I’m going to start these ratings by saying that I will not allow the Champions League final to heavily influence my ratings for the forward corpse this season. It is one game — albeit the most important one — I am not going to sit here and throw away the work that these five men did from August to May for 90 minutes in June.
Despite the Champions League loss, Juventus completed the domestic double for a record third consecutive time. A few years down the road we will look back and realize that this is by far the most talented forward group that we have had the pleasure of watching since 2005-06 when Juventus trotted out any combination of Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adrian Mutu and Marcelo Zalayeta week in and week out.
It was definitely a good season for our six forwards —yes we will rate Moise Kean, too! — who were given much more creative and offensive liberty this season and it showed on the pitch with some added depth in not only the forward position but in wings as well where Alex Sandro progressed and the arrival of Dani Alves did wonders to our team play.
In total, Juventus’ forwards contributed 68 goals this season — an average of 1.19 goals per game (57 games played) — and when you factor in Juventus’ 2.17 goals per game average in all competitions, then it becomes evident that our forwards were rarely left off the scoresheet.
Now that all is said and done on the season, I’m willing to look back on our forwards contributions (for the most part) and say that it was positive.
Marko Pjaca — 6.5
The season did not go according to plan for the young Croatian forward who arrived with loads of optimism after his impressive Euro 2016 campaign with Croatia.
Juventus certainly believed in the kid as they were willing to pay €20 million plus bonuses. At first, it seemed as though Max Allegri was being extremely cautious with the winger as he had done with Paulo Dybala the year prior and when it appeared as though Pjaca would breakthrough into a more prominent role, he suffered a cracked fibula with his national team and was out for 3 months. He began to gain his confidence back and scored the crucial opener away to Porto in the Champions League in February and when it looked as though the player would benefit from Mister Allegri rotating his forwards throughout the heaviest period of the season, Pjaca tore his ACL while away on International duty. (Are you kidding me?)
In total, Pjaca contributed just the one goal for Juventus in just over 600 minutes throughout the season. He is scheduled to be ready for September 2017, but Juventus will no doubt take the cautious approach with the speedy winger who showed flashes of brilliance when on the pitch. Here’s to a healthy 2017-18 season for Marko.
Juan Cuadrado — 6.5
Cuadrado ... where do we begin.
The season started off so promising for Cuadrado when he became a Juventus cult hero when he refused to play for Antonio Conte’s Chelsea because he wanted to return to Juventus where he had spent the year prior on loan. Cuadrado initially started the campaign well and provided much-needed unpredictability to the Juventus lineup whether in the 3-5-2 or after the crucial switch to the 4-2-3-1 system later on. His four goals and six assists in 46 matches leave a lot to be desired, but most of his goals and assists came at crucial moments of the season. In particular, his goal against Lyon — with Juventus down to 10 men — and his rocket against Inter in the Derby d’Italia come to mind.
Unfortunately for Juan, his major detractor this season was his inconsistently down the stretch. The emergence of Dani Alves at the tail end of the season forced Cuadrado to a bench position as a substitute.
Let’s watch that laser beam in football form one more time.
Mario Mandzukic — 8
Have you ever been asked to do something that you haven’t done in a very long time after having become accustomed to another way of doing things?
Do you remember how difficult it was to adjust?
If so, then you should have nothing but praise for Mr. No Good.
Mandzukic was asked to abandon his preferred position as centre forward in order to become a winger in Max Allegri’s 4-2-3-1 formation, and not only did he successfully play the wing but he absolutely owned the position for the latter half of the season. Mandzukic’s tireless work on the left wing with Alex Sandro became a mainstay in the Juventus lineup and it was work that Max did not want to leave his lineup devoid of.
Mario brought warrior-like tenacity to this lineup and became someone that no one on the opposing side wanted to deal with. His 11 goals and four assists in 52 matches were extremely crucial throughout the year, and it is extremely important to remember that if Mandzukic had either declined to play left wing or failed miserably at it, we would have been stuck with Stefano Sturaro up top once Pjaca went down to injury.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Mario, for making the nightmare never come to fruition.
Remember that time when Lionel Messi thought he could go toe to toe with the GOAT?
Paulo Dybala — 8
Big things were expected of La Joya entering the season and despite some injury concerns at the start of the year, he delivered.
Dybala played as a supporting striker or attacking midfielder when Allegri was forced to change formations in late-January and it helped Dybala’s game immensely and allowed his creativity to shine on the field. When Dybala missed the last penalty in the Super Cup final it could have been devastating for a player of lower attributes, but Dybala is a champion and played incredibly well for the remainder of the season. He got his revenge against Milan for the missed penalty in Doha with a 96th minute perfectly placed spot kick at Juventus Stadium in March.
Many will say that Dybala’s disappearance in the Champions League final was indicative of the type of player that Dybala is, but I will remember the defining moment in Dybala’s season when he almost singlehandedly knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League with a pair of stunning first-half goals at Juventus Stadium.
We can be extremely critical at times with Paulo, but sometimes we have to remember that the player is only 23 years old and will almost certainly become one of the stars of European football in the coming years, and he plays in our black and white stripes.
Gonzalo Higuain — 9
Higuain was purchased by Juventus to help win the coveted Champions League trophy. Did il Pipita help Juventus achieve their goal? No, but that doesn’t rest solely on Gonzalo’s shoulders.
Many of the arguments I hear from Juventus fans is the fact that he scored the goals throughout the Serie A and Coppa Italia campaigns that we would have scored anyways. Juventus would have won both titles regardless. Are you sure? In the tightest Scudetto race since the 2011/12 season, Gonzalo scored game winners against Roma, Fiorentina, Torino and Napoli just to name a few. That is 12 points in a Scudetto race that Juventus won by four points. He almost singlehandedly knocked out Napoli from the Coppa Italia with three of the five goals scored over two legs.
Unfortunately for Higuain and most of Juve’s other forwards, the lack of depth showed and the players were extremely overworked and tired by the end of the season. Higuain appeared in a whopping 55 of the 57 matches that Juventus played this season along with some matches for Argentina along the way. I guarantee we will see an even better Pipita next year a proper centre forward substitute is brought in to helped Gonzalo carry the load up top.
Another major criticism of the Argentinian is that he never shows up on the big stage. I would consider playing the Champions semifinals the big stage, and Higuain certainly delivered scoring a brace away to Monaco.
You are going to hear many things over the summer months, Higuain is a waste of money, Higuain is fat, slow, not worthy of the Juventus shirt, but look past the €90 million contract (most players in the World are not worth their transfer fees nowadays). Higuain is the most clinical striker this team has had since David Trezeguet and that is something to be cherished, not pushed away.
Here’s a look at some of Higuain’s finest moments.
Moise Kean — 7
In case you didn’t know, Kean is one of the next big things to come out of Italian football, the player has been absolutely destroying the Primavera for the better part of two years and was finally given regular first team call ups this year, albeit these call ups were mainly for depth purposes and the player rarely appeared on the field.
Kean became the first player in Champions League and Serie A history to step on the field born in the 2000s. He also became the first player born in 2000 to score in Serie A, the future looks bright for the young Italian starlet. He scored one goal in only 24 minutes on the field and it was the game clincher in the dying seconds of the last match of the Serie A season.
Did I mention he is only 17?