If Patrice Evra’s move to Juventus was supposed to be the perfect opportunity for the left-back to quietly wind down his career as he entered his mid-30s, then no one told his new team-mates.
Far from playing the odd game in a Serie A, which is more technically gifted and less physically intense than a Premier League he had just left behind after nine years with Manchester United, Evra found himself heavily involved in Juve’s run to the Champions League final—all in a year his former club had failed to qualify for the competition.
Once in Berlin, though, the Frenchman found that his new club’s stunning run was to have its downside.
Barcelona’s impressive final display and 3-1 victory in the German capital meant that Evra is now the only man to have lost four different Champions League finals and the only one to have lost finals with three different clubs.
It is a statistic he could do without, to be honest, but as he enters the second year of his two-year contract in Turin, that winding down of a successful career could be about to come to pass.
The reason? Juve’s apparently imminent signing of the Porto and sometime Brazil left-back Alex Sandro, who is about to sign a five-year contract in Turin, according to TalkSPORT, and who looks like the perfect replacement for Evra on the left side of the Juve defence.
The route from Brazil to European football's top level via Porto is a well-trodden one by now, and Sandro looks to be just the latest to traverse it.
An ever-present in his club’s run to the Champions League quarter-finals last season—playing every minute of every game—Sandro’s is a name that has been and will be recognisable to seasoned European football watchers ever since his switch from Santos in his native Brazil to Porto in 2011.
Four seasons of development both at the summit of the Portuguese league and in European competitions would now seem set to garner the rewards that so many players from that club have received in the past, and at 24 he is the perfect age and fit for a Juve side who need to replace Evra, who is a decade Sandro’s senior.
Yet having both around at the club for a year would seem to be the logical option for Massimiliano Allegri.
Over his spell at Manchester United, Evra proved himself to be one of the most adept full-backs in the modern game at combining his attacking instincts with his defensive strengths—something that far too many players in that position seem incapable of doing as they prioritise one over the other.
A training-ground education in that would do wonders for Sandro, who also needs to improve upon his discipline given his 28 yellow cards for Porto over the last two seasons.
Perhaps it is that aspect of his game that has held back his international career, given that he’s only won six caps for Brazil, but in truth it has always been difficult for him to usurp the ever-improving Real Madrid man Marcelo from the left-back position.
This move could help him achieve that and help Juventus add another element to a side which looks well set to again be the best in Serie A this season despite numerous summer changes.
With Stephan Lichtsteiner in place on the right flank, Sandro would offer a similar attacking threat down the left, while also being able to tuck in and play as one of the three centre-backs should Allegri decide that that is the system that is called for.
If Evra’s signing was a stopgap one—the simple jamming of another experienced and proven player into a squad which was full of them—then Sandro’s is one for the present and the future.
The Frenchman can help with that development, and while ultimately it’ll be down to Sandro whether he stands or falls in Turin, the signs are that Evra can fade off into the sunset knowing that his place in the team will be in good hands.