Scouting Juventus Transfer Target Iker Muniain

Jack Alexandros Rathborn@@jackrathbornContributor IIIDecember 18, 2013

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 4:  Iker Muniain of Athletic Club in action during the UEFA Europa League group stage match between AC Sparta Praha and Athletic Club held on October 4, 2012 at the Stadion Letna in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Michal Cizek/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

Juventus were knocked back somewhat by the circumstances surrounding their Champions League defeat to Galatasaray, and it is clear that Antonio Conte and the board are plotting a better method to attack European football next season.

The 3-5-2 has come under criticism for its effectiveness to translate from Serie A to Europe's prestigious competition, which appears to have been taken on board after failure to qualify from the group stage this season.

A 4-3-3 is a system that has been floated, but it is difficult to facilitate a smooth transition to this formation with the current personnel.

So, a wide player, or somebody who is apt at committing defenders and making things happen in the final third, is required to help the Bianconeri to become more versatile when they venture outside of Italy.

Iker Muniain has surfaced as a target, with Mundo Deportivo (via Football Italia) reporting that the Spaniard could arrive as early as January.

Athletic Club are notorious for their stubbornness to negotiate a transfer fee for their players and tend to only sell when the buyout clause in their contracts is met, which means the Old Lady will need to fork out the hefty sum of €38 million for the services of the 21-year-old.

Muniain shot to prominence two seasons ago when Athletic exploded under Marcelo Bielsa's tutelage to reach the final of both the Copa del Rey and the Europa League.

Last season was a mediocre one personally for Muniain, who, just like the vast majority of the players and the coach, failed to live up to the standards set during the 2011-12 campaign.

Bielsa departed and Ernesto Valverde arrived, which has brought optimism to a club beginning a new era after moving stadium last summer to the new San Mamés.

Football Radar's La Liga analyst and Athletic fan, William Abbs (@WilliamAbbs), accurately depicts the player's recent form under the new manager:

Iker Muniain Primera Division Statistics

"He's still predominantly used on the left of the front three, with licence to dribble infield, but Valverde is keen for him to reproduce his goalscoring form for the U21s at club level so he's played behind the main striker a few times."

Interestingly then, Muniain's preferred role from the left-wing would give Conte a specialist wide player to facilitate his move to a 4-3-3 on occasion, especially in the 4-3-3, something that could be experimented within the Europa League if the player was to arrive in January.

Moreover, if Conte continues with the 3-5-2 in Serie A, Muniain could be utilised in behind Carlos Tevez, ensuring there is a better transition from midfield to attack and relieving the pressure on Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba to burst past the attack and arrive into the penalty area.

Muniain would probably encounter some teething problems, despite a degree of experience and familiarity with both probable roles he would take up under Conte.

But his natural game would diversify Juve's attacking game, especially as the Bianconeri tend to be so dominant in possession but lack that player who can penetrate the opposition's back line with a burst of speed or a mazy dribble.

There are areas in Muniain's game that would need improving, though, with Abbs highlighting his finishing and final ball as being "erratic," but given his youth, that is to be expected.

More of a concern for Juve could be the player's attitude, with Abbs emphasising his "temperament is questionable sometimes, but that's more to do with letting opponents wind him up than shirking his own duties on the pitch."

Serie A is one of the toughest leagues in Europe, in terms of exposing the opposition's defence, and there are countless examples where defenders attempt to psychologically defeat attackers or force them to get themselves sent off.

With the buyout clause so steep, we can expect Juve to mull over the decision over the next few weeks, weighing up his exceptional talent and unique set of skills against his character and consistency.

Having seen the 3-5-2 fail to crack Europe this season, it is logical that Juve should pursue a player of Muniain's ilk, and with his ability to play behind a striker from what we've seen when he plays with La Rojita, he is a player who can be utilised in a number of ways.

At just 21 years old, it is an educated investment given that the player's stock will not plunge massively if the move fails to be a success.

"When on song, he has the ability to get fans off their seats," Abbs notes, and that is evidently something that Juve lack somewhat at this stage of Conte's reign.

Pogba could potentially fall under this bracket, but the Bianconeri are crying out for that individual magic that can turn the tide in the tightest of games, and Muniain could just be that man.


*All quotes obtained firsthand.


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