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On Juventus signing Axel Witsel in January

FC Krasnodar v FC Zenit St. Petersburg - Russian Premier League Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images

As we’ve come to understand, Axel Witsel will be a Juventus player, with the man himself stating in early-November that he will be making his next footballing stop in Turin. The only problem with Witsel saying that he will be a Juventus player in the not-so-distant future is that he’s not sure when the move will actually see him wearing those famous black and white stripes we love so much.

There, of course, are two options when it comes to acquiring the 27-year-Belgian:

  1. Sign for a cut-rate price in January and play with Juventus right away.
  2. Sign for nothing in January or during the summer and play with Juventus come the start of next season.

That’s no secret. Once the deal for Witsel that everybody thought was going to happen actually didn’t happen back on the final day or two of the summer transfer window in August, it was almost certainly going to be re-ignited and tried to be completed when the January transfer window arrived. The rumors are already here and being written about in the Italian press almost every single day as well as on this here website. We’re all wondering when Juventus will make a move for the Belgian midfielder with the glorious afro.

I’ll say this: Juventus need to make it happen in January. I don’t think there’s any argument against having that kind of stance. (Sorry, but I’m not sorry.)

"Witsel is an opportunity," Juventus director general Beppe Marotta said last week during a round of pre-Supercoppa interviews with the Italian press. "His contract is ending in June, and we have been in touch with Zenit to see if we can buy him in January."

That’s how it should be done, Beppe. The rumored price that it will take to get Witsel away from Zenit once and for all seems to fluctuate on what day of the week it is. Sometimes Zenit are holding out for €10 million fee if Juve were to sign Witsel in January, other times it’s closer to the €6 million Juventus are reportedly willing to spend. Back and forth, here one day and the other the next. It may very well be closer to €6 million to €10 million for all we know, or maybe it could be as easy as splitting the difference and that would be that.

But the thing is, for a transfer fee around €6 million or so, is it worth getting him six months ahead of schedule when some expect him to move to Turin on a free?

Yeah, it is.

As we’ve seen with Juventus’ midfield this season, there’s just something that seems to be missing. You can say that about the whole team, but the midfield isn’t as strong as it’s been as in previous seasons. We’ve seen different combinations come and go, different formations come and go, return and then be put off to the side for the time being. Now that Max Allegri has seemed to settle into a four-man backline with Miralem Pjanic as Juve’s trequartista for the time being, there’s one more midfield spot to be filled. That has been Stefano Sturaro as of late, but could easily be Witsel if he were to arrive at some point in January.

So, fittingly, let’s just go ahead and compare Witsel to somebody like, oh I don’t know, Sturaro, shall we?

Stefano Sturaro passing stats
Axel Witsel passing stats

As much as I’m enjoying the fact that Sturaro has been playing well as of late in his first extended run of playing time in quite a while, we know that the skillset he provides is relatively limited. His passing numbers aren’t anywhere close to Witsel’s, and if you were to go to WhoScored and click on what the defensive numbers are like, you’d notice that somebody like Sturaro, thought of to be more of a defense-first kind of player, is trailing Witsel in just about every category there is.

This is why I can’t help but think that Juventus spending money on Witsel will totally be worth it — especially given their desire to make a deep run in the Champions League knockout rounds this season. He’s not cup-tied like other names they will likely be linked to in the coming weeks. He’s not going to be the €30 million name that Tuttosport will continue to throw out there with absolutely no kind of logic of basis behind it whatsoever for the next four or five weeks.

Adding Witsel now as Claudio Marchisio continues to work his way back into top match fitness would give Juventus the midfielder that they’ve been missing. Is Witsel a complete game-changer in the center of the park that other clubs have? Probably not. But he’s a definitely an improvement over what’s currently in place. And for that price, even if it pushes something like €10 million, it will be worth it. That’s just the truth.