It’s no secret that much of Juventus’ struggles this term have been due to a lack of chemistry in midfield.
Yes, the Bianconeri—despite playing one game fewer than their closest rivals, Roma—sit four points clear at the top of Serie A and topped their Champions League group, but it has not been comfortable.
More than just injuries or the matches they have lost to AC Milan, Genoa and Inter Milan, coach Massimiliano Allegri has struggled to field a central unit that has worked cohesively. Claudio Marchisio, Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic have all done well individually at different times, but each has looked better in a four-man midfield than as part of a trio.
However, that is where the problem has been most evident. Kwadwo Asamoah is sadly a shell of the dynamic player he used to be, Hernanes has only impressed against weak opponents, while Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina still have much to learn.
Juventus spent much of the summer seeking a player to fill that void, with the club’s management clearly aware that a fourth top-class midfielder was essential if the team is to realise its potential.
According to Sky Italia (h/t Football Italia), Blaise Matuidi and Axel Witsel were among those the Turin club attempted to sign. They failed in both cases and will be looking for options in the January transfer window.
As a result of those unsuccessful attempts, and with Juve still needing reinforcements, the club revealed on Thursday that Genoa’s Tomas Rincon had completed a medical with a view to a transfer.
What will he add to the Juventus midfield should the deal go through? The 28-year-old is hardly a prominent name like the club’s previous targets, but that might be a help rather than a hindrance.
There are enough egos and high-profile stars in Allegri’s squad already, and integrating another, particularly in January, would be a tough task. Instead, the Bianconeri will acquire a hardworking player who already possesses Serie A experience and who will need no time to adjust to the culture.
However, supporters of the Italian champions will care little for whether Rincon can order an espresso at his local cafe or know where Crotone is. They simply want to know what he will add to the team and how much he can help correct their issues.
The video above offers a glimpse into the player Juventus want and need: a tough-tackling, tenacious fighter who will push his more technically gifted team-mates to produce their best more often than they have been this season.
Primarily a defensive-minded, box-to-box midfielder, he can fill in at right-back should the need arise. His career path has been slow and steady, playing for three clubs in his native Venezuela before moving to Europe with Hamburg.
Rincon spent five-and-a-half seasons at the Volksparkstadion after arriving in January 2009 and made a lasting impression, as German football expert Daniel Busch explained to Bleacher Report: "He immediately tried to settle in, learn German and got involved with Hamburg and his team-mates. He always trained hard, but HSV never found consistency during his time here, making it difficult for the team to develop something on the pitch.
"Rincon quickly became a fan favourite because of his dedication and hard work on and off the pitch. He was one of the most professional players to have worn the Hamburg shirt in recent years. [He] always gave it [his] all and showed huge passion and identification for the city of Hamburg and HSV."
He moved to Genoa in 2014 and has continued to grow as a player over the last two years. Rincon is a true battler who fights for every ball, meaning it is no surprise that his tally of 40 fouls this term is more than any other player in Serie A, according to WhoScored.com.
Yet he remains an excellent defensive player, capable of making timely interventions to win back possession, bringing a mean-spirited attitude that the Juve midfield perhaps lacks.
Compiled using data from WhoScored.com, the table below shows how Rincon compares to the other midfielders in Allegri’s squad, with none of them making more tackles, headers or clearances per game.
Busch also expressed the view that Rincon "struggled with the ball, especially under pressure." But that is clearly something he has worked on since leaving the Bundesliga for Italy.
Perhaps the most notable difference is in his passing. According to WhoScored.com, Rincon attempted just 26.3 passes per game during his final season at Hamburg and connected with 71.3 per cent of them. But this term, he has made 50.8 passes per game and found a team-mate at an 83.6 per cent clip.
That marked improvement continues in his dribbling, managing just 1.3 take-ons per game in 2013/14 but completing 2.4 last term. According to Squawka, he has maintained a similar rate this season, completing 18 of the 26 take-ons he has attempted while also creating 19 clear scoring opportunities.
There is little doubt that, on the pitch, Juve will sign a different player to the one who left Germany, but Busch is convinced that he has other qualities that can make a difference: "Juve will get a hardworking, down-to-earth player who is a great and dedicated professional and identifies with the club 100 per cent. He's a great team player to have for others to serve as an example, and he's never forgot where he comes from and doesn't take anything for granted.
"He doesn't have the quality to start 40-plus games for Juve, but he could make a significant impact on and off the pitch nonetheless because of his character and strength. As a parallel to his arrival at HSV, he knows how to make a huge step in his career in the middle of a season."
That last part is of huge importance to Juventus, a team clearly in need of a spiritual and emotional lift. A comparison has been made to the arrival of Edgar Davids, which appears to be extremely hyperbolic and portrays Rincon as a much better player than he is.
However, Davids joined Juventus in December 1997, bringing tenacity and venom to a midfield sorely lacking both. That team, much like the current one, was struggling for an identity after selling many of its veteran core and found a solution in a player who failed to impress at AC Milan.
Rincon's nickname, the General, hints at a player who, while lacking the overall quality of the former Ajax star, will bring many of the same attributes as Marcello Lippi’s Pitbull, Davids.
It remains to be seen whether he can emulate Davids' sizeable impact, but Juventus will hope he is the right man to ease their midfield worries.