The more things change, the more they stay the same.
There’s a good argument to be made that this summer transfer season was the most transformative we have seen for Juventus in over a decade, maybe even longer than that. Legendary players leaving, stars coming in, reunion of old friends, blockbuster moves. You name it, fireworks aplenty.
As we get ready for the end of the second International break of the season, we find ourselves in an awfully familiar place. Juventus comfortably leads Serie A, which as you know has often been the case. They have played sprouts of spectacular football with periods of slow, urgency lacking play mixed in. They have beaten traditional rivals and gotten mystifying results against relative minnows. Sure, Champions League play has started better than usual, but in true European Juventus fashion, they threw in a maddening group stage loss in there, just so we don’t get too comfortable.
(Speaking of the International break, is there anything more useless than the international breaks right after the World Cup? Outside of the UEFA Nations League there is nothing of any meaning being played for — and even the Nations League usefulness is questionable — Let’s keep the continental tournaments, the qualifiers and the World Cup, that’s good and plenty.)
So, even though things at a macro level haven’t been that different, it’s still worth talking about how the new guys are doing. Without further ado, let’s grade all of the summer signings, starting with the absolute best performer so far:
Joao Cancelo – A
Yes! Not the Portuguese star we wanted, but the one we needed. The young right back has been an absolute revelation for Juventus and has arguably been the most impactful player of all the new signings and one of the most impactful in the squad, period.
I was skeptical of the signing when it was first announced and the transfer fee didn’t help matters. Over €40 million for a right back? And, a rather unproven right back at that? Sure, the potential was there, but a fee that high for a guy that had shown flashes but never quite put it all together seemed like a big risk.
Chalk up another win for Juventus management football knowledge against mine, a score that it’s probably 27-1 by now; I did say Nicolas Anelka was going to be thrash, though, so there’s that.
Cancelo has been every bit as good as advertised on the offensive side and, outside of a couple mistakes on defense, he’s been pretty consistent on that end as well. Cancelo is a true joy to watch and I can´t remember the last time Juventus had a guy like him on the flanks. All around a great signing and a big part of why Juventus has had a great start to the season.
Fun fact: He didn’t get a call up from Portugal to the World Cup. HOW?!
Cristiano Ronaldo – A-
The nation of Portugal, playing a key role in the top of the rankings, and with good reason. There’s not a ton more anybody could have asked from the former Real Madrid main man. In all competitions, he has played 15 games and tallied 9 goals and 5 assists; that’s pretty goddamn good, my friends.
Like the Cancelo signing, I was a bit skeptical about Ronaldo coming to Juventus. Not because of the price tag, God knows that on marketing value alone those €100 million were worth it, or the talent, which we all know he has plenty. But more because I was curious to see how he would fit in with the squad and the club, in Real Madrid things ran through Ronaldo as he was the point man for their entire offense. Would Juventus, a notoriously team-focused squad, and Max Allegri do the same?
Yes and no. Obviously, when you bring in a guy with his level of talent, it is expected that he is going to be more of a focus on the style of play for any squad. However, I was surprised to see Ronaldo be willing to move around and play in different positions to accommodate his teammates and the assigned formation. Another surprising, and rather welcome, development has been his willingness to track back on defense when needed and his general unselfishness, his 5 assists this season are already the same amount he had during the entire 2017-2018 La Liga.
I’ve dinged him up a bit because he started a bit cold and his Champions League performances have not been as spectacular as we all expected, I also think that Cancelo has been more impactful on an every-game basis as well as a bigger upgrade on the previous player who manned the position before, so that’s why I give the young right back the higher grade.
Off the field issues aside, Ronaldo seems like a guy determined to prove all the preconceived notions about him as a player wrong and to prove that he can still be successful, despite his age, with a different team in a different league. So far, he’s succeeding.
Leonardo Bonucci – B-
Despite his acrimonious exit two summers ago, I was happy to see Leo come back to the Bianconeri. Sure, he was a bit of an ass, but he was also part of the core group of guys that brought Juve back to relevance, not to mention a world class center back.
(Plus, he never looked right in Milan’s rossonero. Put that jersey up there with the rest of the weird, one-off kits that should have never existed. Like Raul’s Schalke 04 kit or Iker Casillas’ Porto kit or … GIGI’S PSG KIT. SURE THE JORDAN BRAND VERSION IS FIRE, BUT IT LOOKS SO WEIRD.)
Was I happy that the cost to get him back was Mattia Caldara and Gonzalo Higuain? Not really, but if he came back to playing to the world class capacity that we all know he was capable of, it seemed like an acceptable sacrifice.
So far, I would say it’s been a mixed bag. His usual proficiency with long balls is still there and has already yielded two masterful goals from Paulo Dybala and Ronaldo, respectively. Defensively is where he’s been hit or miss. He can still put up great, solid performances like the ones we were used to see from him in the BBC heyday, but his mistakes and defensive lapses have been more constant than we would all like and you could argue he’s been at fault for the two biggest goals against Juve in the entire season — Genoa’s tying goal in Serie A and Manchester United’s comeback win in Champions League.
(Though if you want to argue that Bonucci, Alex Sandro and Wojciech Szczesny, all share some blame for that blunder I wouldn’t argue with you.)
His final grade will be decided as the season develops, if he can come back to the elite level Juventus will need from him then the whole thing will be worth it. However if his lapses continue, especially if they happen in a big Champions League game? The Bonucci reunion will be a
disappointing affair after all.
Emre Can – Incomplete
This is where it gets tricky. The German midfielder has appeared in 10 games, mostly coming on as a sub, per the traditional Allegri rule that goes “Never play new guys early in the season, ever, except if they are Cristiano Ronaldo and/or Joao Cancelo.” Nevertheless, he was starting to put up very good performances when he was diagnosed with a thyroid nodule condition that required surgery.
While the problem is not expected to be life threatening and his surgery seems to have gone down swimmingly, there is still no concrete timetable on his return and his limited amount of minutes makes it hard to give his performances a proper grade.
Back in the summer, I wrote about this Can:
“Truth be told, this could go either way. I could see a scenario where Can takes a step forward and fulfills his potential. I can also see a scenario where he never unsettles the starters and he become an overhyped and overpaid squad rotation player.”
So far, he’s shown us a bit of both — some of his performances have been rather forgettable especially coming on as a sub. However, that could be chalked up to the natural adaptation period to a new club. His better performances came up later on the season; hopefully he can come back after the surgery and keep up that production. If he is able to do that, he will be a big part of the squad going forward, hopefully unseating Sami Khedira in the starting XI.
Mattia Perin – Incomplete
Second fun fact of the article: I was about to turn this piece in to our fearless editor Danny, when I realized that I had completely forgotten about the young Italian goalkeeper. And you would be forgiven if you had also forgotten about Perin, too.
Granted, Coppa Italia hasn’t started which is the competition that is usually reserved for the No 2 keeper. But while we all knew coming into the season that Woj would be the starting goalkeeper, some of us expected Perin to get more run than he has currently been given. Can’t really blame Allegri that much either, outside of the United game, Woj has played up to the expectations. Since those expectations were to be a really, really good keeper and to fill in for the GOAT under thesticks, Woj has performed pretty admirably.
I’m sure Perin will get more playing time as soon as Coppa Italia starts and we get into the 3 gamesa week part of the season, but as of now, he gets an incomplete.
Or, you could look at it the other way. He played one full game, kept a clean sheet and played pretty good. So, A+++ for you, Mattia.
That’s it for the rankings; let’s hope everyone on international duty has come back healthy. And, let’s get some Juventus football going already.