While Juventus will rightly take much confidence from their second-leg showing against Bayern Munich, perhaps the most shocking aspect to their UEFA Champions League exit was the poor performance of Patrice Evra.
The French international full-back was at fault for two goals scored by the Bundesliga giants, perhaps showing that his time at the highest level is coming to an end. While the former Manchester United defender still has much to offer, it is fortunate that the Bianconeri have already secured a long-term replacement.
Signing Alex Sandro to a five-year contract back in August, Juve’s official website revealed that they paid FC Porto a fee of €26 million for the Brazilian who had first landed in Europe back in 2011. He had established himself as a resolute defender and a superb attacking outlet with the Portuguese side, going on to make 135 club appearances but suffering a stop-start international career.
Sandro was a member of the Brazil youth teams that won the 2011 FIFA Under-20 World Cup—and the under-23 side which clinched a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London—before earning his first full cap in November 2011.
By September the following year he had made six appearances for the Selecao, but since then has not played a single minute more. Missing the 2014 World Cup and last summer’s Copa America, his place at left-back had been filled by Real Madrid’s Marcelo, Maxwell of Paris Saint-Germain or Atletico Madrid’s Filipe Luis over the intervening years.
Yet earlier this month, coach Dunga included Sandro in his 23-man squad for the World Cup qualifying clashes with Uruguay and Paraguay, per FourFourTwo. His form for Juventus has undoubtedly led to that recall, with the Catanduva native quickly settling into life on the Italian peninsula.
Netting two goals in his 27 appearances for the Bianconeri, Sandro has also contributed four vital assists, including passes to lay on winning goals against AC Milan, Manchester City and cross-town rivals Torino.
According to statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, only Paulo Dybala (63) and Paul Pogba (36) have created more goalscoring chances than Sandro’s tally of 35, while his average of 1.9 completed dribbles per game is the fourth-highest among the current Juve squad behind Pogba (2.9), Juan Cuadrado (2.5) and Dybala (2.3).
Sandro has also continued to be impressive defensively, with the same source showing he has made an average of 1.5 tackles, 1.9 interceptions and 1.5 clearances per outing this term while connecting with 83 percent of his 33.4 pass attempts per game.
Speaking in an interview with the club’s in-house television station JTV last week, the man himself is convinced that Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri deserves major credit for the improvements in his game.
“He’s a coach that demands the very best from all of us and this is what allows us to keep growing,” Sandro said (h/t Juventus.com), before going on to discuss how representing the Bianconeri had already become important to him.
“Wearing this shirt comes with a real responsibility,” the 25-year-old added. “It’s a privilege to represent this club and all the fans. I’m learning a lot here and this has been an extremely valuable season for me.”
Now, with the 2016 Centennial Copa America—a celebration of the CONMEBOL and Copa America centenary—scheduled to be held in the United States this June, Sandro’s attention is certain to turn to the pride of wearing Brazil’s famous gold shirt.
His play for the Old Lady has already led to that aforementioned recall from Dunga, which is why Alex Sandro is likely to be the Juventus player who will make the international leap over the next 12 months.