X

3 Juventus Players with Points to Prove in Pre-Season

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistJune 23, 2016

Juventus' Ivorian midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah (R) celebrates with his teammate Stephan Lichtsteiner after scoring during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Chievo Verona at Juventus Stadium in Turin on February 16, 2014.  AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO        (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Despite having now won the Serie A title for five consecutive seasons, it seems Juventus are not satisfied with their current status and are determined to continue to make an already dominant side even better.

They have begun to do just that, signing versatile midfielder Miralem Pjanic from rivals AS Roma. As discussed in this previous post, the Bosnia international should provide coach Massimiliano Allegri with a wealth of tactical options.

JuventusFC @juventusfcen

OFFICIAL: @Miralem_Pjanic signs for Juventus on a five-year deal: https://t.co/GtSJ7YRJIW #WelcomeMiralem https://t.co/yWdymAGn4i

Yet the Bianconeri boss has made it clear he expects even more from those already at the club, using a recent interview with Uno Mattina to explain what he demands from the squad ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.

“This team is hard to improve, so the way we must do it is by improving individual players,” Allegri said (h/t Forza Italian Football), because “improving by buying players from other teams is difficult for us.”

With that in mind, what follows is a look at three players who will—with their immediate futures arguably as yet undecided—return for pre-season training with a point to prove to both the coach and the club.

Switzerland's defender Stephan Lichtsteiner kicks the ball during the Euro 2016 group A football match between Switzerland and France at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille on June 19, 2016. / AFP / FRANCK FIFE        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/
FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Stephan Lichtsteiner

In the coming weeks, Juventus are expected to announce the signing of Barcelona right-back Dani Alves, after AS, Cadena Ser, Sky Sport Italia and a number of other outlets (h/t Football Italia) reported that the 33-year-old will sign a two-year contract with the Old Lady.

The Brazil international’s current deal contains a clause that allows him to leave Camp Nou on a free transfer, making his arrival yet another impressive acquisition for the Bianconeri. Alves will bring some much-needed Champions League experience to the squad, but the transfer will also cause Stephan Lichtsteiner’s role to be questioned.

Adam Digby @Adz77

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

The Switzerland defender has—as this previous post explains—been a vital member of Juve’s recent dominance, but he will now face a real challenge to his place in the club’s regular starting XI for the first time since his arrival from Lazio in 2011.

Reports in Italy (h/t Rob Pollard of the Manchester Evening News) have identified Lichtsteiner as a potential target for both Manchester City and Chelsea, but he is expected to return to Turin and fight for his place in the side.

Juventus' midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah from Ghana (L) fights for the ball with Carpi's midfielder Marco Crimi during the Italian Serie A football match Juventus Vs Carpi on May 1, 2016 at the 'Juventus Stadium' in Turin.  / AFP / MARCO BERTORELLO        (Pho
MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

Kwadwo Asamoah

If Lichtsteiner is facing a battle to remain in Allegri’s first-choice line-up, then Kwadwo Asamoah is arguably going to have to prove he still has a place in the squad at all. The last two years have been extremely difficult for the Ghana international, who has quickly gone from being an important member of the team to a bit-part player.

Arriving from Udinese back in July 2012, he played no fewer than 83 games in his first two seasons with the Old Lady as former boss Antonio Conte converted him from an all-action midfielder into a hugely effective wing-back.

JuventusFC @juventusfcen

Curious to know what this goal has to do with @Asabob20's interview today? Read it in full: https://t.co/tWZ60O0BSf https://t.co/OHDXX7yNBI

A combination of powerful running and diligent defending saw him control the left flank with ease, weighing in with four goals and nine assists over those two campaigns, including the stunning effort above against Fiorentina back in March 2014.

His play helped to clinch two league titles, and Asamoah was also voted into the Serie A Team of the Year in 2014 in recognition of his stellar contribution. But since then, he has suffered two injury-hit seasons, making just 16 starts in all competitions since the end of the 2013/14 season.

Kwadwo Asamoah 2015/16
Kwadwo Asamoah 2015/16squawka.com

He has failed to score a goal in that intervening period, adding just two assists as his ineffectiveness and inactivity saw a plethora of other players move above him in Coach Allegri’s plans.

The arrival of Alex Sandro and Patrice Evra meant Asamoah is no longer in contention for a left-back berth, while the likes of Mario Lemina, Pjanic and Sami Khedira have made playing time in midfield equally scarce.

Juventus' Italian midfielder Stefano Sturaro celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match between Juventus and Bayern Munich at the Juventus Stadium in Turin on February 23, 2016.  AFP PHOTO / OLIVI
OLIVIER MORIN/Getty Images

Stefano Sturaro

It seems odd to include a promising young player like Stefano Sturaro on the list, particularly after an impressive first 18 months in Turin have culminated in the midfielder travelling to France as part of Italy’s Euro 2016 squad.

The 23-year-old has shown that he belongs at a club of Juve’s stature, playing with an intelligence and maturity of a much older player. Making 28 appearances in all competitions this term, he scored two goals, with the one shown below helping the Bianconeri draw 2-2 with Bayern Munich back in March.

According to statistics taken from WhoScored.com, he recorded an average of 1.7 tackles, 0.7 interceptions and connected with 74.5 percent of his 23.2 pass attempts per game in 2015/16, a solid effort from a player still learning what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

“All players at Juventus are champions and champions of the future,” Sturaro told Juventus TV last November (h/t Forza Italian Football), and recent events seem set to push him into a far greater role next season.

Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia) reported that Juventus will allow Simone Padoin to join Cagliari for the 2016/17 campaign, with many in Turin feeling emotional after cutting ties with a player who has been at the club for almost five years.

Juventus' defender Leonardo Bonucci (L) celebrates after scoring with Juventus' midfielder Simone Padoin on February 7, 2015 during an Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs. AC Milan at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.  AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO
MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

Leonardo Bonucci took to his official Instagram account (h/t Football Italia) to thank “Pado” and call him “a great player, a great man” before going on to explain just what his veteran team-mate brought to the squad.

“Never late, never missed a training session, never held back, every day always the first to arrive, always at everyone’s disposal and an important man for our group,” Bonucci continued. “Next time we meet it will be as adversaries, but nothing will cancel out the many trophies we won together.”

Signing for Juventus from Atalanta back in January 2012, Padoin made just 35 league starts for the Old Lady and his contributions on the field barely registered, but he has clearly made a good impression on those who worked alongside him.

Often sent on as a late substitute to see out a victory, it is likely that Sturaro will now get those minutes at the end of games; he is the most defensive midfielder among those who remain in Turin.

LYON, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Stefano Sturaro of Italy stands on the pitch on the eve of their UEFA Euro 2016 Group E match against Belgium at Stade de Lyon on June 12, 2016 in Lyon, France.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

He will need to play with the same professionalism and diligence that Padoin guaranteed, and he must show from the moment he returns to pre-season training that he is ready to work hard and help those around him.

It seems he has already won over Allegri, however, with the Juve boss mentioning him as one of the two players he enjoyed helping to develop over the course of last season during a press conference back at the start of May:

I’d like to stay at Juve for another 10, 20 years. Maybe not 20, as I’d like to retire before I’m senile. When you are at a big club, you have to bring results and win. Then there are my own personal satisfactions as a Coach, which is to see players improve technically and in every aspect of their game.

For instance, Stefano Sturaro, Paulo Dybala and others give me satisfaction when I see them learn and improve in technical terms.

Given the impact Dybala made last term, that is good company for Sturaro, who must—like Asamoah and Lichtsteiner—show just how good he can be once the club’s pre-season training camp gets under way.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.