We're one week removed from the start of the January transfer window, so it's time for another edition of Fact or Fiction, where we look at the hottest transfer rumours that surround the Bianconeri and determine whether these deals could happen.
Juventus enjoyed a fantastic year in 2012, winning the Serie A title and qualifying from a difficult UEFA Champions League group, and the team will go into 2013 with a comfortable lead in the Italian League and a good chance of making a deep run in the UCL.
As a result, there aren't many holes that need to be filled. The injury to Giorgio Chiellini has made the depth along the back line a little thin, so an extra centre-back would be a welcome addition. Adding young talent is always a good thing, and a prolific striker would really push the Bianconeri to the top.
January signings are always a bit tricky. New players have to adapt to foreign environments and new systems, and because signings are often made due to holes on a roster that desperately need to be plugged, teams will often have to overpay to get their guy.
Because of this, I don't believe that Juventus will be making a lot of signings in January. The past summer window was very fruitful for Antonio Conte and his team, and the team is looking too good to merit a big spending spree.
OK, let's review the rumours. Fact means a deal would be possible, not that a deal is a certainty.
Zenit St. Petersburg's Nicolas Lombaerts is the latest star defender being linked to the Bianconeri, according to Sport Express (via Goal.com), but you'll hear more and more reports surface on big-name defenders that could join the team in the coming days.
You can dismiss all of them.
There are three very good reasons why Antonio Conte will not be signing a star defender to fortify his back line. First and foremost, Chiellini's injury will not sideline the Italy international until the end of the season. He's a top-five defender in all of world football who will reclaim his position on the field as soon as he's healthy. No star defender will join Juve knowing he'll be relegated to the bench in two months.
Martin Caceres is a more-than-capable backup who's already shown he can step in and play both the LCB and the RCB positions, so there is no point in spending big on a player that isn't really needed. Juventus are in a good financial position, but they don't have the luxury to throw €10 million or more at a defender they don't really need.
Finally, nearly every top team in Europe uses a formation that incorporates four players on the back line.
Every top team, except for Juventus. Any new arrival would need time to adapt to Juve's 3-5-2 and would most likely not be able to start right away. By the time this new defender learns all of the intricacies of the three-man back line, Chiellini will be ready to start again.
Giuseppe Marotta and Antonio Conte have been saying for weeks that they're not interested in signing Didier Drogba, but the reports just won't go away. Football-Italia.net claims Italian papers have reported that a deal for the former Chelsea man is very close.
Conte's words could be smoke and mirrors, but I sincerely doubt Juventus would truly be interested in bringing in Drogba. I'd refer you to another piece I wrote a few weeks back, courtesy of SoccerWithoutLimits.com, for an in-depth analysis of why this deal would make little sense, but I'll give you a quick summary here.
Drogba would be a temporary solution for Juventus' biggest problem: a true-class goal-scorer. Given his advanced age, there is no way to know how long his body would be able to cope with the Serie A's aggressive defending.
The Ivorian is set to defend his country at the African Cup of Nations, so the team would have to miss their new striker for the first six weeks, and Drogba would most likely need some time to recover from the hard playing schedule such a tournament presents.
And then there's the character issues. Drogba isn't a bad person, but he does have an explosive character and wouldn't likely fit into Juve's locker room that is built on good behaviour, team spirit and the willingness to put the team ahead of everything.
The Llorente-to-Juventus rumours seem to have gone a bit quiet in the past two weeks, but as Goal.com reported earlier this week, both parties are still interested and are set to begin talks as soon as the January transfer window opens.
In the past three months, we've seen sources claim a deal was already on the table (Goal.com), Llorente telling his agent only to deal with the Bianconeri (via AS.com, h/t SoccerNews.com) and Marotta preparing a wage offer that would make the Spaniard one of the team's highest-paid players (Daily Mail).
But none of these rumours were ever confirmed, and reports have since surfaced claiming Llorente wants to make the move to the Premier League (AS.com).
That's a lot of reports right there. Welcome to the glorious age of Twitter.
There is no way of telling what's on Llorente's mind right now, or where he wants to take his talents. What we can do is look at the situation.
Llorente is going to walk at the end of the season, so Athletic Bilbao have very little choice but to sell now. Team officials might have said they don't plan on giving in to their star player's demands, but a team like Bilbao can't afford to say no against the offer in the €6 million to €8 million range that will surely be made in January, whether it's by Juve, Arsenal or Tottenham Hotspur.
Juventus still present Llorente with the best situation any striker could wish for: one of the world's best midfield groups, providing an excellent feed to the guys up front, and solid play on the wing that will fire in cross after cross for the tall Spaniard to work with.
Ah, British tabloids. They never disappoint.
Now, I really like Lampard as a player, and because of this, I can't see this deal happening. With Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio running Juve's midfield and Paul Pogba waiting in the wings, there would be very little room for a guy like Lampard to get some serious playing time.
Lampard is simply too good to spend the next two seasons sitting on Juve's bench.
If Chelsea are serious about letting one of their most popular players walk (which I doubt) there will be at least 15 Premier League teams interested in the services of the former England international. That includes top teams like Arsenal and Manchester United, who could use a guy like Lampard.
There is no reason for Lampard to leave England for a spot on the Bianconeri bench. An adventure in the Major League Soccer is another matter, but he won't be coming to Turin.
I've been very vocal about my disapproval of a potential deal that would bring Theo Walcott to Turin, and I still don't believe the winger would make the move.
TalkSport.co.uk reports the Bianconeri have already prepared a deal to bring the contract rebel to Juventus, and too much ink has flown on this topic for the interest of Conte not to be true.
So yes, I'm making a 180-degree turn. I still don't want Walcott in Turin, and I still believe he'll pick a team from his native country of England, but Juve's interest is genuine.
Walcott wants to play as a true striker, and even though I believe his best position is out on the wing, he would not make for a bad fit in Juve's 3-5-2, playing alongside a bigger, more physical striker like Mirko Vucinic. Walcott could alternate with Sebastian Giovinco, and with Juventus competing on three fronts (Serie A, Coppa d'Italia and UCL) having depth like that is a massive advantage.
We've also seen Juventus alter their formation during games to a 4-3-3 in recent weeks, and Walcott would bring the versatility of being able to play up front in the 3-5-2 and dropping back into his natural position on the wing without skipping a beat.
This article talked about five big name players that have been linked with Juventus, of which two could realistically make the move to Turin in January.
Here's my prediction: neither will.
The January transfer window is a blessing for teams that have clear needs on their roster—and a curse for pretty much everyone else.
Fans of Juventus have been begging for Conte to bring in a class striker during the winter break, but all he'd be buying would be a forward that either isn't wanted by another team or a player that feels like he's entitled to force the hands of his coaching staff into selling him. On top of that, you'll be paying double because it's January.
That's not how the Bianconeri do business.
Antonio Conte and Giuseppe Marotta have shown in the past that they have an excellent eye for under-the-radar talent and youngsters that could blossom into class players, and I expect Juventus to make two or three signings that fall into this category. Look for a veteran defender that can provide some depth on the back line and one or two additional players that will leave everyone scratching their heads.
As for the big names: I wouldn't hold my breath. The team is already in excellent form and one could argue no big signings are needed. The summer transfer window is the time to take care of that.
Later this week, we'll be looking at some under-the-radar signings Juventus should contemplate making. Be sure to check back regularly for all the transfer news surrounding the Bianconeri!
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