned out to Sassuolo by the most striker-depraved team in the Serie A?
The Ghanaian joined the club this summer in a co-ownership deal with Genoa and has been lights out for Serie B side Sassuolo since the start of the season.
Fast, strong and very adept at scoring goals, Boakye might be the most talented striker currently employed by the Bianconeri, and could challenge for a spot on the bench as early as next year.
He is very good at being in the right place at the right time, and should thrive next to an attacker that can hold the ball, like Mirko Vucinic.
There is no way Juventus lets a young talent at a position of need walk away just like that, so look for Juventus to activate Boakye for the senior squad next year, if only to convince him to stay in Turin.