Why Marco Verratti and Zlatan Ibrahimovic Should Be Juventus' Main Transfer Aims
With reports in the Italian press that Juventus are on the verge of signing a massive €120 million sponsorship deal with electronics giant Samsung (here in Italian, via Mediaset Sport), there's going to be money to spend this summer in Turin.
Antonio Conte's side have been impressive this season but will want to build ahead of 2013-14's campaign.
The Bianconeri were harshly deemed below par when they lost to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but after seeing how the Bavarians dealt with Barcelona, the world's opinion of Juve's performance was reappraised. Nevertheless, weaknesses remain, and if Conte is to lead this side in a credible European challenge next term, additions must be made.
The spine of the squad is as strong as any, with world-class players like Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal to build around. The defence and midfield are both strong, especially in terms of the starting XI. Perhaps a squad player or two could come in handy, but for the most part the structure is there.
The arrival of Fernando Llorente on a free transfer from Athletic Bilbao also leaves the front line looking a lot healthier. But as Conte shifts out the dead weight like Nicklas Bendtner, there'll certainly be room for one or two more key individuals. So where should Juve be looking?
At the moment, all eyes are on Paris. The big-money allure of a Juve move for Zlatan Ibrahimovic is sports gossip gold, not only because the big Swede is sublimely talented but also because he's often at the centre of controversy. And of course, he left Turin when Juve were relegated in 2006 for bitter rivals Inter.
Zlatan's return to the Old Lady would be unpopular with many, but his goals would soon win the doubters over. And as far as high-profile strikers go, he looks like one of the best options.
Sad though it is, Wayne Rooney looks past it at just 27. Edinson Cavani is too expensive and Luis Suarez too risky.
The Uruguayans are two of the most desirable properties in world football, but both are wrong for Juve.
At €60 million or more, Cavani represents poor value for the sensibly-run Turin outfit. Likewise, the immensely-talented Liverpool forward is rightly regarded as one of the game's most potent forwards—but he's also a massive liability.
Racism, foul play, diving and a couple of infamous biting incidents have dogged Suarez's career, and there's little to suggest he'd clean his act up if he came to Italy. The great Juventus of old were always associated with "Lo stile Juve," the Juve style, and an embarrassment like Suarez up front just wouldn't do.
Ibrahimovic's controversy tends to stay on the safe side—he'll grab headlines and plenty of column inches, but there are unlikely to be lengthy bans or unseemly court cases.
There is another player in Paris that Conte should be looking at, too. Marco Verratti was snapped up by Carlo Ancelotti last summer in what was widely regarded as one of the coups of the summer transfer campaign.
Verratti has impressed in France, but with Ancelotti's future uncertain, the young Italian might wonder if his future might be better served back home in Serie A. He was sublime in his years for Pescara, especially after Zdenek Zeman transformed him into the deep-lying playmaker he is today—a transformation that has led some to compare him to his idol, Mr. Pirlo.
Conte's side looked a lot less intelligent and a lot more cumbersome whenever Pirlo was missing this season, and though the 33-year-old still has much to give, he's not going to be around forever.
Having cover, and a young apprentice for the master, makes good sense for a club that plans to compete on all fronts next year. With the domestic titles, European competition and international duty, Pirlo's ageing body will have its work cut out for it. Having someone there to pick up the slack would safeguard his form and fitness.
Extremely gifted players in that deep role are hard to come across, so snapping up Verratti now would be a shrewd investment for the post-Pirlo future.
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