When looking at Juventus’ signings so far this summer, there’s one thing that’s for certain — there’s a level of built-in knowledge about nearly everybody the club has signed. It’s the fact that we know what Miralem Pjanic is all about. We know what Gonzalo Higuain brings to the table. We’ve seen Medhi Benatia playing at his best. Dani Alves has a resumé that is about as long as anybody Juve have signed in years.
The same can’t be said about the other one of those new additions to the Juve squad.
Marko Pjaca isn’t a known commodity amongst those who follow Italian football on a regular basis. He hasn’t played a game in Serie A or against Italian opposition like everybody above. He has plied his trade in a league that some of us might not make much effort to pay attention to. Sure, we’ve heard some things here and there or maybe tuned in to Croatia’s handful of games at the European Championships earlier this summer.
With the help of some friends, I was pointed in the direction of Aleksandar Holiga, one of Twitter’s go-to Croatian football sources and a very good writer on top of that. (I suggest you follow Aleksandar on Twitter, by the way.) Aleksandar, who lives in Zagreb, is an independent football writer who has been published in The Guardian, FourFourTwo and The Blizzard amongst others.
And our task after securing Aleksandar’s assistance was pretty damn simple — to find out about Pjaca from somebody who has seen him play a whole heck of a lot more than most of us around here have. We asked Aleksandar questions. And luckily for us, he had answers. Here are said answers.
BWRAO: What kind of player is Juventus getting in Marko Pjaca?
AH: They are getting a very promising young player who may not be very versatile, but still has plenty of room (and will) fro improvement. A player who is ambitious, hard-working and very eager to prove himself.
BWRAO: Juventus' website dubbed Pjaca a "wing wizard" upon his signing being announced earlier this month. Is he able to play elsewhere in attack or is the wing solely where he can excel?
AH: His best position is left wing, because he’s right-footed and likes to cut inside Arjen Robben-style more than anything else, then shoot or make a key pass. He is probably best suited for the wing, because his strongest sides are dribbling and speed combined. He runs at defenders and can beat anyone – just anyone – one-on-one.
I imagine he’s often going to play against set, well-organized defences at Juventus, especially in the Serie A, so he won’t have that much space or time on the ball. At Dinamo, he also sometimes played behind the striker or as one – that never really worked well, though. He never really played in a two-men attack, but I believe it will be very interesting to see him as one of the strikers in a 3-5-2. With the guidance of a proper, classy coach I’m sure he can adapt well to that role. Or to one of the ‘2’ in 3-4-2-1. Playing centrally behind the striker (no. 10 in 4-2-3-1, for example) will probably never be quite right for him.
BWRAO: How do you think Pjaca will adjust to the rough and tumble nature of Serie A?
AH: Juventus might be too big a step for him at this moment. He would perhaps adapt easier and quicker to a smaller club where he would be a guaranteed starter, a side playing a distinctly reactive, counter-attacking football all the time. But, at the end of the day, he is a player for great things and Juventus definitely matches his ambition – that is probably also why he chose them and not AC Milan (not suggesting Milan is a ‘small’ club, though…).
As for the style of football… Well, maybe he would also find it easier to fit in the hurly-burly English football or in the Bundesliga. On the other hand, he can give Juventus something they don’t quite have already, I think. Italian defences will prove a big challenge, but he’s ambitious and very keen to prove himself, so that will be a very good test to see what he’s made of.
BWRAO: What is Pjaca's upside? What kind of player do you think he can develop into?
AH: He’s a rather decent and nice kid, willing to work hard and improve himself. He was never really a wonderkid, a prodigy like, for example, Alen Halilovic. He improved slowly and gradually – even a year ago he wasn’t a sure starter at Dinamo – showing proper character and a lot of determination. He’s also naturally very fit and not prone to injuries, he recovered from a broken collarbone in a matter of weeks last season.
So with that kind of attitude and physique, I really think he can achieve great things. I can see him as an important player for Juventus or some other really big club in the near future. Maybe not in his first season, but after 2-3 years that’s rather likely.