We're all shocked that Antonio Conte is out. He's one of the main reasons Juventinita is back and has been for the past three years. There are pros and cons about his leaving so abruptly but I'm not here to talk about Conte. Juventus have moved on. A stop-gap solution, as many believe in Max Allegri's appointment, but we have moved on.
It's July, almost August, so let's talk about Juve's mercato. I'm intrigued with a few Juventini who said that this mercato was incoherent, no visible strategy or direction, and so on.
These critics, obviously, are related to goals. What are our realistic goals? Let's draw a line and agree that the goals are to sustain being champions of Italy, year in and year out, and competitive in Champions League, reaching quarterfinals and beyond every year. Sustainable is the key word.
So is it incoherent?
I respect my fellow Juventini's opinion but I humbly disagree. The mercato is young and it's too soon to say. But so far, I can see where we're going. However, before we delve into it, let's see where we stand, coaching-change excluded, by the end of the 2013-14 season.
• Overall squad quality. In the 2013/14 season, Juve had the best starting XI. Locally. We also had the deepest squad. Locally.
• The best midfield and attacking partnership in Italy. In M(archisio)-V(idal)-P(irlo)-P(ogba), midfield was our main strength. In Fernando Llorente-Carlos Tevez, we probably had the best attacking duo in Serie A.
• Leadeship. Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini were the senatori that all players respected.
• Squad unity. In the 2011/12 season, it's clear to me that it was all Conte but in the 2013/14, I think the squad was unite and the Juventinita was strong.
• Keeping the core. Beppe Marotta has said numeruosly that Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal won't be sold, unless they ask for it.
• Aging squad, not enough quality depth in Europe.
• Lack of speed and not enough creativity in the final third. This was excruciatingly on display when Juve faced Benfica over the two-legged matches in the Europa League semifinal.
• Leaking. The backline was still solid, but had shown cracks here and there — especially in the middle — probably due to age and, again, lack of speed.
• No real starting-quality left back. Kwadwo Asamoah was servicable as a left wingback in 3-5-2, but still, not a real left back.
• Decreased revenue. Less revenue compared to the previous season because we earned less money from Europe.
Now so far, at the start of the 2014-15 season, we've made a few purchases and termination to tackle those issues:
• Left back issue — check. Federico Peluso was sold and Patrice Evra was brought in. At 33 years old, he's no spring chicken, but he's considerably cheap and should be able to shore up the problematic position for the next two years while we're going to spend the little money we have on forwards/wingers.
• Getting younger, faster and better in front — check. Out went Mirko Vucinic (30) and Fabio Quagliarella (31) and Alvaro Morata (21) was signed.
• Getting younger and faster in the middle and on the wing — check. Kingsley Coman (18) and Roberto Pereyra (23) were signed.
• The plan to swap Mauricio Isla with Romulo won't improve the quality of the team, but it will be financially. Romulo will come on loan so we can use the Isla sale money elsewhere.
• We're much more dynamic. With Evra, a four-man defense will be available and with Coman, Pereyra and even Morata, Allegri can play 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1, or even 4-2-3-1, providing we add another AM/winger.
And we're not stopping there. Rumors keep circulating that we're aiming to add another center back, either Matija Nastasic (Manchester City, loan), Stefan Savic (Fiorentina, swap with Isla) or Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria, probably loan as well). All between 21-23 years old and all are quite fast for a center back.
Rumors on playmaker/winger are also circulating, either Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich), Ezequiel Lavezzi (P$G), Stevan Jovetic (Man City) or to a lesser extent, Giacomo Bonaventura (Atalanta).
If it happens, Samuel Eto'o is a vice-Morata, who's injured and not expected to be back in 50 days, not a playmaker/winger. He's also a one-year gun-for-hire, not part of the long-term plan.
• As always with young players, Coman and Pereyra are still unproven. And while they can improve the team, they also have the potential to be bidoni. Morata has shown his credibility with Real Madrid, but he still has to learn the system in Italy. However, he's less of a risk than Coman and Pereyra.
• Evra will bring leadership and experience. But on the other hand, he was poor in his last EPL season with Man United, especially when he played against the fast wingers. Luckily there are not many of those in Serie A.
• Pogba has said to Marco Messina (@Marcocalcio22) that he's staying but his agent is Mino Raiola. (Still, I feel better Pogba said that.)
• Vidal has said he wouldn't go to Manchester, but he also said he didn't know whether he'd stay or not and he'd like to speak with Allegri first. If he stays, we're good. If he's not, well, we won't be as good.
• Squad chemistry. Young players bring new dimension and if they cannot be reeled in, it could threaten the squad unity. I don't know anything about Coman but so far though, I like what I see from Morata and Pereyra.
So as you can see, I think the plan is coherent and is in-line with the (presumably) limited money we have.
Other than the coherence, the most general argument from Juventini is why not sign one Alexis Sanchez, who's proven, instead of signing three players in Morata, Pereyra, and Stefano Sturaro (who's on loan to Genoa).
Personally, the whole mercato this year is a classic short-term vs. long-term plan to me. Is the team near its peak so the club push for the top? Or is the cycle over and the club start a new one?
Let's get back to the goals I've mentioned earlier. Signing Sanchez would indicate that the goals were short-term as we wouldn't be able to shore up other departments. By not being able to shore up other departments, we had to keep the old guards as well, like Vucinic and Quagliarella, and keep paying high salaries. Will we reach our goals with just adding Sanchez? If yes, with an aging squad, will sustainability be at risk?
Signing the 18-to-23-year-olds indicates that the goals are both short and long-term. Sustainability can be kept intact while we keep being the favorites for the scudetto each year. Champions League chance? We won't win it any time soon, but maybe, just maybe, we'll be close within five years. These young players need time but they are also hungry for success and will freshen the hungriness within the squad. In the mean time, more money will be coming in from Adidas next year, the new main sponsor (now Jeep, will end in 2015) and Continassa, probably within 1 to 2 years.
In my opinion, we're starting a new cycle and taking the long-term plan. Look at our under-23 players who will play or have played in Serie A this season:
[Vrsaljko (22)] - Rugani (20) - [?] - [?]
Sturaro (21) - Pogba (20) - Pereyra (23)
Berardi (19) - Morata (21) - Coman (18)
There are still others like Richmond Boakye at Atalanta, Manolo Gabbiadini at Sampdoria and Simone Zaza at Sassuolo (whom we hold the buy-back option). We're also looking to add Adrien Rabiot (19) from P$G next season.
Sime Vrsaljko is a Sassuolo player, but there was gossip saying that Sassuolo had Juve's help in acquiring him from Genoa in return for a future access. Make sense, since Stephan Lichtsteiner is already 30 this year.
Back to the first team. With such signings, will Juve win the scudetto this season? I don't know. With Roma and Napoli getting better, not to mention Milan and inter Milan as well, we're probably not the lone favorite anymore. But if we keep Pogba and Vidal, I'm pretty sure we're at least up there with Roma (if they don't lose Mehdi Benatia) and Napoli. Anyway, the summer mercato hasn't ended yet so let's see what happens.
In conclusion, I think we're coherently aiming for a sustainable win long-term, within five years from the 2015/16 season (when I think we will appoint a new coach) to come close to the European holy grail, where the financial foundation will be much stronger instead of chasing a short-term glory and risking being the intermilan 2010: Winning treble but crashing and burning just two years later.
- Tuttosport has thrown out some figures regarding Paul Pogba's potential contract extension
- Projecting Fernando Llorente's 2014-15 season
- OFFICIALLY OFFICIAL: Juventus signs Udinese's Roberto Pereyra on loan with option to buy
- OFFICIALLY OFFICIAL: Juventus defender Hordur Magnusson joins Cesena on loan
- Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal talks about his future and Manchester United