It is crunch time. Three days until the mercato closes, and Juventus are still looking for their striker. By the looks our last official matches, the Supercoppa and the Parma games, the team is looking strong, albeit still lacking physical form. The other thing that Juve are lacking is a natural goal scorer. It comes as no surprise that a wingback and a central midfielder scored the goals for Juve, while Genoa, Fiorentina, Inter and Napoli had strikers getting in their respective score sheets.
So what can we expect in the forward department?
Last Saturday, Marotta made it clear that he would like to add one more striker. He also made it clear that it is hard to find a striker at a price that Juventus can afford. However, if you believe the rumors, it seems like our DS has it narrowed down to four
So who are these players? (No surprises here). And most importantly, what can they bring to Juve? Find out after the break.
Most teams that play with two forwards in three competitions have 5 strikers, in fact, most English clubs that play with a 4-4-2, have 5 strikers and a youngster in their official roster. At the moment, Juventus has Vucinic, Matri, Quagliarella, and Giovinco and of course a number of primavera players. So, math dictates that Juve are going to bring one more player without selling any of the forwards.
Why you ask?
Take next week's Udinese game. Juve are probably going to play with Vucinic and Matri in attack. If that doesn't work, we only have Quagliarella to get us out of trouble. So, a new striker is a must, even if it is Borriello (that line was harder to write than I thought).
Let's take a quick look at the candidates:
Stevan Jovetic. I think my love for the Montenegrin has been well documented in the comments section of this blog and on the Offside. Out of the players that we have been linked with, he is the most promising. He is only 22 and already has an impressive career. The world started to take notice of his talent a couple of years ago when he, single-handedly, almost took Bayern Munich out of the Champions League. Afterwards came his season long injury which turned-off many suitors. However, last season's performance showed that the kid still has it and is ready for the big stage.
The Price: It is rumored that Fiorentina will only let Jovetic go if Marotta shows up with 30m cash at their doorstep. It was rumored that Marotta already tried the 30m angle with no luck yet. The catch is that if Jovetic is transferred, it would leave Fiorentina with the same mathematical problem as Juve, that is, they would be one player short with the market rapidly closing. So, it is not unreasonable that Quagliarella could be included in the deal (i.e. 25m+Quagliarella). Juve could then make a deal for a low-cost option such as a Borriello loan to make-up the numbers on our side.
The Pros: Jovetic is a young, up-and-coming player, with the ability to become one of the world's best. Although he has mostly been deployed as a seconda punta, he can play as a striker as well. Just like Giovinco, Jovetic does not give reference points to the opposition defense. Lastly, not only is he familiar with Serie A, but he has also played with Vucinic. This should make his acclimatization to Juventus that much faster, something that can't be underestimated at this time in the transfer market.
The Cons: I see two things against him. The first one is obviously his price-tag. If Juventus indeed come up with anything close to €30m (or over), it would be the largest investment in the Agnelli era. The second issue is his position in the Conte system. Considering Vucinic has a guaranteed spot, if Jovetic proves to be worth his price tag, Giovinco would become the substitute he has always been at Juve.
Fernando Llorente. The 27-year-old Spanish player is the oldest of the "top players" linked with the club. With his contract expiring next year, Athletic Bilbao and Llorente are in a tough spot. If he chooses to stay, he will spend the next year in the center of a hostile environment. The risk for the club is even larger, as they would keep a disgruntled player and loose over 10m in less than 12 months. Selling Llorente then seems like the most reasonable thing to do. However, it appears as though Zamparini and De Laurentis have competition in the Craziest-Football-President competition, as Urrutia - the Athletic Bilbao president - is determined to keep the player under all circumstances, even if it means economically damaging the team.
On our end, if Llorente were to come, Juventus would end up with a highly-rated prima punta. Standing at 1.95m (6 ft. 5 in. for those of you still using this archaic system), Llorente has a killer header, shows good movement in the area, and has shown that at least in Spain, he can be a nightmare for any defense. His 29 goals last season (17 in La Liga, 5 in Copa del Rey, and 7 in Europe) should be an indication of the type of player he is. You want more numbers? He was the 6th top scorer in la Liga behind Messi, Ronaldo, Falcao, Higuain, and Benzema. All players who are well beyond our reach.
The Price: Here is the major sticking point. Juventus have apparently offered between €16m and €18m. Athletic Bilbao demand his 36m rescission clause. If they keep this hard line, it is hard to believe that Llorente would move anywhere. I doubt even Manchester City will be willing to pay that much cash.
The Pros: Llorente is what Juventus needs - a natural goal scorer. In addition, he is not a selfish striker, If his price is below €20m, it would be a solid deal for the Bianconeri.
The Cons: Any dollar amount over €20m would be a con for me. His lack of Serie A experience is a little concerning, his lack of top-flight experience is even more worrisome. Yes, he has played for Spain, but never in the protagonist role which would be his if he moved to Turin.
Edin Dzeko. For me, a champion is someone who has won something of value in their life. It is not just about being a good player, but about delivering when the times get tough. Enter Edin Dzeko. Although he is not the most renowned player of his generation, he has won a Bundesliga, a Premier League, a FA Cup, and the Community Shield. If you think he didn't play as big a part in City's Premier League tittle, I would say that his 14 goals in 28 matches beg to differ. If you think he is static, I would say so was Borriello, and Conte still preferred him over Matri (the more mobile option). Lastly, I am a big fan of bringing players with something to prove. Dzeko would be just that, and if we happen to face City in the Champions League, he would ensure they regret letting him leave.
The Price: Dzeko's price has not been as widely discussed as the aforementioned players. Man. City just bought him for 26m one year and a half ago. Considering amortization, his value is around €15m. Of course City will never let him go for that price but anything over 15m would represent an economic gain for the club. With this in mind, I think if Marotta puts €22m on the table, City would let him leave. Of course, if City buy a new striker, they would be that much more likely to let Dzeko leave during this transfer window, but the clock is ticking.
The Pros: At 26, he is younger than Llorente. Also, his ability to deliver under pressure can't be underestimated. Lastly, out of all the players Juventus have been linked with, he has one of the highest goal/game ratio with almost one goal every 2 games. Also, until I wrote this article I thought Dzeko was a selfish player, however his assists say otherwise. In the last three years he has 9, 6, and 11 assists respectively. Compared to Llorente's 4, 2, and 5.
The Cons: His salary is rumored to be as high as €4m. Because most of our players make a lot less than that, Juventus would be unlikely to give him a contract extension with improved wages over the next few years. He also doesn't know the league, or speak the language.
Oscar Cardozo. I have to admit that I know little about him. He is 29, from Paraguay, plays for Benfica,
he likes long long walks on the beach. Never mind. At one goal every 1.6 matches, his game to goal ratio is better than Dzeko's. Last year alone he scored 24 goals in 30 appearances for the club. Of course, this is in a weaker league. To give you a comparison, Falcao scored 34 and 38 goals in his last two years at Porto.
From what I have seen from some Youtube compilations he is a true number 9. He doesn't strike me as a player that will be overeager to help in defense. He also doesn't appear remarkably mobile. However, although he is a reference point in the area, he seems very able to put the ball in the back of the net in spite of being tightly man marked.
The Price: Rumor is that his price tag is €15m. However, Benfica may consider a €10m + Ziegler bid.
The Pros: Price tag obviously. On top of that, finally offloading Ziegler would be a relief. If we want someone to stand in the area and score goals, he doesn't appear to be a bad option. Also, Paraguayan players have grinta by the truckloads.
The Cons: Generally you pay for what you get. He is a one-dimensional player, he doesn't slot everywhere in the attack. Also, although he is an improvement on Borriello, I doubt he is the striker to take us to Champions League glory.
If it depended on me, I would go all out for the player that can be a superstar in the future, and that is Jovetic. Dzeko may get a little better with time; Llorente is probably as good as he will be, he just needs a stronger club helping him; Cardozo will probably start to decline in a year or two. Signing Jovetic is one of those opportunities that comes once in a lifetime, and if we can't snap him this window, I doubt he will come to us next year.
If we can't get Jovetic, Dzeko would be my second option, followed by Llorente. No disrespect to Cardozo, but for me he is a stopgap solution until next January when hopefully we can convince Urrutia to let Llorente leave for about 15m.
Of course, what I think is irrelevant, what Marotta and Paratici decide, is what matters. At the moment, the Jovetic, Llorente, and Dzeko negotiations seem likely to fail. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up with Cardozo, or even Borriello by the 31st. Marotta can then aim to get Dzeko or Llorente in January. Unfortunately by then, I think the Jovetic option would be all but gone. In addition, Dzeko and Llorente are likely to be cup tied.
I don't think I can begrudge Marotta if any of these players is in our roster by the 31st. With the exception of Cardozo, they are all among the best in their positions and have still plenty of room to grow. Jovetic would be a dream player, one for the now, and one for the future. Dzeko and Jovetic, would be the prima punta we have been missing so badly, since Trezeguet left.
As for Cardozo, he would improve last year's squad without sucking dry our transfer funds. And who knows, he may just be more than meets the eye.
At the end of the day, whoever Marotta picks, will be wearing black and white next weekend, and at that point... what is there not to love? Unless it is Amauri, of course.