Juventus have enjoyed another excellent season, building an eight-point lead in Serie A while making their way to the semi-final of the Europa League. Still hoping to reach the final—to be held in their own stadium—Antonio Conte’s men are on the verge of some truly historical achievements.
While Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez—who this week ended his European goal drought—have been excellent, there remains an inescapable feeling that the Bianconeri are still missing something in attack. The new front pairing may have added 32 league goals in their debut campaign on the peninsula, but the manner of their Champions League exit in December only compounds that belief.
Despite leading all Italian sides in terms of shots on target with 5.9 per game according to stats site WhoScored.com, the same source shows no fewer than nine teams across Europe’s top-five leagues manage more. As such, links to numerous attacking players have never been too far away, with names such as Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic (per FootballItalia) constantly rumoured to be of interest.
Over the past week however, another name has come to the fore and in looking at both the player and Juve’s needs, it makes much more sense for all concerned. Writing on his own website on Wednesday, Gianluca Di Marzio stated that Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez "would gladly accept" a move to Turin this summer.
The highly respected Italian expert went on to add that the transfer ban placed upon the Catalan giants might prevent a deal being agreed, noting that their inability to bring a replacement to Camp Nou could scupper a potential switch. But a day later, FIFA announced (per Reuters) that they would suspend that punishment—imposed for breaching rules on the international transfer of foreign under-18 players—until the end of the appeal process.
That would appear to open the exit door for the Chilean attacker, who has rarely featured in the biggest matches unless it has been as a substitute. He has still weighed in with 17 goals and 10 assists, trailing only Lionel Messi in his contribution to the Barcelona attack, and he is developing into the player many believed he could be at Udinese.
Juventus were interested in him then too, losing out to the Spanish side and were fully aware of just how good the 25-year-old truly was. He showed ambition in choosing the continent’s premier side, telling reporters in Italy that he had "a fire burning inside me, desperate to prove I'm a top player." (via Sports Illustrated).
Three seasons on, the former River Plate star has notched 45 goals and 34 assists in 137 appearances, and many see him as the perfect fit for the Italian champions. Former Juve striker Fabrizio Ravanelli thinks Sanchez can help the Bianconeri improve and compete with the very best sides, telling TuttoMercatoWeb (via FootballItalia):
He would definitely be the right man for Antonio Conte’s team, to have him in attack alongside Tevez and Llorente would be fantastic. Obviously, playing at such a high level with Barcelona these past few years is a real help, they’re not just any team.
I believe he’s the right man because over the last three years he’s amassed a wealth of experience in Europe. Juve can make that next step with someone like Sanchez.
Either out wide or in a central position behind a striker, it is easy to imagine the unpredictability of the Chilean could indeed do just that. While Juventus have a number of top players, the pace and direct style of Sanchez are qualities that no member of Conte’s squad possesses.
He couples that attacking intent with a solid defensive contribution, WhoScored showing his 1.6 tackles and 0.4 interceptions per game are higher than the same figures for notorious workaholic Tevez (1.0 and 0.2 respectively). His effortless grace as he glides by defenders and slides the ball either into the net or to a team-mate would be an incredible addition to an already formidable attacking line-up in Turin.
While rumours may link other more likely targets—notably continued interest in Paris Saint-Germain’s Jeremy Menez—for the summer, the Bianconeri have a real chance to make a statement when the transfer window reopens. Alexis Sanchez could prove to be the perfect man to help the Old Lady take a giant step forward, and Juventus should do everything they can to ensure it happens.