Juventus: Evaluating How the Bianconeri's Transfer Targets Fulfill Their Needs
Last season, Juventus dominated the Serie A for the third consecutive year but faltered in European competition. A controversial 1-0 loss to Galatasaray sent Juve tumbling from the Champions League to the Europa League. The Bianconeri then came within a goal of reaching the final of the continent's second-tier competition but couldn't break through Benfica's defense in another controversial match in the semifinal.
Looking back on the 2013-14 season, the makeup of the squad became a major concern.
There was massive quality on the team, particularly in the midfield. But the players available to Antonio Conte forced him to almost exclusively use a 3-5-2 system. The setup has dominated Italian competition in the Conte era but has had several crucial weaknesses exposed in European competition.
To succeed in the Champions League Conte needs a squad that can flex between the 3-5-2 and a 4-3-3, which can compensate for the 3-5-2's weaknesses on the wings. Conte experimented with a 4-3-3 against Real Madrid in the Champions League, but playing it regularly wouldn't have brought out the best in his players.
It falls on club director Giuseppe Marotta and the rest of Juve's front office to identify the best players to give Conte the necessary flexibility to compete both at home and abroad.
How have they done so far? Let's take a look at Juve's targets to see who fits best.
Let's start off with one signing that has been confirmed beyond doubt.
Football Italia reported on Monday that Juve's website has officially confirmed the capture of former Paris Saint-Germain youth prospect Kingsley Coman.
Coman's situation is much like that of Paul Pogba's two years ago. He is the youngest player PSG has ever capped at the senior level—he was 16 years, eight months and four days old when he made his debut on February 17, 2013—but has barely found the field since. Last year he only saw the field twice as a substitute for a total of 35 minutes in the league.
Coman is an attacking midfielder much in the mold of Pogba. He is fast, creative and possesses a long-range shot similar to Juve's other young Frenchman. He played well in the inaugural UEFA Youth League, scoring once from the spot in the group stage and driving the midfield forward.
There are no plans yet to loan the player out, which is likely a good decision. Coman can provide vital depth in the midfield. That depth was absent when Antonio Conte was forced to push his side to the limits of their endurance in March and April as injury and suspension decimated his midfield with the Europa League knockout stage at its height.
In a 4-3-3 he would likely slot behind Kwadwo Asamoah as a fifth or sixth option. In a 3-5-2 he could be the second man off the bench if one of Juve's midfield stalwarts falls.
Long-term Coman is a capable replacement if one of Juve's star midfielders like Arturo Vidal or Paul Pogba is sold. Short-term, he will likely be a valuable part of the second team. Antonio Conte's track record with Pogba indicates that Coman will be given a chance in the first team. It will be exciting to see what he can do.
Twenty-one-year-old Stefano Sturaro is another midfielder. The Bianconeri made his capture official a week ago. Sky Sports reported his fee to be €5.5 million.
Another midfielder with a good passing eye, Sturaro needs to improve his discipline—he garnered a whopping seven bookings in 16 matches—and develop a bit further. He has a lot of promise, though, and could eventually stake a place in Juve's midfield.
Sturaro will spend the coming season on loan at Genoa. He's a move for the future—not a filler for an immediate need.
Juve are looking to sure up the forward line, and the uber-talented Morata would be a great addition.
A striker of excellent skill, Morata scored nine times for Real Madrid between the Champions League and La Liga last year despite only starting four games, per WhoScored.
Morata would give Juve valuable depth at the striker position. His presence would allow for Carlos Tevez to play on the right wing while still having an option behind Fernando Llorente that can score a goal at any moment. He would also be an effective option as a starter.
Negotiations continue between Real and Juve for the player. Goal.com reported Monday morning that Morata's agent Juanma Lopez had told Spanish daily AS that his client was "a little closer to Juventus."
Respected Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio reported on his website (in Italian) that Juve had increased their offer from €15 million to €18 million plus bonuses, and that the only holdup was the value of a buyback clause. Finalization of the deal is likely to take a bit longer than originally expected because Real has suspended most of its day-to-day business to mourn the passing of Alfredo Di Stefano.
This is a deal that is likely to happen, and it's a good one for Juve that fills a major need for quality depth behind Llorente and Tevez. Last year's quartet of Mirko Vucinic, Sebastian Giovinco, Fabio Quagliarella and Dani Osvaldo didn't cut it. Morata will likely be more effective than those four combined.
The battle to sign Hellas Verona's Juan Iturbe has seen several contenders, but Juventus seems to have won it.
Football Italia relayed a report from La Gazzetta dello Sport that the gap between Verona's demands and what Juve's willing to pay are now "minimal." The Argentine could be a Juventus player by as early as Wednesday.
Iturbe would be a massive part of the setup next season. One of Juve's biggest needs going into the transfer window was a high-quality winger. Iturbe, who scored eight times and assisted four goals this season, according to WhoScored, has the speed and dribbling ability to be a terror on the attacking right.
He placed second in the Serie A with an average of three successful dribbles per match. He did finish in the top 20 in the more ignoble categories of turnovers and dispossessions but at 21 he has plenty of time to hone his skills.
This deal looks all but done. Verona coach Andrea Mandorlini delivered what amounted to a eulogy on the player's time at Verona on Monday, telling Tuttosport (via Football Italia) that he was the best player he had ever coached and comparing him to a Formula One car. He also indicated that Juve would indeed be Iturbe's destination when he responded to a question about whether the player might clash with his countryman Carlos Tevez by saying "it is for Antonio Conte to address that issue."
At Juve, surrounded by the prodigious talent Conte already has to work with, he could be the elite winger that Juve has needed to relieve pressure on the midfield and allow for some creative abilities up top. With another option on the wing—Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez—likely headed to Arsenal, per Goal.com and Metro (h/t Football Italia) this is the one move that Marotta must make happen.
A combination of Iturbe, Tevez and Llorente could turn into a fearsome attacking trident indeed, and bring Juve toe-to-toe with some of Europe's bigger clubs.
If Juventus is to add a 4-3-3 to their arsenal of weapons, they're going to need a left-back.
The lack of a real option on the left flank was one of the reasons Conte switched to a 3-5-2 midway through his first season with the club. He tried Giorgio Chiellini, who started his career on the left at Fiorentina. While he can play there in a pinch, his stint in the position during Italy's World Cup meeting with England showed that it's not where he belongs anymore. The same goes for Angelo Ogbonna, who played on the left in both games against Real Madrid last season.
With the club finally calling time on its efforts to salvage the career of Paolo De Ceglie, an outside element will be needed to man the defensive left.
The most likely addition to the team would be Patrice Evra. The French international signed a contract extension with Manchester United in May only to see the team acquire Luke Shaw for £27 million. Louis Van Gaal seems to be setting his sights on even more at the position, with Ben Jefferson of the Express reporting that the Red Devils have set their sights on Wolfsburg's Ricardo Rodriguez.
This move would indeed fill a need. The question becomes how well.
Evra is 33 years old, and his game has dropped off notably the last season or two. He is obviously not a permanent solution.
He could make a decent stop-gap, though. The team is likely to make a large expenditure for the likes of Iturbe and Morata this summer. Even given the financial advantages of its palatial stadium and €50 million in European prize money for each of the last two seasons, Juve is hampered by the Italian economic crisis and can only spend so much in a year.
Evra could be a temporary solution until next summer. With a more stable attack and—hopefully—even better revenues from Europe and potential transfer sales, a better and more long-term solution can be brought in then.