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Joao Cancelo has been everything Juventus needed at right back — and more

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Valencia v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Group H Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Joao Cancelo wasn’t a relatively unknown player even though he was signed from a foreign league this past summer. We had just watched him — some with larger sample sizes to go off than others — play a season on loan at the San Siro with Inter Milan. There was also one important part of the deal that some people, no matter how much they saw of Cancelo last season, might be forgetting about.

MILAN - João Pedro Cavaco Cancelo is a new Inter player. The Portuguese moves to the club on loan until 30th June 2018 with an option to make the deal permanent.

Inter had a chance to keep Cancelo beyond just the 2017-18 season. The cost was rumored to be around €35 million, one that Inter let go by without any kind of transaction actually happening.

Through the first three months of the 2018-19 season, I think I can safely say that Inter’s loss has been Juventus’ gain. Like, a lot, a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot.

This is also true: I think it’s easy to admit now that seeing Juventus splash over €40 million on a fullback was a little eyebrow raising-worthy, to say the least. That’s not just more than what they paid for Miralem Pjanic, much more than what they paid for Alex Sandro three summers earlier, but it quickly made Cancelo one of Juve’s most expensive players — ever.

Laughing at Inter aside — and lord knows we all like to point and laugh that the black and blue side of Milan — you could understand why they passed up the chance to sign Cancelo outright from Valencia because of how much it would have cost them this past summer.

That opened the door for Juventus to swoop in.

And with the need for a right back as clear as day, Juventus went all in on Cancelo.

Through the first two months of the 2018-19 season, that decision is looking like quite the good one.

No, eight total appearances aren’t the be-all, end-all when it comes to receiving official confirmation that Juve shipping €40.4 million to Valencia for Cancelo was well worth it. But, the way he has played through those first eight appearances with Juventus, the form he showed at Inter — one that was full of inconsistencies and defensive struggles — isn’t close to how he’s done in Turin.

Take it like this: When Cancelo was on the delivering end of Rodrigo Bentancur’s opening goal against Udinese last month, it was simply hard to believe that it was his first assist of the season. Why? Because he’s been that good, that involved in the offensive build-up down the right wing time and time again that you would have thought he’d have more than one assist to his name before the second month of the season.

And yet, that’s what happened.

Cancelo is still stuck on one Serie A assist thus far, but that’s beside the point. (Still, one assist is still relatively hard to believe.) What he’s been able to add to this Juventus side — one that was so focused on beefing up the attack with Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival — is something that Juventus hasn’t necessarily had at the right back position since the glory days of Stephan Lichtsteiner. (That’s not that long ago, but still...)

The caveat with Cancelo was, of course, what he was going to be like on the defensive end. And, seeing as he was on loan at Inter last season, it’s not like we hadn’t gotten a first-hand look at what he was like during his 10 months at the San Siro. The advanced scouting report of sorts confirmed what we already knew about Cancelo: As much as he is an attack-minded fullback, it’s not like his defense is anything close to his calling card. It’s the same thing we said over and over again during the process of Juventus negotiating with Valencia.

There have been moments where Cancelo’s defense — or lack of it at the time — has made for some interesting moments. But, at this point, I think it’s safe to say the same kind of concerns I had about how he would be on the defensive end of things aren’t nearly as plentiful as they are right now. Basically, the Inter version of Cancelo is much different than the one we’re currently seeing at Juventus. And I’m happy to report that this version is much, much more well-rounded — and completely better — as a whole.

No offense to Danilo D’Ambrosio, but I’m pretty sure that the right back Inter had last season is better than the one they have this season.

That right back just so happens to be playing now — and I’m quite happy about it.