With the winter break halfway over, there isn’t all that much going on right now.
Oh, who am I kidding?
The transfer window is open again, which means it’s reports and rumors galore. Juventus have been connected to a good number of people, but it was always unlikely that Giuseppe Marotta would make any moves with immediate impact. This, frankly, is a good thing. As fantastic as Marotta’s record is since the Conte/Allegri era began, few of his January signings have panned out. The likes of Nicolas Anelka, Tomas Rincon, and Dani Osvaldo have been little more than spare parts when acquired during the winter transfer window. The most successful January acquisition in that time was probably Alessandro Matri, who returned to Juve on a six-month loan in the 2014-15 season and scored twice in nine matches. Those two goals did carry some weight — one started the comeback in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal against Fiorentina and the other won the final of the same competition in extra time — but that’s a pretty poor run given Marotta’s virtuoso abilities during the summer.
One thing Marotta has done well in January is identify targets he can sign in the summer as free agents. In 2013 he used the winter window to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with Fernando Llorente, who the next season teamed with Carlos Tevez to form the most prolific strike pair the club has seen since Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet. Other free agent arrivals like Sami Khedira weren’t necessarily signed in this period, but were almost certainly being scouted and perhaps approached for initial negotiation.
This season, another player is in Marotta’s Bosman crosshairs: Liverpool’s Emere Can. The 24-year-old midfielder ha s been linked with Turin for most of the last year, but with the Germany international’s contract expiring and a deal looking more and more likely, the question remains: How good is this guy, and how does he fit into the midfield going forward?
Danny has already gotten the inside scoop on Can from our SB Nation colleagues covering Liverpool, painting a picture of a man who still has great potential but who has a chance being relative.
That’s the eye test, but what do the numbers tell us about him?
Can’s stats had been pretty similar year on year until last season, when he broke out with five goals and two assists in 34 competitive games. Before then, he hadn’t scored more than once in a season for the Reds. This season, Can has taken another step forward, already having posted a career high for assists with three. He’s making just shy of one key pass per match — which is in line with his career numbers at Anfield — and completing 85.7 percent of his passes, another career high, if only by a hair.
When it comes to the eye test, Can passes it regularly. He’s dropped pinpoint assists over the top for his Liverpool teammates and scored some spectacular long-range goals. Then there was this absurd bicycle kick this past May that really has to be seen to be believed.
In his conversation with Danny, Noel Chomyn of the Liverpool Offside highlighted Can’s need to develop his ability to read the game defensively, and he certainly does require some improvement in that area as he can switch off at times. But in terms of raw numbers, he’s actually averaging more tackles per game (2.7 to 1.6) and interceptions per game (1.3 to 0.9) in league games this season than current Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi. His tackle numbers also tend to tick up in European competitions a sign that he raises his game when the stakes get higher. With some good Italian coaching in tactics and defending, and Can’s defensive numbers could climb to another level.
When looking at potential new midfielders, it’s sometimes hard not to compare and contrast them to Arturo Vidal. The Chilean’s departure three summers ago left a hole that has never been adequately filled in.
Obviously it’s impossible to replace him completely — only a handful of midfielders with Vidal’s all-around abilities emerge every generation. When I was at Bleacher Report I once made the case that the total package of his skills warranted him consideration as the best footballer on the planet. Any player that can come remotely close to making the kind of contribution Vidal did will be an asset to any midfield.
If Can does come to Turin in the summer, he’ll be 24 — the same age Vidal was when he first came to Juve. Vidal was by far a more finished product than Can, particularly as a defender. His tackle averages with Juve are double what Can has produced in his career, and he scored on a more consistent basis going the other way.
But there is still room for the German to improve. With the right coaching, Can looks like he can turn into something similar to Arturo — Vidal Lite, if you will. Placed alongside Matuidi and Miralem Pjanic in a three-man midfield, Can is capable of being the kind of dynamic box-to-box midfielder that the team really hasn’t had since Il Guerriero left in 2015.
He certainly has the potential to be a high-quality addition to the midfield next season. If it all goes right, Can could go down as another of Beppe Marotta’s major free agent steals.