No Bendtner, No Problem? - The Search For Juve's Next Striker

Valerio Pennicino

Bendtner's injury during the last Coppa Italia match will rule him out for the next two to three months. Adding recovery time to that, the only possible conclusion is that the big Dane won't be playing for Juve ever again. So where do we go from here?

The signing of Nicklas Bendtner (an average player at best) last summer makes it clear that Juventus needs five strikers for three competitions. This is not uncommon, most clubs have at least that many strikers and sometimes even more depending on the squad's formation. Last summer, after securing Giovinco's signature, Marotta tried to get a good quality striker, he tried Cavani, Jovetic, Van Persie, and for one reason or another it wasn't to be. He even hijacked Berbatov from Fiorentina's nose to then be handed the same treatment by Fulham. In the end, and to the displeasure of most fans, he recruited Nicklas Bendtner. The only thing that allowed our DS to save some face was the low cost of the whole operation.

Regardless of how we feel about Nicklas, the reality is that Juventus needs an extra player up front. An expensive option is pretty much off the table; no club is going to let the Cavanis and Higuains leave mid season. This leaves Juventus with two options: 1) bringing in a younger player (either from loan or the Primavera) or 2) buying an older player with a contract expiring or one who is unsettled at his club.

I believe Marotta will be looking at these three things when deciding who to bring:

1) Low cost
2) Experience in Europe
3) Content with being on the bench but willing to challenge other players for a starting spot.

Why these three criteria? Because that is exactly what Bendtner is and who Juventus are trying to replace.

Young players

Although Padovan and Bonatini are doing well with the Primavera they are hardly what Juventus needs over the next few months. They will be a low cost option, but their lack of experience in professional football (never mind in Europe) means we won't see these players as first team members in the spring of 2013.

The other types of young players are the ones we have on loan at the moment. The ones that come to mind are Immobile, Boakye, and Gabbiadini.

Boakye is the youngest of the three and the player with most success at the moment. In other words, he isn't leaving his current club in January.

Gabbiadini has played 13 matches to date (7 as substitute) scoring three goals and assisting one. Although he was used as a substitute at the beginning of the season he appears to be gaining his coach's trust. Since mid October he has started all matches except for one. More than his current numbers, the fact that he scored a goal against Inter last weekend made him an instantaneous fan favorite.

Immobile has seen significantly more playing time than Gabbiadini. He has been a substitute only three times this season and has played in every single match to date. His tally of four goals and one assist are not nearly as impressive as his 28 goals in 2011-2012. However, I believe this has more to do with the quality of the opposition and the quality of the team around him than a reflection of his ability in front of goal. Being part of the Juve Primavera a few years ago, Ciro is also a fan favorite. With that being said, if he puts Inter to the sword next weekend he will achieve rock star status immediately.

Between Manolo and Ciro, the latter seems more likely to move to Juve. Ciro knows the environment and the demands of the club. More importantly, he has trained under Conte at Siena in 2010-2011 (for half a season) and during pre-season with Juve last year. He will also be welcomed by most fans as a promising alternative to our front line.

Two issues with Immobile are his lack of European experience and the fact that Genoa is likely to need him if they plan to avoid relegation this term. Also, he is likely to be our 4th or 5th choice striker meaning he won't see much of the pitch. If he wants more playing time he will need to displace one of Quagliarella, Giovinco, or Vucinic. Is he up to the challenge? Absolutely.

Older players

There are a few older players out there with European experience. The ones that come to mind are Villa, Huntelaar, Llorente. and Drogba. It is likely that Marotta will try to deal with these players first before resorting to the likes of Immobile, or, heaven forbid, Floro Flores.

Llorente is likely to remain at Bilbao until June. It makes no sense to me but if Urrutia chooses to be insane, then so be it. Huntelaar is more likely to move in January and has many clubs vying for his signature. More recently his agent stated that Huntelaar will welcome a move to Inter in what I can only imagine is a ploy to raise his price. The issue with the Dutchman is that he won't be able to play in Europe. With that being said, Bendtner was unlikely to feature in Europe anyway so it may not matter too much for Beppe or Conte. The other issue with Huntelaar is that he may not be willing to spend a significant amount of time on the bench. That is not necessarily bad if he is willing to push our current strikers and himself to higher levels.

The rumors about David Vila are picking up momentum lately. The rumor is a loan until June with Barca paying part of his salary. The downside is that the Spanish will not be available for Europe. Just as with Huntelaar this may not be as big of an issue. In essence the Spaniard will be used to give Giovinco and Vucinic rest before or after European matches. El Guaje is a great striker (he has averaged approximately 0.5 goals/match for the last 10 years) and at 31 years of age, he has plenty to offer. And who knows, maybe just like Martin Caceres he will leave Cataunya, fall in love with Juve, and make the move permanent over the summer. Now I am getting carried away.

Drogba is the oldest of the bunch, but also the best. How much will he help with defense is hard to say, however, if Conte can make Pirlo tackle, then it is not impossible that by the end of the year Drogba may be the new Cannavaro. The wrinkle with Drogba is his salary. It is no secret that if he moves to Juventus he will have to take a paycut, but even then he will cost a lot more than Bendtner. The rumors out there are that Drogba wants 2.5m per season until 2015 which is too much money for too long. Half of that for the remainder of the season with the option of renewing for an extra year for 2 - 2.5m would be fair. Something in the middle of those two extremes may provide for a final agreement. The only thing that is clear is that both Juventus and Drogba are still a few talks away from reaching an agreement if any.

It is also worth noting that any of these older players will come at a cost/salary that may prevent other players from being signed in the summer. If we have Vucinic, Giovinco, Matri, Quagliarella, and Llorente/Drogba/Huntelaar, it is unlikely Marotta will buy another striker without selling one of Matri or Quagliarella. This may prove a difficult and lengthy task which may condition our summer market.

My pick

I would hate to condition our market next summer because of Huntelaar or Llorente. Don't get me wrong, they are both decent players but far from what Juventus really needs. Drogba would be ideal but only on a short loan with an option to renew. Although this is unlikely to happen, securing Drogba's signature will undoubtedly help Juventus go farther in Champions League, thus improving the clubs finances and future spending plans.

If not Drogba under those conditions I think it is time to bring Immobile home. He may not have European experience but he will be replacing Bendtner who was unlikely to play in Europe. He will not condition the market, he knows Conte and the club and has more goals than Vucinic and Matri combined. Yes, he has played more than Matri but he also plays in Genoa. Still unsure? Remember what Immobile accomplished last year playing for a dominant team that gave him plenty of scoring opportunities. Lastly he is young and can improve immensely, Huntellaar and Llorente are essentially the finished product.

____________________________________________

After Quagliarella's injury in 2010, Marotta was faced with the task of replacing our best striker at the time. Two years later he is faced with the challenge to replace our 4th/5th choice striker. There are many options at his disposal, of which Didier Drogba, Ciro Immobile and David Villa to a lesser extent, represent the better alternatives for the Old Lady. On the one hand, if Drogba can carry a mediocre Chelsea to European glory, can you imagine what he can do for this Juventus? On the other hand, there is a young promising 22 year old who has done everything right to deserve some playing time wearing black and white. Immobile is no Drogba but he certainly has what it takes to become a good striker, and who knows, maybe even a world class one. He may not be the top striker we are looking for but can anyone honestly say that Immobile is not an improvement over Bendtner?

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