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Stephan Lichtsteiner Vital to Juventus Despite Potential Signing of Dani Alves

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistJune 18, 2016

MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 09:  Stephan Lichtsteiner of Juventus FC reacts to a missed chance during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Juventus FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on April 9, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Winning is just what Juventus do. For five consecutive seasons, the grand Old Lady of Italian football has once again established herself as the nation’s dominant side, lifting the Serie A title at the end of each campaign.

The last two years saw her also add the Coppa Italia for good measure, demolishing various domestic rivals along the way. In 2014/15, the Bianconeri reached the final of the UEFA Champions League, too, and the club are undoubtedly focused on tasting even greater glory in the continent’s elite competition as soon as possible.

“We have a dream of winning the Champions League, and we all want to realise it,” coach Massimiliano Allegri told RAI television recently (h/t ESPN FC). It seems the Juventus hierarchy are intent on helping him achieve that aim.

Juventus' coach from Italy Massimiliano Allegri kisses the trophy after winning the Italian Tim Cup final football match AC Milan vs Juventus on May 21, 2016 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.  Juventus won 0-1 in the extra time.     AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI
TIZIANA FABI/Getty Images

While this week saw their official website announce the capture of AS Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic, various reports have also linked them with a move for Brazil international wing-back Dani Alves of Barcelona.

According to AS, Cadena Ser, Sky Sport Italia and a number of other outlets (h/t Football Italia), the 33-year-old will sign a two-year contract with Juventus, as his current contract contains a clause that allows him to leave Camp Nou on a free transfer.

He needs little introduction, winning six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns during eight trophy-laden years with the Catalan giants, while his former national team boss believes a move to Serie A could see him shine even more brightly.

“Italian football is very tactical, but very beautiful,” Dunga told a recent press conference. “With Dani Alves' mentality, he will certainly do very well at Juventus. He is a player accustomed to winning, and Juventus will make a strong team to win the Champions League because the Italians demand it.”

Barcelona's Brazilian defender Dani Alves acknowledges the crowd during celebrations at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on May 23, 2016 following their Spanish 'Copa del Rey' (King's Cup) final football match 2-0 victory over Sevilla FC yesterday also m
JOSEP LAGO/Getty Images

Yet despite this seemingly impending arrival, the Brazil native cannot expect to walk straight into Allegri’s regular starting XI. Standing in his way will be Stephan Lichtsteiner, another right-back who knows what it takes to win trophies regularly and certainly a man who will not concede his place easily.

The Switzerland international arrived at Juventus back in July 2011, the Bianconeri paying his former club Lazio a fee of €10 million to bring him to Turin, per Goal.com. It has proven to be superb value for money, securing a reliably consistent performer who has delivered his very best every time he steps on the field.

A haul of five Serie A titles, three Supercoppa Italiana and two Coppa Italia winners’ medals have now been added to his collection and the man dubbed the “Swiss Express” has made 196 appearances in all competitions.

Adam Digby @Adz77

Love this @LichtsteinerSte video "Lo Swiss Express" from @juventusfcen #SUI https://t.co/5PH92uQL5l

He has managed 14 goals in that same period, while also chipping in a respectable 19 assists. Clearly that is some way behind the attacking contribution Alves has produced at Barcelona, and his impact going forward is obviously far greater that Lichtsteiner’s.

Offering a perfect blend of energy, tenacity and intelligence, he made his debut in the club’s first game at Juventus Stadium, netting the first-ever competitive goal there following a delightful pass from Andrea Pirlo.

Their connection would be a common theme of their time together, although Lichtsteiner downplayed his own role in it. “It’s a question of timing,” he told The Independent when asked about that goal. “But it helps that Andrea is an amazing player!”

La Maglia Bianconera @La_Bianconera

11/09/2011 - Il giorno della rinascita! Quando iniziammo a ristabilire il giusto corso della storia! Sul campo... http://t.co/sz7H5Py3Im

Yet compared to those who had played at right-back before him in Turin, the Swiss star would prove to be just that, too, as a role once occupied by the likes of Lillian Thuram became a long-standing void.

Following the retirement of Ciro Ferrara, Thuram subsequently moved into the centre of defence and a string of sub-standard players failed to impress Juventus supporters. Cristian Zenoni, Jonathan Zebina and Zdenek Grygera were collectively poor, while Marco Motta was a complete disaster following his own €5 million move in 2010.

Just over a year later, those disappointments were firmly forgotten. Able to play as either a wing-back in Juve’s hallmark 3-5-2 formation or an orthodox full-back in a four-man defence, Lichtsteiner has been one of the most reliable members of the team during their recent dominant run.

Marco E.A. Tumanduk @M_R_C7

#FinoAllaFine #ForzaJUVE 🔲 🇮🇹 "@TransfersCalcio: GOAL Lichtsteiner! Great ball from Pogba. @borussia 1-1 Juventus https://t.co/lp7dSXNA8F

He suffered something of a scare earlier this season, an awkward fall against Frosinone back in September leading to the discovery of what the club’s official website described as “a benign cardiac arrhythmia” or atrial flutter.

The 32-year-old underwent surgery to correct that problem, returning—and scoring the goal shown above—in a Champions League clash with Borussia Monchengladbach exactly one month later. Refusing to let concerns over his health weigh negatively on him as the season drew to a close, he told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia):

It made me understand that you've got to enjoy every moment. We're under pressure and we must win all the time, but we often forget the pleasure of taking to the pitch. We don't enjoy the simple things in life. We can achieve anything, but we mustn't forget that things change from one moment to the next.

Making 37 appearances in all competitions, he raised his performances in the Champions League with figures taken from WhoScored.com showing Lichtsteiner averaged 1.3 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 1.8 clearances.

It was not enough to prevent Juve’s last-16 exit at the hands of Bayern Munich however, much to his dismay. Speaking to Paddy Agnew of World Soccer recently, the veteran defender insisted his side “played really well” and “could have gone a long way” in that competition.

Stephan Lichsteiner 2015/16
Stephan Lichsteiner 2015/16squawka.com

It is here where Alves is expected to make a difference for the Bianconeri, but Lichtsteiner’s ability to grind down Serie A opponents will still be essential, as will his contribution to the winning mentality found throughout Allegri’s squad.

Indeed, the Old Lady was only able to clinch the Scudetto this season by reeling off a sequence of 25 victories and one draw in 26 consecutive games from October 31, much to the Adligenswil native’s delight.

Juventus' German midfielder Sami Khedira (C) and Juventus' Swiss defender Stephan Lichtsteiner (R) take part in a training session on March 15, 2016 at the Juventus Training Center in Vinovo, near Turin on the eve of the UEFA Champions League football mat
MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

When we had just 12 points, and all those quality sides in front of us, well I didn’t really think we could win the title,” he continued in that aforementioned World Soccer interview. “In the end, though, we stuck at it and we won…we pulled off an impossible sequence of wins.”

Only Gigi Buffon, Claudio Marchisio, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli have been with the club for longer than Lichtsteiner, and his role as both motivator and vitriolic leader cannot be denied.

Dani Alves may bring a sharper attacking impetus and a more trophy-laden resume, but he will quickly discover—as countless opposing wingers have over the last five years—that getting the better of the “Swiss Express” is no easy task.

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