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Juventus Squad Planning: Addressing the homegrown player issue

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Taking a look at possible youth prospects who could one day become homegrown players for the Juventus senior squad. 

Melbourne Victory vs Juventus FC - 2016 International Champions Cup Australia Photo by Wayne Taylor/Getty Images

Whew, end of transfer window madness.. At last! What a relief! It’s officially been 11 days since the window shut, so I figured it’s been enough of time for us to recharge our batteries and get into another debate, no? No?.. Is it going to be Team Witsel, Team Matuidi, or that Homecoming-King-of-the-Spring-Dance, Team Hernanes? What about our favorite terms: budget, transfer value, wages, age and resale value?

Well, before you guys start drawing your pitchforks and projecting your war chants for the dreaded banhammer to fall upon my head, let me reassure you — this time, we won’t be focusing on which players we should add, or need to add to our roster. We’re going to be focusing on another matter, one that’s been nagging me a little in some secluded recess of the cavernous trench I call my brain: roster capacity, and hence, homegrown players.

Planning for the future, Juve needs to be able to boast more homegrown players, for both the Serie A and the Champions League. Not being able to register Stephan Lichtsteiner so as to accommodate an extra midfielder in the form of the prodigiously talented (not) Hernanes, is a bone headed situation for us. So, I just thought we could cover some of the prospects, and the circumstances within which they could one day help us out in this regard. But first, the rules:

  • For UEFA: Squads can be divided into List A and B. List A is the first team, and can contain a maximum of 25 players. Of these 25, eight must be "local" players. What is the break-up for local players?
  1. "Club Trained Players," which refers to a player who was ON THE CLUB'S BOOKS for three seasons between the age of 15 — that is, the start of the season during which he turns 15 — and 21 years old, or the end of the season AFTER he turns 21. There must be FOUR such players. The seasons do not have to be consecutive. (Note: Henceforth, what we traditionally refer to as "Homegrown Players," a term I myself used earlier in this article, shall now be referred to as "Club Trained Players" so as to avoid confusion.)
  2. Association Trained Players,” which refers to a player who was part of another's club's books WITHIN the same Association. That is, the Italian FA; Hence, an Italian Team's Books), for three seasons between ages 15 and 21 again.

However, the squad may not contain more than four such players out of their eight local player nominees, so as to contain a stacked 25 man roster. That means it has to be 4+4 at the maximum — four club trained players and four association trained players. I'm assuming there isn't a limit to the number of club trained players. (It would be pretty silly if Barca couldn’t register Sergio Busquets because they had to opt for Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, no? Then again, maybe we should hope...)

List B can contain an unlimited number of players aged 21 years old or less, who have been eligible to play for THAT club for any uninterrupted period of two seasons between ages 15 and 21 again. That is, these players count outside the 25-man squad, and can be registered freely. Case in point, for whatever reason, Emil Audero was included in our List B for this year's Champions League.

  • For Serie A: As far as I can tell, the rules are almost the same, except there is no List B, and Under-21 players can be registered at any given point of time to matchday squads. Also, it mentions the crucial formative period as ages 16-21, not 15.

CRUCIAL NOTE: This is of particular importance. As per the official Lega Serie A website, the club trained players currently in our squad are Claudio Marchisio, Paolo De Ceglie and Daniele Rugani. This means that there is a difference between the UEFA and Lega Serie A rules regarding player registration. Rugani spent the 2012-13 season as a part of our youth squad, and then he was co-owned by the two clubs, but played for Empoli from July 2013 to January 2015. We signed him outright in January 2015, and kept him at Empoli on loan until the summer of 2015. I am not sure if the 2015-16 season he spent here in Turin counts towards his club trained status, as his birthday is in July, before the official season begins. There is hence a massive question mark here regarding the threshold for your 21st year and being considered club trained, and the registration of the player. Rugani is not considered club trained for UEFA competitions.

Now, let’s look at some of our prospects who might one day be considered club trained:

1) Emil Audero (D.O.B. January 18, 1997)

As far as I can tell, he already counts as club trained, as his transfer profile lists that he's been a part of Juventus’ youth setup since 2012 or so. He's currently 19, and will be 20 in January. I don't know if he will ever be first team material, though I'd love for him to be. I think granting him a first team spot as this season’s third goalkeeper for this term is a good thing. He can learn loads from Gigi Buffon and Neto. Maybe he can see some action if we win the Serie A with games to spare, too. (Heck, even Rubinho got same game time for the last game of the season the past few years.) If he's already fulfilling the quota, I'd like to see him go out on loan to a Serie B team next year, and hopefully, have a good dominant season. If he were to do well, hopefully he can make the jump up to a Serie A team the next year. Should he show solid growth as a goalkeeper, and return to us in any capacity, he will be considered a Club Trained Player. Even if he'll never be our No. 1, it would be good if he grew enough to become a reliable No. 2, because his status as club trained is currently invaluable.

Melbourne Victory vs Juventus FC - 2016 International Champions Cup Australia Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

2) Pol Lirola (D.O.B. August 13, 1997)

This is where it gets tricky. Again, his transfermarkt.com profile lists that he joined our youth setup in January 2015. That means, he's been at the club for one and a half years so far. He Just turned 19 a few weeks ago, which means if he does spend two years on loan at Sassuolo and returns at the start of the 2018-19 season, he would be 20 at the start of the season. If he spends 2018-19 here in Turin, by the end of the season (of his 21st year) he would have completed 2 1/2 years with us, which is still not enough to be considered club trained. This is why the two-year loan part baffles me. I suppose if he REALLY breaks through into the Sassuolo squad over the next year, we can bring him back in January 2018, so that he fulfills the club trained quota on both fronts. Otherwise, he should be considered club trained for Serie A, although likely not for the Champions League. I suppose it’s a trade off of frequent game time for him vs this club trained quota. That said, if he gets a lot of game time over the next year, he can still learn a lot from Dani Alves/Lichtsteiner in six months, before being gradually brought in. Let's wait and see I suppose.

3) Filippo Romagna (D.O.B. May 26, 1997)

Another player I'm fascinated by. He captained the primavera and the Italian Under-19 team to lots of success over the past 12 months. He was a beast at the back, and shows composure that belies his young age. He was born in May 1997, which means he's currently 19. His profile says he's been a part of our youth setup since 2013, so he should already count as club trained. He is currently out on loan at Novara in Serie B. Here's PRAYING he can have a massive year like Rugani did a few years back. Considering Juve’s need for new blood at the centerback position, it would be terrific if we could promote from within for the post-Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini days. Here’s hoping things pan out, and Bonucci, Medhi Benatia and Rugani all remain/become the world class defenders we know they can be. It will make integrating a prospect like Romagna that much easier. There’s just also something romantic and right about Juventus having the best Italian defenders.

4) Moise Kean (D.O.B. February 28, 2000)

This young phenom of African descent is considered one of the hottest properties in the youth sector of world football. That considered, it is to our potential detriment that his agent happens to be a certain man that goes by the name of Mino Raiola, an agent who isn’t exactly on every Juventino’s "Christmas Greetings" list. None can question the man’s nose for sniffing out great talent however, and that should tell us a lot about Moise Kean. Despite recent rumours regarding Raiola holding us hostage over Kean’s first professional contract, which he won’t be able to sign for a year or two, it looks as though he will remain with our youth squad for the current season. He was already with us last season, and that means he would be two-thirds the way there to becoming club trained by the end of this season.

With devastating pace and physique, he’s been knocking in goals for fun for Juventus and Italy at every youth level he’s played for. That said, it remains to be seen if he can hold his own against the stronger, smarter and more experienced defenders of Serie A and Serie B. He is definitely one to keep an eye on, however. I hope we can send him out on loan to a Serie B team next season, and if he actually gets the game time required to develop, he may make the jump to Serie A sooner than we think. With Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic both in their peaks, we know new blood will be required to lead the attack in a few years. Maybe Moise Kean will be the one to lead the charge for the Juventus of tomorrow.

Melbourne Victory vs Juventus FC - 2016 International Champions Cup Australia Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

5) Mattia Vitale (D.O.B. October 1, 1997)

Mattia Vitale is probably the player I’m most excited for among the names mentioned so far. We’ve been seeing bits of pieces of this lad’s game, ever since Max Allegri gave him his debut during the 2014-15 season. In the preseason gone by, he vastly impressed me every time he stepped on the pitch in Australia, and he looked head and shoulders above his youth team peers for every minute. An incredibly smart central midfielder, he reminds me of a certain Turin native who serves as second vice-captain for the senior squad (if you don’t know who this is, please show yourself to the door immediately. No seriously...I’ll wait.) Extremely dynamic, he has shown composure and intelligence that truly belies his young age. Capable of pulling the strings in midfield in a very efficient way, eerily similar to our Il Principino himself, I have my fingers crossed that Vitale’s career follows a similar upward trajectory.

The good news, is that he’s been a part of our youth setup since 2011, and remained in Vinovo until January 2016, when he went on loan to Virtus Lanciano in Serie B. Hence, he should already count as club trained for both UEFA and the Serie A. Here’s hoping he can make his mark this season in Serie B at Cesena.

6) Rolando Mandragora (D.O.B. June 29, 1997)

Disclaimer: I am not sure about Rolando Mandragora. First things first, if you could scroll back up to the rules under which a player might be defined as club trained, you’ll find that he must complete three years before the END OF THE SEASON during which he turns 21. Now, Mandragora is born in the off-season, that is, June. He officially joined Juventus in January of 2016, but spent the second half of last season on loan at Pescara. That means that I think his time as a Juventus registered player is beginning only now. As per UEFA rules at least, that means I THINK that the threshold period for him being considered club trained, should be the end of the 2018-19 season. It is just my interpretation of the rules however, and although I have a gut feeling that I’m correct, it is possible that I might not be. Again, if anyone can clarify, please do so.

As such, I speculate that if Rolando remains in Turin for the next three years, he will indeed count as club trained. Much has been said about him on the pitch. That he was able to become the star of the Pescara midfield in Serie B last year, at age 18, bodes very well for us. He is described as a dynamic defensive midfielder, with a decent eye for the neat pass as well. Much depends on his current rehabilitation from a metatarsal fracture that hadn’t healed properly over the summer. Yet, Allegri and his agent have both mentioned that they see him at Juve for the time being, so here’s hoping he can recover by the time the AFCON begins, so he can get some minutes in the absence of Mario Lemina and Kwado Asamoah.

7) Federico Mattiello (D.O.B. July 14, 1995)

Ah, the sad tale of Federico Mattiello. The young fullback got the attention of many Juventus fans back during the 2014-15 season, after a few very promising cameos as a substitute. Allegri had high praises to sing of him, and as such, the young fullback was sent on loan to Chievo in February of 2015. He was well on his way to earning a starting spot at right back, when in a game against Roma, a horror 50-50 tackle from Radja Nainggolan completely snapped his leg into two. Even worse, the following summer as he slowly began to resume training, he suffered from the same injury again. Very little has been seen or heard of Mattiello since, although his transfermarkt profile suggests that he returned to Juventus following the expiry of his 18-month loan this past July. I believe he cut the loan short and returned to Juventus last season itself in order to rehabilitate.

I do not know what will become of his career, or what the club’s plans for him are, because aged 21, he’s too old to play for the youth squad, and as far as I can tell, he hasn’t been registered in our senior squad either. If he were ever able to bring his career back on course and build on the enormous potential he displayed the few times we got to see him, here’s hoping he can return to Turin. He has been a part of our youth squad since 2011, so he would count as club trained. My well wishes go out to him.

8) Luca Clemenza (D.O.B. July 9, 1997)

Continuing the apparent myriad of promising talents we have born in the year 1997, is Luca Clemenza. The young attacking midfielder has also been a part of the squad since the 2011 season (Man, Marotta and Paratici wasted no time in completely revamping our senior AND youth squad setups), and as such, he should already count as a club trained player should he ever earn a first team spot. Capable of playing both as a trequartista, and as a playmaker from midfield, the young talent was in blistering form for Fabio Grosso’s ultra successful Primavera squad from last season.

Unfortunately, after Mattiello and Mandragora, Clemenza is the third player on this list to have recently suffered from a serious injury, as he tore his ACL playing for the Primavera in the Youth Coppa Italia in April. I sincerely hope he is able to recover from this set back, because he was one of the shining gems of the youth squad before injury impeded his progress. Considering Allegri’s proclivity for both trequartistas and playmaking midfielders, here’s hoping he can find his old form at another Serie A squad, and hopefully give the boss another option for the midfield.

So what do you guys think? Is there any player I missed? Which player do you guys have your eyes on for the upcoming season(s)? How many of them, if any, do you think are realistically capable of making the jump up to the senior squad one day? Let me know your thoughts!