Paul Pogba is gone. One of the most recognizable footballers in the world has changed shirt from Black-and-White to Red. Juve got a massive portion of the €110 million price tag for developing him. Pogba gets one of the richest contracts in the world. They helped each other to win titles, they thanked each other and parted ways.
Win-win. Done and dusted. Each has moved on.
For Juventus, from him to who?
During his four years here, Pogba has made the left-center mid position his own. You can even argue that he’d pushed Claudio Marchisio, our longest-serving and most dependable midfielder, to regista. So, are we looking for an LCM? Do we even need to replace him?
In this post, I’ll try to guess what Juve need to complete the midfield. (No, at the moment, I don’t think it’s complete.) As Juve haven’t spent a dime in this summer market, I’m going to omit the financial aspect and, to make it easier on myself, focus on the midfielders — not the attacking ones — Juve have been linked to.
First, let’s look at the depth list with Pogba gone:
- RCM: Sami Khedira, Stefano Sturaro, Mario Lemina
- Regista/DM: Miralem Pjanic, Hernanes, Lemina
- LCM: Pjanic, Kwadwo Asamoah
Khedira and Pjanic will occupy two of the three starting spots. Why a three-midfield formation? Because Max Allegri has often mentioned a ”4-3-and we’ll see.” It’s also his dissertation to gain his coaching license in Italy.
Note: Marchisio is not included in the list because of his serious injury and I don’t think he’ll reach his top form this season. Rolando Mandragora is also not included because he’s injured and there are talks that he’d be loaned out in January. Finally, Luca Marrone is not included because I don’t see him as an influential player in this squad.
Is it Pjanic? Maybe. Juventus secured the Bosnian very early in the market and it looked like he’s the man. However, Allegri himself has said that the Bosnian could be one of the best registi around, so I think he’ll play in that position, at least for a while.
Is it Asamoah? Based on his performance against Fiorentina in the season opener, I’d say Asamoah has the capability to be our starting LCM. Finally fully fit, gone was the timid Asamoah who could only invisibly run and pass backwards. He thrusted forward, took and beat his man, and excitingly, passed by forwards. He proved it with his key pass to Khedira, which was turned into the winning goal. Fouled six times, a team high, it’s a testament how active he was. The closest any player on the field got to that was three.
However, along with Lemina (and Medhi Benatia in defense), Asamoah will be gone in January during AFCON. Pjanic can play any position in midfield, but that leaves Hernanes as the single available player at regista. Not ideal, hence the necessity to add another dependable, if not world-class, LCM.
So far, Juve have been linked with Axel Witsel (Zenit St. Petersburg, 27), Nemanja Matic (Chelsea, 28), Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg, 29) and Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain, 29). All four are good at passing and physical play and their tackling will help Juve’s midfield.
Three of these four have one thing in common: They’re left-footed. Witsel is the only right-footed and, furthermore, his contract will be up by the end of this season so even if Beppe Marotta signs him, I believe it won’t be this summer.
From the three left-footed midfielders, both Matic and Gustavo are defensive midfielders. Both are tough-tackling midfielders who can pass the ball out from deep, so one of them can be a good option if Pjanic plays box-to-box or attacking mid. Matic has started in Chelsea’s first two league games, though, so I don’t think he’s available. Luis Gustavo is more likely since a move to Juve is a move up and the ex-Bayern Brazilian has said that he’s open to the move.
However, only one is a true box-to-box midfielder: Matuidi. His strengths? Tireless running, keeping the ball, passing, tackling and interceptions fit the bill when it comes to a midfielder that Juve are looking for.
Interestingly, he didn’t start in the PSG’s first two games this season. Maybe he’s still recovering from Euro 2016, but the young and talented Adrien Rabiot has taken his place in the starting lineup.
With Roma failing to maki the group stage of the Champions League group stage earlier this week, Juve get more money from the Champions League’s league position and market pool. The media currently put PSG’s asking price at around €30 million. Providing they are willing to sell and Matuidi himself wants to join Juve, I think Juve should pay the price for him.
Team above Individuals
Now, why should Juve overpay for a 29-year-old and French national team starting midfielder? Personally, I believe football is still a team sport, a collection of individuals who play together where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
No player is identical to Pogba. He’s unique and going to be a Ballon d’Or winner someday. Any individual midfielder will pale in comparison with him. Forget about “The next Pogba.” To have a fair chance to win the Champions League within the next two years, what Juventus need is a player who can complete the team.
I also believe a right mix of veteran and peak-age/young talent is the way to go to win championships. Lastly, I also believe in a mix of finesse and physical players. When we’re talking about Juve’s midfield, we’ve already had finesse veteran in Khedira and Hernanes and a peak-age one in Pjanic. We’ve also had talented young physical players in Lemina and Sturaro and peak-age physical one in Asamoah. To complete them, we need a physical veteran. Matuidi ticks that box.
That’s why, in my opinion, Juve should pay the price or even overpay for him.