When it comes to Juventus transfer targets, there is no name that is being mentioned more than that of Liverpool midfielder Emre Can. The thing is, though, if Can signs with Juventus at some point during the January transfer window, he won’t have any kind of impact until next season arrives.
That’s not exactly something that’s hard to figure out. Nor is it difficult to figure out by now that Juve are interested in signing the 23-year-old German midfielder who has spent the last three-and-a-half seasons Merseyside.
Can, as we know, is out of contract come the end of the season, meaning that he can agree to a free transfer to any given club during the next three weeks while the winter transfer window is still open for business.
Juventus, at least right now, seems like a pretty good bet to secure Can’s services for the next, oh I don’t know, four or five seasons.
Because SB Nation is a cool place on the internet and has many very good blogs to read, we are able to talk to somebody who knows much more about Emre Can than a lot of us do. That writer is Noel Chomyn, who just so happens to be one of the Liverpool Offside’s managing editors.
Noel was nice enough to answer some questions about the second German midfielder who could arrive in Turin on a free transfer in the last three years.
It’s now time to talk Can.
BWRAO: Forget all the fancy introductions. Let’s talk some football, Noel! In short, what kind of midfielder is Emre Can?
LO: Everything about Can’s toolkit screams box-to-box midfielder. He’s big, physical, and likes to drive forward with the ball at his feet, and more than that it’s the attacking side of the game that Can really seems to embrace — he’s just that little bit faster getting up a head of steam when he sees a gap he can plow through or senses the chance to get on a pullback at the edge of the area.
BWRAO: It’s not often that a soon-to-be 24-year-old is available on a free. Is who Can is now the midfielder Juventus should expect or are there still signs he’s got room to improve?
LO: Well, yes. Because there’s a flip-side to the above, and that’s that while Can’s toolkit is of a box-to-box player you send out either as a shuttler in a three or alongside a more defensively rigorous partner in a two, everything points to Can himself wanting to be an anchor — to play as the six. And right now his reading of the games along with what can at times seem a frustrating indifference to exerting himself when he doesn’t have the ball make him a liability in that role.
Part of that is probably down to injury issues he struggled with in his early days at Liverpool that had him playing at 80% pretty much every week and saw him seek out a deeper role and consciously limit his sprints. Even now that he is meant to be healthy it’s hard not to see Can’s style as having been moulded by that. So yes, he very much needs to un-learn some bad habits — and develop his reading of the game — if he’s going to hit the heights he’s very much capable of from a talent standpoint.
BWRAO: A lot of Juventus’ success in recent years has come with three central midfielders. Where could Can fit in with the likes of Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi?
LO: On paper he’d be a natural fit as the third man in that midfield — just don’t ask him to be the primary defensive screen or count on him to be a technical dynamo and he’ll be fine.
BWRAO: How do Liverpool supporters feel about Can (probably) leaving this summer?
LO: Mixed. Emre Can at his best showed flashes of world class, but he’s far more inconsistent than he really should be at this stage of his career if he wants to be the sort of player who’s going to start every week for a club like Liverpool — or Juventus. More than that, as things stand he’s just not a natural fit for what Jürgen Klopp wants in a midfielder. He’s too positionally irresponsible to anchor it, and Klopp wants his shuttlers — and maybe even all his midfielders — to have elite technique and agility.
That’s why finding a way to bring in Naby Keïta was such a priority, and it’s why before he got injured Adam Lallana had made himself nearly first choice on the teamsheet. It’s why we were willing to offer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the midfield role he wanted and are after a player like Thomas Lemar as a midfielder rather than a winger. So while we’re certainly all annoyed to be losing a player who shows flashes of world class play on a free, it’s not hard to understand why Can has resisted re-signing.
At his best he’s an absolute tank of a player, though, an imposing figure driving with the ball at his feet, and if Juventus are more interested in what he does well than worried about what he doesn’t, he’s a steal on a free.
BWRAO: Take away the free transfer for a second — would Emre Can be a good signing for Juventus?
LO: Absolutely. He’d be a good signing for any top club, free or otherwise, as long that club can accept he does have an at times rather poor reading of the game defensively and lacks truly elite technique and agility. If that’s not a deal-breaker for a signing club, he’s really only consistency away from being a physically dynamic and top class box-to-box player who would fetch £40M-plus in the current market.