Like all other Juventus transfer targets this offseason, the process of actually getting Patrice Evra to Turin seemed to have dragged on all summer. The news of Juve's interest in him has been met with equal parts of disdain and support. At 33, he doesn't appear to be a part of the long-term squad, but definitely still has some value to the side.
Born in Senegal, Evra is a French citizen who has made 11 appearances for the France Under-21 side and 62 for the senior side, including the just concluded 2014 World Cup. He has collected a number of titles in his nine years at Manchester United, winning five Premier League titles, the Champions League in 2008 and the English League Cup thrice. For the Red Devils, he made a total of 379 appearances, and was named to the Premier League 'team of the year' on three occasions. Not much of a goalscorer, he potted ten in his time in England.
His best years were in the 2008-2010 era, which were also tinged with controversy. He was widely reported to have been one of the key players in the shambolic mutiny in the French camp that led to manager Raymond Domenech getting fired and Les Blues taking the early flight home in the 2010 World Cup. He declined from then on, with the last season at Old Trafford under David Moyes marking the low point for more than one United player. While he has lost pace and doesn't track back as often and well as is demanded for someone in his position, he is still astute in his attacking abilities, and crosses the ball better into the box than Paulo De Ceglie can even dream of. Here are his club career stats (from TransferMarkt.com):
|Champions League Qual||2||-||-||1||-|
|Club World Cup||2||-||1||-||-|
Evra's biggest failing is his tendency to surge so far up the left wing that opponents can take advantage of the room behind him on a quick counter. Giorgio Chiellini tends to drift out left when playing in a central defender role, so covering for him when he's on the overlap could fall to Chiello and also be shared between Kwadwo Asamoah or either Claudio Marchisio or Arturo Vidal, depending on who's on the left. Evra can defend — when he fails his task it's not because of inability, but more of a lapse of concentration combined with aging legs.
However, when he does become a component of the attack, he can be devastating. United's all-conquering 2007-08 team had him out on the left and constantly probing deep in support of a a three-man attack of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney - scary.
While he does tend to overlap his winger often, he doesn't attempt as many crosses from near the touchline. Instead, Evra looks to participate in attacking combinations just outside the box or use his close-control and dribbling ability to penetrate into the box. From these positions, he often attempts relatively short-distanced crosses from just outside the box or he looks to create a chance from a cutback near goal. Furthermore, his decision-making in attack tends to be pretty solid.
Evra is a vocal leader in the locker room and on the pitch, and was considered one of the wiser heads at United. Stats aside, two other critical elements that Evra will provide Juventus are his experience and intensity. The Frenchman might be considered long in the tooth, but he has 'been there and done that' to paraphrase a common saying. The last couple of seasons have seen Juventus knocked out of Europe looking like a pale shadow of the side that dominated Serie A. Evra has been to the Champions League final thrice and won the trophy once. His composure and demeanor in clutch situations will be a learning experience for younger squad members who have only known victory under Antonio Conte.
The leftback is also widely known for his passion and intensity. He gives his all in every game, and is known as a warhorse who won't pack it in until the referee blows the final whistle. Another Tevez-like player on the pitch makes the side tougher to play against, an intangible that should get the team further in Europe. Despite the ferociousness that he brings to the game, it's a telling fact that he has never been sent off since he moved to England. Even in the midst of the racist abuse fiasco with Luis Suarez, he maintained his composure and didn't let it affect his game.
While the wages might be on the higher side for someone at this stage of his career, this might be money well-spent for Juventus as the upside that Evra brings to Turin should overcome any negatives that his age will expose. New manager Massimiliano Allegri will certainly appreciate his support as he tries to make this locker room his own.
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