5 Young Talents Ready to Step Up at Juventus Next Season
It has been an incredible campaign for Juventus, on track for an all-time record number of points following Monday’s win over Atalanta. Even before kickoff in that match, Roma’s surprising loss to Catania on Sunday had ensured they had already clinched their third consecutive league title, a historic achievement La Madama had not managed since the 1930s.
As such, it is inevitable that talk has already turned to next season and the changes that may be made to the Bianconeri squad, with the club management seeking players who can lift the team to the next level. Rumours of players like Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, via Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, and Jeremy Menez of Paris Saint-Germain, via the Swiss press (h/t Football Italia), grow stronger every day, but perhaps many of the options needed are already on the Juve books.
The Turin giants own—or at least co-own—many of the brightest talents on the peninsula, and over the following pages, there are five youngsters listed who could help the Old Lady in 2014-15.
For clarification, players over the age of 21 were excluded, ruling out names like Ciro Immobile, Luca Marrone, Manolo Gabbiadini and Simone Zaza.
1. Nicola Leali
One spot which could be filled by a young player with almost no effect on the team is that of third-choice goalkeeper, a role currently filled by Rubinho. The 31-year-old has been with the club since August 2012, making just one substitute appearance after the title was sealed last season.
Bringing back Nicola Leali is one option for that role. Leali joined the club slightly before Rubinho but has spent the last two seasons away on loan. Recognised as a future star after two excellent seasons with Brescia, he has slowly begun to mature into a definite prospect during spells with Lanciano and Spezia.
His current club sit seventh in Serie B, and despite conceding 36 goals in 33 matches, he has improved a number of flaws in his game whilst with the Aquilotti. Perhaps the most notable was the weakness in his punches, often giving strikers a second chance after making a save and not giving defenders time to help protect the goal.
Already a commanding presence in the box, the 6’4” 21-year-old now deals with those shots much better, and he would certainly benefit from regularly training alongside the likes of Gigi Buffon and Marco Storari.
2. Daniele Rugani
With Andrea Barzagli clearly starting to feel the effects of playing to such a high level at his age, replacing the former Palermo and Wolfsburg defender is no easy task. Injuries have limited the 32-year-old to just 25 league appearances this term, and while Martin Caceres is a superb deputy, adding another player capable of playing on the right side of the back three should be something of a priority in the coming months.
Once again, Juve may possess an in-house solution, with 19-year-old Daniele Rugani blossoming into one of the finest young stoppers on the peninsula. Currently back on loan with former club Empoli, he has impressed this season, making his Italy U-21 debut—and getting on the scoresheet in the process—against Northern Ireland in March.
Standing 1.88 metres tall (6′3″), Rugani has been blessed with the perfect attributes to play at the heart of defence and has even featured at right-back this term. Already able to compete physically thanks to a solid build, impressive quickness and superb aerial ability, the Lucca native has rapidly improved his technical skills over the past two seasons.
Playing last year on loan with the Bianconeri youth team helped with his tackling and passing—both previously seen as weaknesses—as it forced him to adjust to retaining possession and building the play just as Antonio Conte’s side do. Having twice been an unused substitute for the first team, Rugani made quite an impression on the Juve coach.
3. Pol Garcia
While the right side of defence may need help, the opposite flank appears to be in perfect health. Giorgio Chiellini and Angelo Ogbonna provide complete assurance for Conte, with Federico Peluso a third option should one be needed.
Yet Pol Garcia, a 19-year-old Spaniard, perhaps would improve the overall quality of the squad and give the former Barcelona defender much more room to grow. A cultured, left-footed player who is extremely comfortable in possession, he can surely do no worse than Peluso, who is among the least talented players in the squad.
4. Ouasim Bouy
If Peluso’s place at Juventus is questioned, then the same must be said of Simone Padoin, the central midfielder managing just six starts this term. Luca Marrone, currently in a co-ownership deal with Sassuolo, is the perfect replacement, and then Ouasim Bouy is perhaps the most viable young alternative.
The 20-year-old left Ajax for Turin in January 2012, signing as a free agent after his contract with Ajax expired. Bouy has developed into a fine left-footed central midfielder who was at his best pushing forward to create for those ahead of him, although he is still very raw.
A ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee slowed his progress, but all the signs are there that he could become a talented backup in Juve’s star-studded midfield.
5. Domenico Berardi
If the other players on this list are ready for reserve roles, perhaps Domenico Berardi is the one youngster owned by Juventus who could make a giant leap in 2014-15. The 19-year-old announced his arrival on the Serie A scene as he netted four goals past Milan in January, a performance which firmly grabbed the world’s attention.
Luckily for the Bianconeri, they had snatched him in a co-ownership deal last summer, securing a stake in a pacy, left-footed winger who prefers to play on the right flank. There, he could provide an interesting option, allowing the club to field a 4-3-3 formation with him alongside Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente.
With 13 goals and three assists in his debut top-flight campaign, his speed, directness and tactical versatility could well be the final piece to complete Conte’s otherwise unstoppable Juventus.