There’s a new name in transfer tittle-tattle, and it isn’t likely to go away any time soon.
Leicester City’s remarkable, ridiculous Premier League title success—yes, you didn’t dream it—might have been achieved thanks to a strong team ethic and manager Claudio Ranieri’s decision to largely stick with the same selections week after week, but with UEFA Champions League football on the horizon, things are going to have to change.
The Foxes are going to have to broaden their squad, and their new lofty status as English champions means that the names they are going to be linked to will only get more glamorous. This is where Juventus come in.
The Italian champions for the fifth time in succession—about as different to Leicester as it is possible to be—are likely to see some comings and goings this summer. Juan Cuadrado could go back to Chelsea following the expiration of his loan spell, there remain rumours about Alvaro Morata returning to Real Madrid (h/t ESPN) and Paul Pogba is a name in the transfer news every week.
What, then, of Simone Zaza? Where does he fit into all this?
It could be that those possible departures open the door for a man who arrived in Turin last summer but has often struggled for game time, outshone by the likes of Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Morata, but that won’t stop the rumours.
According to Metro, who cite reports in Italy, the nine-time capped Italy international is on Ranieri’s wish list, with a move to bring in another forward to ease the workload of Jamie Vardy apparently one of the key objectives of the Leicester manager’s summer.
Ranieri, who was Juventus boss between 2007 and 2009 and has also managed eight other Italian clubs, obviously has impeccable contacts in his homeland—you all saw Andrea Bocelli—and it would be no surprise if that was where the Foxes’ summer recruitment drive was centred.
And in Zaza he’d be getting a very good player, one who perhaps strives to be trusted in the manner that he was during goal-filled loan spells in the lower leagues at Viareggio and Ascoli earlier in his career and then his two seasons at Sassuolo when his all-round game matured and he managed 21 goals in 69 appearances.
A striker of stature and standing, he would perhaps expect to be seen as an upgrade on Leonardo Ulloa should he join the Foxes, giving Ranieri more of an opportunity to field a front two should he so wish. But there remains a caveat, namely that Juventus probably don’t want to sell him.
And why would they? Zaza has shown that he is adept at influencing the game from the bench this season, most recently when scoring after coming on in the 2-0 win over Carpi earlier this month.
But coming off that bench has become second nature for him. Only five of his 18 Serie A appearances this season have been from the start, something that—as he turns 25 next month—he can’t allow to carry on for much longer.
Uncertain of his place in the Italy squad for Euro 2016 at a time when Luca Toni’s retirement has emphasised the dearth of quality strikers available to Italy manager Antonio Conte, Zaza could look at the success of Graziano Pelle—perhaps Italy’s first-choice No. 9—in England and hope to follow suit.
No one leaves Juventus easily, but if he were to push for a move away this summer, Italian football’s Old Lady would be being somewhat heartless if she didn’t listen, especially given the fact the club will hope to attract a big-name signing in an attempt to make a better fist of challenging for the Champions League.
Zaza would be an asset they could afford to lose, and should Leicester—or any other club for that matter—come in with a bid of around £15 million up to £20 million, then they should seriously consider it given the current market.
It might be tough to say goodbye, but it could be in the best interests of both player and club.