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Who will be the Old Lady's plus-1 striker?

Claudio Villa

A few weeks back, Beppe Marotta went on record saying that Juventus is looking to have 4 experienced strikers plus one youth striker to develop. This statement caused all sorts of speculation in the media (BWRAO comment section not excluded). It was clear that the four experienced strikers are Carlos Tévez, Fernando Llorente, Mirko Vucinic, and Sebastian Giovinco, but who could be No. 5? Manolo Gabbiadini and Ciro Immobile would be the logical choices, but both strikers already have a home away from Torino for now.

So who are Marotta and Fabio Paratici looking at?

Media has linked Juventus to Victor Ibarbo and Jonathan Biabiany. As it stands, the former appears to be easier to acquire than the latter. According to reports, Cagliari president Massimo Cellino apparently will accept to sell one half of Ibarbo's contract for €5 million plus a player (Stefano Beltrame and Luca Marrone were linked). Parma on the other hand want over €15 million for the speedy 25-year-old Frenchman. This close to the end of the transfer market, buying players with long contracts that are so important to their teams becomes less likely as days go by.

There also have been rumors about an internal solution. The two players that fit the bill are Beltrame and Richmond Boakye.

At first glance, these players appear too young. Just for comparison, Biabiany is 25, both Ibarbo and Immobile are 23, and Gabbiadini is 21, whereas Boakye and Beltrame are 20. But the problem is not so much age but experience. Boakye has played six games in Serie A with Genoa all coming on from the bench. In those seven games he scored two goals and assisted one. Not a bad record for a player that was 18 at the time, but his stint in Serie A is just too short. If Boakye has some experience at the highest level, Beltrame has essentially none. Yes, he played last season under Conte but his playing time can easily be measured in minutes and seconds.

So why are they being considered as candidates to be the Old Lady's plus-1 next season? I can think of two reasons:

1) They have both trained with Antonio Conte in the past and...

2) they can be easily offloaded at the end of the transfer market if Fabio Quagliarella or Alessandro Matri are not sold.

The first reason relates to our coach. We all know that Conte does not care so much for players that do not understand his system. These two players have worked with our coach and should they stay with Juventus, it will be because Conte trusts them. The second reason relates to economics and logistics. If Marotta fails to sell Matri and Quagliarella, Boakye and Beltrame can find playing time in Serie B and maybe even Serie A. If he manages to sell Matri and Quagliarella then one of the youngsters can stay with the team. Of course, keeping the youngsters is not a bulletproof plan. First of all, if they do not get much playing time then Juventus will be loosing in both the sporting and economic fronts.

Although keeping the youngsters looks like a good idea, there are signs showing that the management may not be thinking the same things. Beltrame and Boakye have not played a single minute of the friendlies. Moreover, why are they not even called up for the Supercup game? Boakye has just joined the team so he may be getting up to speed, but Beltrame should be there if he was being considered by the coach and management.

Other young players have been linked to Juventus this summer: from Giacomo Bonaventura, to Ricardo Centurion, with Christian Eriksen joining the rumor mill over the last couple of days. All of these players will have something to offer Juve but their signatures appear unlikely given the time left in the transfer market, their cost, or their suitability towards Conte's system. Bonaventura will probably come at a high price and can't really be considered a striker in Conte's system. Centurion is a rising star, but he is a winger not a striker, moreover his attitude has raised a few eyebrows already. Lastly is Eriksen, who is 21 years old, a player who can link up midfield and attack and who has all the potential to develop into a world class player. Moreover, to sweeten the deal, his contract expires next year which means that Juve won't have to break the bank to bring him in. However, with Tottenham and Liverpool expressing their interest in the young Dane, and with the player favouring a move to England, it is unlikely Juve could succeed in luring the striker to Turin.

So there you have it. The mystery of Juve's +1 continues to grow. Many players have been linked with Juve over the last few months, all of them with their pros but also with cons. Exactly 20 years ago, a young player from Padova joined the Old Lady and became part of football history. If Juve's new young striker is half the player and half the man that the youngster from Veneto is, then we have something to look forward to. Let's just hope players like that come every 20 years and not every century.