A wise man once told me, "You can never have too many goalkeepers." As a 17-year-old goalkeeper about three months removed from high school, I couldn't help but agree with him — especially considering that man would end up being my college head coach for two years.
All right, enough about me. You're probably sick of it by now. Back to what I was trying to get at.
With the signing of 19-year-old goalkeeper Nicola Leali on Tuesday, Juventus director general Beppe Marotta is going by the same kind of logic. And to be completely honest, nobody can really blame him for signing one of the brightest prospects between the sticks in recent memory.
Bringing in Leali — who won't turn 20 until February — and seemingly teaming him up with current primavera starting keeper Laurentiu Branescu, Marotta is preparing Juventus for a post-Buffon Era world. There's no other way to look at this transfer. You don't splash a good chunk of cash — €3.8 million, according to Football Italia — on a 19-year-old goalkeeper unless you envision them being a part of your team's future. And for somebody like Marotta, who loves himself some shrewd deals as much as anybody, it says something about the player he has just signed.
Is there a risk? Sure there is. As we've seen before, not every prospect pans out — be it one coming through the youth ranks or one signed from another team. How many times have we heard that a goalkeeper might be "the next Buffon" through the press? At least a few times, right? Leali is in that second group as well, as he has gotten that tag in the press plenty of times, which has undoubtedly brought a whole hell of a lot of attention, but an extremely high level of expectation.
But the expectations will be there for two reasons: 1) Who Juventus' starting goalkeeper currently is and 2) What kind of price tag Juventus just paid to Brescia. It's only the nature of the beast. When you have Gianluigi Buffon as your starting goalkeeper, the standards are as high as they can get. And when you look for somebody to potentially be his long-term replacement, you don't want a significant drop off.
What will happen this next season? That's still for us to find out. Your guess is as good as mine. Leali could replace Alex Manninger as Juve's No. 3 keeper and learn from San Gigi and Marco Storari (a couple of decent teachers), or he could head out somewhere on loan where first-team playing him continues his development.
And of the two situations, sending Leali out on loan would be the best chance for him to play in the immediate future. Judging by Buffon's outstanding performances throughout this past season, he still has some gas left in the tank. But at 34 years of age, Buffon is certainly getting close to the end. That's just the honest truth. It may not be the next season or two, but it is approaching. I know that's what none of us want to hear, but that's reality.
That's why Marotta is getting the job done now — before an opportunity to snap up Italy's possible next big thing between the sticks goes somewhere else. But I can tell you this: Beppe Marotta is planning for the future in the present at one of the most important positions there is.
And that, my friends, is something we should all be thankful for.