The last time we roundtabled, it was at the beginning of the summer transfer happenings and involved a discussion of which winger we would like to see Juventus sign. It was an easy topic to discuss seeing as Juve acquiring a winger at some point this summer seemed like a virtual lock to pretty much all of us.
It ended up that Juventus didn’t necessarily choose between one of the three main options we talked about, but rather signed Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi within a couple weeks of one another. Not bad, huh?
With one main transfer objective checked off the list, onto another one. Or at least that’s what we think is going to happen based on the continuous talk in the Italian press these days.
Just like with the wingers, there’s been a select number of central midfield targets linked with a potential move to Juventus over the last few months, if not longer than that. We all know the names by now — Blaise Matuidi and Steven N’Zonzi being the main two with others thrown in there every so often.
So, the question is a simple one: Which midfielder, if any, do you want Juventus to sign before the transfer window closes at the beginning of September? It didn’t have to be Matuidi, it didn’t have to be N’Zonzi. Heck, you won’t find Marco Verratti’s name thrown around all that much over the course of the next 1,500-plus words.
Enough of the setup. Away we go...
Forget about Matuidi, I'm really keen on increasing the Polish contingent at Juventus. I'm talking about Grzegorz Krychowiak (given that I'm Nigerian myself, I sympathize with the impossibility of Polish names). He's tough as nails, still at a decent age (27), PSG don't want him anymore, and, most importantly, no pesky EPL club is going to get involved and triple the bidding price. Most Juventini, myself included, are still slightly concerned about the lack of a midfield hardman so I think that big lad Greg could solve those problems. I was first thinking that we need a regista-esque player (to ease the pressure off Pjanic) but given that a) Marchisio has looked very elegant in pre-season and b) perhaps Allegri is going to put some faith in the up-and-coming Betancur, I suppose that has become a lesser priority (although I'm wary of jumping the gun on this).
Nevertheless, Krychowiak has a lot to prove as well after being basically inexistent during his time in the city of love.
If he joins Allegri's crew, I'm hoping that he can bring some of that love our way.
It's been, um, a strange transfer window for Juve — and that's not even to consider the torrential downpour of (hopefully) ludicrous reports vis-a-vis Paulo Dybala over the last week. Reports which will, of course, continue through the end of the transfer window. Juventus have sold Leonardo Bonucci and added not one, but two wingers. Perhaps the most hilarious thing is that there's more and more speculation that Keita Balde and Juventus could link up sooner rather than later, which would render the last roundtable rather comical (in a good way).
But this question is about midfielders, right? I'll give three answers in order of realism.
Not really realistic: Sergej Milinković-Savić. He's big, young, active, athletic. With the resurrection of Il Principino, the black and white now have two technical maestros in Miralem Pjanic and Claudio Marchisio. Adding a physically dominant midfielder who's only getting better would give Allegri the option of a 4-2-4-1 or a 4-3-3. Milinković-Savić is really the ideal option, in virtually every way. It doesn't sound like Lazio are willing to part with the Serb, though.
Somewhat realistic: William Carvalho is young-ish having just turned 25, is physical, and he can play — bonus! — either as a defensive midfielder or a center back. That sounds uncannily convenient. Carvalho is linked with a number of clubs in a number of leagues, but given that he's playing his football currently in Portugal rather than one of the big four leagues — Germany, Spain, Italy, and England ... shade thrown at France and Neymar — he may be easier to snatch up than someone like Milinković-Savić, playing for a domestic competitor.
Realistic: You're going to get mad at me, but for €15 million or less I'd happily take Blaise Matuidi. Pros: He pops up all over the field, he's athletic, and he tries hard on defense. Cons: He's old-ish, not physically imposing, and he's not the best technically speaking. But look, if Rodrigo Bentancur has the potential we think he may have, and if Rolando Mandragora is also en route to becoming a first-team midfielder, then maybe all we need in this transfer window is a stop-gap solution. Call me crazy, but I think Pjanic is world-class, and I don't think he gets enough credit for his defensive abilities. Sami Khedira is still a solid destroyer, and he'll be even better if he doesn't need to play as much. Someone like Matuidi would give Juve the following double-pivot in a 4-2-3-1 — one of Marchsio/Pjanic [technical contribution] plus one of Khedira/Matuidi [defensive contribution]. That leaves Bentancur and Stefano Sturaro as reserves.
Would Matuidi give Juventus one of the world's best midfields? No. But with the additions made in the last month, Juve may now have one of the world's best attacks — I'm talking up there with Real Madrid, Barcelona, and, kill me, PSG — and we may not need the world's best midfield to run at the Champions League title.
I'm probably in the minority here, but I don't think a midfield move is as imperative as most people do.
Mostly that's because I think the prices are insane. Paris Saint-Germain is going to have to make a pretty penny off selling Blaise Matuidi, especially if UEFA starts sniffing around their finances over the Neymar deal. There is also still a lot of animosity towards Juve in Paris over the Kingsley Coman affair, and if FFP weren't a concern I doubt they would even be taking Beppe Marotta's calls at all out of spite. Even then, the latest numbers that have come out (€20 million plus bonuses, according to Premium Sport), are high for someone that will be 31 by season's end.
The other major name being bandied about most, Steven N'Zonzi, is a non-starter for me. The guy is 28 and has never earned an international cap, and Sevilla expects €40 million for him? Sorry, no.
In my opinion, there are benefits to standing pat in midfield. Claudio Marchisio is finally healthy and looked incredible on the U.S. tour. Given how diminished he looked for most of last season as he completed his recovery from ACL surgery, getting the real Principino back will almost be a signing in and of itself.
I really dug what I saw from Rodrigo Bentancur, and I'd like to see him get eased into the side over the course of the year. Unlike most Juventini, I also still believe in the potential of both Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina if they're allowed the playing time to develop in their proper positions. Rolando Mandragora looks to be destined for a loan this year, but he should be an option for a bigger role in the next year or so as well, and I wouldn't like to see him blocked by an older signing.
If you tied me up, hoisted me over a shark tank and told me to buy one of these guys, I guess it would be Matuidi. I also would be very much in favor if the pie-in-the-sky rumors from last month about Toni Kroos started coming to fruition, but that's about as likely as PSG selling Marco Verratti at a discount.
But I'm more intrigued by the prospect building the midfield around Marchisio with our internal options than I am at buying an overpriced new mid.
I would say Blaise Matuidi would be an ideal target. PSG have made him available with one year left on his current deal, and he shouldn't cost a king's ransom either.
A solid midfielder who has the skill to be a contributor in the passing game, Matuidi would be perfect foil for Miralem Pjanic to bomb forward at will while keeping the area in front of the defence clear. Matuidi is a strong tackler with plenty of experience playing at the highest levels.
Another often overlooked component of his game is his indefatigable running. The Frenchman is a box-to-box midfielder in the Arturo Vidal mode, but not as offensively gifted however. His versatility will allow Max Allegri to switch from a two-man midfield pivot to a three-man center as needed.
This situation seems to me like another Hernanes saga. I hate when Juventus feel the necessity to make a last minute transfer. Also, I have high hopes for Rodrigo Bentancur. The kid looks skinny on the pitch, but he already played a lot of games in Argentina, a very physical championship. I believe that he can fill the void behind Miralem Pjanic, Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira this season.
Nonetheless, I am not totally against signing Blaise Matuidi for €15 million. Matuidi is not my favorite player, but I can't deny that he is an upgrade over Tomas Rincon, Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina. Potentially, he could bring leadership and experience to the locker room.
Matuidi, 30, is a nice insurance policy to have on your bench and he could be a luxury asset to close games. However, I am not sure that he wants to play that role in Turin.
Juventus should be looking to sign a central midfielder that combines hard graft, energy and a high technical level. This last requirement should rule out the most linked player, Blaise Matuidi, as the Frenchman lacks the technical skill of, say, a Miralem Pjanic or even Claudio Marchisio. He’s also 30 years old and coming off his least impressive season in a while.
A better option, in my opinion, Leon Goretzka.
The 22-year-old midfielder, to put it in terms Juve fans will already understand, is like a younger German version of early Il Principino, combining a box-to-box playing style with skill and great technique. Goretzka is coming off his best goal-scoring season, with seven goals in 39 games. He’s in the final year of his current contract at Schalke, and there seems to be no immediate indication that a renewal is underway. This means he could be available for a lesser transfer fee.
In my view, Goretzka represents a young, realistic and attainable option that would fit well into the Juventus midfield. He could easily play as one of the two in a 4-2-3-1, or as part of a three man midfield in a 3-5-2 or 4-3-3.