So there we had it. Another season has come and gone, and now it’s time for the postmortems.
The 2016-17 season was a great one, despite the obvious hurt and disappointment of the Champions League final loss. It has been hard to get over personally; I usually tend to temper my expectations of Juventus in Europe (as we haven’t won the biggest prize in over two decades now), but this year — like many, I’m sure — I thought it was the time we would finally do it. I even made the two and a half-hour drive from London to Cardiff for the final (I must say that despite the result, the experience was truly amazing and would implore every fan to go to follow their team when/if they make it to a Champions League final).
But alas, it was not meant to be, as a truly awful second half performance saw us capitulate to a better-than-expected Real Madrid side. Sigh…
Oh well, we have to move on.
Continuing on from the evaluation of the centrebacks, we are now going to look at the performances of Juventus’ fullbacks this season.
Dani Alves — 8
The 34-year-old Brazilian was the latest in the line of shrewd free transfers made by the Juventus front office in the last half-decade. Falling out with the FC Barcelona hierarchy, Dani Alves decided to move over to the J Stadium in the summer of 2016.
Despite displacing long-time right back/right wingback Stephan Lichtsteiner, Alves took some time to really get going at Juventus. Coming into a new team and a new tactical system after being such a key cog in Barcelona’s all-conquering team for years would always have been a challenge. The first half of his season was not particularly noteworthy, as he struggled to get accustomed to a new team and new league. This was not helped by a leg fracture which kept him out of contention for a number of weeks.
However, after coming back from that injury, Alves became a vital component in Juventus’ surge to the end of the season, particularly in Europe, where strong performances helped Juventus get to the Champions League final for the second time in three years. He also finished a lovely move in the Coppa Italia final, which gave Juventus its third crown in a row — a record in the competition.
His standout performances, without a doubt, came in the Champions League semifinal tie against Monaco, where he provided three assists (officially two, but come on, Mario Mandzukic should have scored his header at the first time of asking) and scored a sensational volley from the top of the box.
Gigi Buffon said that when he was signed, he asked Dani Alves to help us take home the Champions League. At 34 years of age and with one more year on his contract (albeit with an option for a third), there isn’t much longer for Dani Alves to bring that goal to fruition. All in all, a pretty good first season in the black and white.
P.S. I still find it a bit weird seeing Dani Alves in a club shirt other than Barcelona’s.
Stephan Lichtsteiner — 6.5
Displaced in the starting lineup by Dani Alves, and along with contract uncertainty as to whether a contract extension would be offered and signed, the Swiss Express was mainly a role player this season, playing mostly in the Coppa Italia and being used to rotate. When played, as usual, he provided solid defensive displays. His crossing and finishing, however, continue to leave A LOT to be desired.
At 33, to expect this to change or improve may be considered to be very wishful thinking — much like those people who expected a man who has been an unhinged, conspiracy-theory pushing, race-baiting, divisive rhetoric spewing, attention seeking, a**hole for his entire public life to suddenly change at age seventy when elected President of the United States — so is it possible that it’s time to move Lichtsteiner on? I personally thought we should have let Lichtsteiner’s contract run out and move on the summer. Still think we should look to sell. This season, our right full backs were thirty-four and thirty-three respectively. We should surely be looking for young replacements. Juve have Pol Lirola and Leonardo Spinazzola out on loan, but it’s unlikely either will be a first team member next season. So maybe someone relatively young but with experience where they could be of benefit to next season’s pursuits.
Hard to think of a stand out moment or performance from Lichtsteiner this season. Pretty average season overall.
Alex Sandro — 9
When Juve signed Alex Sandro from FC Porto in the summer of 2015, I was not impressed. I honestly thought that our money could have been better spent trying to get a trequartista to play behind the forwards. Not for the first time, my opinion over a transfer has been proven to be wrong and reminded me that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Sandro has turned out to be a terrific buy and has become one of my favourite players. So much so that when I read an article online from The Telegraph titled “The top 25 best defenders in the world” and Sandro was not on the list, I was incensed!
Equally impactful on the defensive and attacking end, Sandro has — in my opinion — been the most consistent outfield player in the squad this season. The stats don’t necessarily back this up, but watching him play week in-week out makes his consistency plain for everyone to see. He’s chipped in with some goals and a number of brilliant assists — the highlight of which must be his cross for Dani Alves’ goal in the Coppa Italia final — as well as being solid defensively. I honestly would have not expected this from a Brazilian fullback; I guess they aren’t all Roberto Carlos wannabes.
Reports of bids from Manchester City and Chelsea have been all over as the “silly season” has started. Juventus has the policy of allowing players who want to leave to do just that. However, much like with other sought after players like Leonardo Bonucci, Juventus would be mad to sell Alex Sandro — especially when one considers the troubles we have had in finding consistent quality in that position (Cristian Molinaro anyone?).
Kwadwo Asamoah — 6
The stocky Ghanian had a pretty average season all things told. It appears that the last few seasons of niggling injuries have caught up with him, as he isn’t as quick or dynamic as he once was. Most of his play now seems to be him making his way down the flank, then turning and passing back to a midfielder — I honestly cannot remember the last time I’ve seen Kwadwo take on and beat his man. Even when played, at times, in his more natural central midfield position, he has looked far from his old self. He hasn’t been bad, mind you, just not very good either.
Is it time to move him on as well? Does anyone think he can get back to his form of the good ole days, circa 2012-2014 under Antonio Conte? I wouldn’t bank on it, and maybe Juventus shouldn’t either.
Paolo De Ceglie — n/a
Yes, he was still on our books this past season! The Italian Ashton Kutcher re-joined the Bianconeri in the summer of 2016, as his loan the previous season at Olympique Marseille was not successful. After turning down loans to Crotone (which, after their stunning escape from the drop, must feel like a mistake on his part) and Pisa over the course of the season, Paolo spent his season out of the first team’s plans. He will not be a free agent, as his contract with Juventus runs out this month.
A product of the youth academy, much was expected when he was eventually promoted to the first team, along with Sebastian Giovinco and Claudio Marchisio. Instead, he has just turned out to be another example of the problems that Juventus have had in the left back position in recent years — and why it would be mental to throw it away now by even thinking about selling Alex Sandro.
All the best to him in his future endeavors.