When it comes to Juventus' corner of summer business dealings, transfer rumors have far outweighed actual news of moves going down. The actual news has been rather big news, too. We have seen two extremely talented players, Miralem Pjanic and Dani Alves, be added to an already very, very good core of players that won a fifth straight Serie A title this past season.
But there's also one of Juve's bright young talents heading in the other direction.
Real Madrid activating its buyback clause on Álvaro Morata was not a surprise. But what it has created is for Juventus to a little more business with an influx of cash that has come with Morata's return to Spain. It has also raised a pretty important question that will be answered at some point over the next two months of the summer transfer window.
Who will Juventus sign to replace Morata?
In a new feature here at BWRAO, we've assembled a good portion of our blog's writing crew to talk about some of the more important developments this summer. Unsurprisingly, one of the first topics centers around Morata, who certainly had his share of big moments during his two-year stint with Juventus. (We'll also be talking about Pjanic, so you just go ahead and stay patient for that one in the next few days.)
The first roundtable question was a simple one: With the (expected) Morata news coming down, who do you want Juventus to try and sign to fill his spot on the roster?
So why wait — here are the answers.
Around the time this question was posed, oddly enough I had this same conversation with a mate at work. We both thought about young, promising strikers that would be available within reason. For the most part, we both struggled to think of potentials.
The only name we were able to come up with Michy Batshuayi of Belgium and Olympique de Marseille, who is reportedly set to sign with Chelsea. (We did also talk of young Swiss striker Breel Embolo, but he has since signed for FC Schalke — which, in my opinion, is a better move for his career anyway.) The 22-year-old Batshuayi joined the French club from Standard Liege in the summer of 2014, and in his two seasons so far has seen his stock rise rapidly. Ten goals in his first season was followed by 24 in his second, in a very poor Marseille team, along with nine assists.
More of a pure out and out striker, he would not be an exact replacement for Morata, and would not replace the versatility that the Spaniard brought. But he's great at finding space in the box and hanging off the last defender and getting in behind. Think of him as a more technical Filippo Inzaghi. He doesn't bring the ability to work off the ball as Morata, or Mario Mandzukic for that matter, but I could see him forming a very productive partnership with Paulo Dybala, and being quite prolific himself.
A player I later thought of, though he hasn't even been linked with us at all, is Atletico Madrid's Luciano Vietto. The 22-year-old Argentine came to Europe in 2014 with Villarreal and had a pretty impressive first season, scoring 20 goals across all competitions. So impressive was he that Atletico Madrid paid around €20 million, to add them to their strike force for the next season, along with Jackson Martinez and Fernando Torres. His season with Atletico did not turn out to be as impressive, with much fewer opportunities and less production, only scoring three goals. Despite this, Vietto remains a promising prospect. Quick and skillful, Vietto is similar to Morata in playing style, in that he gets more involved in the play; able to play as a striker or as a wide forward, making things happen in and around the box. Useful finisher as well.
Juventus use a two-striker formation, with one a finesse player (Paulo Dybala, Alvaro Morata) and the other a banger (Mario Mandzukic, Simone Zaza). With Morata leaving, the need is for a skilled forward with pace who plays primarily on the left side. The first name that jumps out is Nolito, but it sounds like Barcelona have him signed, sealed and ready to be delivered.
There are a couple of other options in this position. Staying in Spain, first up is Valencia's Paco Alcacer. A year younger than Morata, Alcacer has mostly slipped under the radar of the bigger clubs, quietly racking up the goals in the trigger-happy La Liga. He already has six goals in 13 games for Spain, and hit the double-figure mark for his club this season. He was also Spain's top scorer during Euro 2016 qualifying, and yet was left out of the final squad by manager Vicente Del Bosque. He won't come cheap as his contract runs through till 2020, possibly in the €25-30 million range.
The other non-mainstream possibility would be Genoa forward Leonardo Pavoletti. The highest Italian-born striker in the Serie A Capocannoniere race last season, Pavoletti has been linked to Milan for €20 million plus a midfielder. The Rossoneri have signed the top striker in Serie B from last season, Pescara's Gianluca Lapadula, so Juve can easily one-up their one-time rivals and steal this player away from under their noses. Pavoletti is older at 27, but has a good eye for goal, his movement in the final third is decent and he is an excellent aerial threat. No player in Serie A won more headers per game last season. The downside is his lack of pace and that he is not necessarily the most skillful player who can carve out openings for himself or others.
First of all, I'd like to consider Morata's characteristics so we can build the identikit of the replacement. Álvaro is a young and a physically gifted player that needs playing time to grow. He was brought to Turin to be Juventus' present and future. Under Max Allegri, he developed his strengths and sometimes he has shown the talent to potentially be a world-class striker.
With that in mind, I firmly believe that Domenico Berardi would be the logical choice to replace Morata. However, as I said, he's the logical choice. Therefore, let me throw another name into this debate, Alexandre Lacazette. The Olympique Lyonnais forward just turned 25 this year. Last season he scored 21 goals in the French league, only behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the top scorer chart. Two seasons ago, he was Ligue 1's top scorer with 27 goals in 33 games (please, folks, do the math). Lacazzette is a speed demon that makes a lot of damage in the open field. Nevertheless, he also has the ability to play in small spaces. He has been the captain of his squad and he's a clinical penalty taker. Like Morata, he's a streaky player and maybe he could have problems with Serie A's physical defenders, but I think Max could help him with these problems.
One more thing: When Lyon played against Juventus in 2014, Lacazette already said that he would like to play with the Bianconeri.
I think it would be very hard to replace Morata in terms of finding a player with similar qualities and similar potential, but I think his departure opens the door for Allegri to use a 4-3-3 if he wants. Given the players Juve's being linked to that does seem to be the idea. The Alexis Sanchez rumors are tantalizing, if unrealistic, but if it did happen that would be the perfect way to make up for Morata's absence. If it doesn't happen I'd look to a pair of Lazio wingers: Candreva or Keita. Candreva is older, and Juve's links to him seem to be dying down but his crossing, dribbling, and shooting abilities are exactly what Juve need on the right wing if they can't land Berardi. Keita is still a pretty raw talent, but he's shown flashes of brilliance at Lazio. He could mature into a top player at Juve with the kind of talent he'd be surrounded by.