Manchester United's Patrice Evra: A Smart Signing for Juventus

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistJuly 15, 2014

France's Patrice Evra smiles during  a press conference at the Teatro Pedro II, in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014. France plays in group E of the 2014 Brazil soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
David Vincent/Associated Press

While there are many transfer rumours and stories surrounding Juventus currently circulating—the most reliable of which are wrapped up here—some appear much more realistic than others. Selling Arturo Vidal to Manchester United seems nonsensical for the Turin club, but signing Patrice Evra could be the exact opposite.

When links to the French defender first surfaced, per the Gianluca Di Marzio website, he was available on a free transfer as his Manchester United contract was set to expire. However, a clause in his contract (h/t Manchester Evening News) meant he was handed an automatic extension to his deal, forcing any interested club to pay a fee.

Many people—including myself in the tweet below—wondered aloud about the wisdom of such a move, but that scepticism was looking from a United perspective rather than that of the Italian champions.

Now the move seems almost complete, with Sky Italia reporting a contract was signed over the weekend (h/t Football Italia), and the time seems right to take the opposing view and judge the benefits of Juve signing Evra.

The 33-year-old played eight seasons for the Premier League side, never playing fewer than 40 games in a single campaign since establishing himself as a regular in 2007. Even last term, he made 41 appearances, none of which came from the bench, and played four matches at the World Cup for France.

His defensive contribution during 2013-14 remained as steadfast as ever, stats site showing he averaged 2.4 tackles, 1.5 interceptions and 5.5 clearances per game. The same source shows only Wayne Rooney recorded a higher average rating among the club’s first-team regulars, indicative of his consistent performances.

Despite a desperate season under David Moyes, Evra handled the pressure well, keeping cool as United were forced onto the back foot for the first time in many years. With teams confident to attack an ailing side, shows he committed just 31 fouls and received only two yellow cards.

Patrice Evra 2013-14
Patrice Evra

His speedy attacking forays may decline over the coming years, but having notched two goals and four assists last term, Evra also displayed attributes that will serve him well as his pace slows with age. While WhoScored shows his pass completion rate of 83.5 percent was his worst since 2010-11, the quality of the Dakar-born star’s crossing vastly improved.

Connecting with 28 of his 130 attempts (a respectable 21.5 percent), the former Monaco defender could supply a valuable source of crosses for the renowned aerial ability of Fernando Llorente at Juventus. He will also provide an orthodox left-back option for Conte as he looks to shift formations in Europe.

With the coach expected to switch to a 4-3-3 to make a better impact on the Champions League, Evra could be vital in both frameworks. That could prove essential midway through next term, as Kwadwo Asamoah heads for the African Cup of Nations to represent Ghana.

It is not just on the field where the Manchester United man can help the Bianconeri however, with his leadership qualities an intangible benefit for the Turin club. A player Sir Alex Ferguson labelled “a terrific captain - a terrific professional," per ESPN, Evra can help guide an relatively inexperienced squad in Europe’s top competition.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 08:  Carlos Tevez of Manchester United is congratulated by team mate Patrice Evra (R) after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Derby County at Old Trafford o
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

While Andrea Pirlo and former team-mate Carlos Tevez have tasted Champions League success, very few others have enjoyed deep runs in the competition, and Evra’s accomplishments speak for themselves.

A former captain of both club and country, he is unlikely to ever do so at Juve, who are able to rely upon the brilliant Gigi Buffon to skipper the side. That will not deter Evra, who delivered what Franck Ribery described as “a man’s speech,” (per the Daily Mail) at half-time of a crucial World Cup qualifier last September.

After five games without a victory or a single goal, France were a goal down away to Belarus when Evra delivered a rousing dressing-room team talk. His side rallied to win 4-2, and the player himself told reporters recently he need not be the captain to take on such responsibilities.

“I did not need the armband to do my work in the dressing room and on the field,” he said at a press conference during the World Cup (h/t Guardian Sport), highlighting a growing maturity in his approach to the game.

For all those qualities, both on and off the pitch, acquiring a wise and experienced Patrice Evra could prove to be a very shrewd move by Juventus.