While we Juventini anxiously await Saturday’s tilt with Milan, it’s given everyone the time to freak out the latest rounds of transfer rumors, notably regarding midfielders. Apparently Claudio Marchisio is looking to hang out with me in NYC, Emre Can only cares about that cash, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is totally, 1,000 percent coming to Turin and nobody can tell me otherwise.
However, the more I thought about what changes might be coming this summer, I realized Juve’s attack might also see some turnover. So, who’s going to be around to score the goals next season?
Riccardo Orsolini, winger (on loan at Bologna)
Obviously, Riccardo is already out on loan, and there definitely will not be any calls from Juve to cut the loan short and bring him back this summer. I had high hopes for Orsolini after he lit it up at the Under-20 World Cup last summer, but his initial loan spell at Atalanta didn’t go as planned and he rarely saw the field. Now at Bologna, hopefully he gets more opportunities to shine. Juve beat a lot of teams to get him from Ascoli, but it might be a while until we see him back in Turin.
VERDICT: GOES (OUT ON LOAN)
Moise Kean, striker (on loan at Hellas Verona)
Another easy one here, as I don’t see Moise being a part of Juve’s squad next year. Granted, a backup striker position might be available next year (more on that later), but it doesn’t make much sense for Kean to fill that role. He just turned 18 (!!!!), and has a lot of professional years ahead of him. While I HATE the fact that Mino Raiola is his agent, I think he will eventually agree that another loan move would be best for Kean’s development. I wouldn’t be shocked if there was an Orsolini-like deal worked out, but this time to a slightly better club.
Kean is uber-talented, and just needs to keep playing and developing until the opportunities at Juve open up. It might be a few years from now, but all indications are he’ll be worth the wait.
VERDICT: GOES (OUT ON LOAN)
Gonzalo Higuain, striker
Pipita is a lock to be back. He’s been getting better and better, and becoming way more complete of a striker than I ever thought he’d be. He’ll be back, he’ll be fat, he’ll cut back on some carbs, and he’ll score many goals. It’s clockwork.
Douglas Costa, winger
One of the best parts of Juve’s post-Sampdoria hot streak has been seeing Douglas Costa’s integration into the team. A few years ago, I went to the first leg of the Bayern Munich Champions League Round of 16 tie — sick humblebrag, I know — and had one big takeaway from the game: Costa is by far the fastest player I’ve ever seen in person. It is scary how quick he is with the ball at his feet, and the way he can accelerate past defenders is going to be crucial when Juve inevitably are forced to counter against Madrid. The €46 million spent on him now looks pretty good considering the post-Neymar inflated market we are currently living in. He’s going nowhere.
Federico Bernardeschi, winger/attacking mid
Everyone’s favorite bulldog owner, Fede Bernardeschi, is going nowhere. While Fede had a slow start to his Juve career, he was just showing signs of his immense potential before he got hurt in the Turin derby. We’re all holding our breath until that surgery/no surgery report comes out, as Bernardeschi is going to play a big role on all fronts should his health hold up the next few months. I recently had a friend ask if he were to get a custom Juve kit, which player should he get. I told him Bernardeschi, because I really think he’ll be in black and white for the next 10 years. Juve obviously loves their Italians, and he could make up the next Italian core with the likes of Daniele Rugani, Mattia Caldara, Mattia De Sciglio and Leonardo Spinazzola.
Paulo Dybala, striker/attacking mid
Would I bet my life we’ll see the Dybala Mask at the J Stadium — it’s not the Allianz Stadium, I don’t care how much money they are paying for the rights — next season? No.
Do I think it’s more than likely that he comes back? Yes, especially when a certain national team manager keeps saying that he can’t fit him into his plans despite his all-world talent.
My ultimate fear going into the season was that Dybala would tear it up all year, spark up the rumor mill yet again, then help Argentina make a deep run at the World Cup in Russia, and leave later in the summer. For those first couple of weeks in the fall, it looked like we were headed towards that path. However, given Paulo’s dip in form and whatever the hell was going on with him off the field, the rumor mill calmed down. Then came his injury layoff, but now we’re approaching full blown La Joya-mania again. While the transfer talk is bound to pick up again — especially if he lights it up in the upcoming Madrid matches — I do feel Paulo will want to come back next season.
I think giving him the No. 10 was a big sign the boardroom wants to keep him no matter what happens over the coming months. After the whole Pogba-10 ordeal, it would be a really bad look to flip your No. 10 twice immediately after giving them the number. Also, I don’t see the perfect team for Paulo to go to should he want to leave. Barca? I don’t see them splashing the cash for another attacker, and he seemingly can’t play with Lionel Messi. Madrid? Maybe, but it seems like they’re looking more for a No. 9 and not a 10. The Manchester clubs? Yeah, they have money, but where is he fitting in at City, and would YOU want to play for Jose Mourinho right now? Thought so.
In conclusion, please don’t leave Paulo. Please.
Mario Mandzukic, striker/winger
Now this is where things get interesting.
Mario is a warrior, and everything you would want in a Juventus player. Willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team, it could be argued that Mario was the MVP of last campaign. Without his ability to fit in the wide role in last year’s 4-2-3-1, there’s no telling where Juve would have ended up.
This year, however, has been somewhat of a struggle.
The 4-2-3-1 has only been sparingly broken out, and he has looked lost playing as a lone striker, or as an attacker in the 4-3-2-1/4-3-3. If the attack Juve currently has is completely healthy, I don’t see that much consistent playing time for him. I can see Mandzukic being a good soldier for the rest of the year, and then looking to move for a more featured role somewhere else in Europe. My gut tells me he ends up back in the Bundesliga, and Juve will be on the lookout for another striker.
In the meantime, let’s all appreciate every header won over a fullback, and every beautiful slide tackle on an attacker. Long live Super Mario, you’ll be missed.
VERDICT: GOES (SOLD)
Juan Cuadrado, winger/Wingback-ish
First off, let’s all hope Juan’s recent return to training — albeit separate from the team — means that he’s finally turned the corner and we’ll be back soon.
While he is a maddeningly inconsistent player, Cuadrado was finally starting to put in consecutive good performances before he went down. His trickery and ability to take on defenders is especially valuable in Serie A, where so many teams put 10 players behind the ball. In a title race this close, Cuadrado becomes even more valuable. His ability to play as a wingback in a three-man defense also gives Max Allegri more options.
It’s for these reasons that I believe Allegri will want Cuadrado around as long as he’s the manager. As far as market value, I’m not quite sure the return Juve would get for Cuadrado would justify giving up such a good squad player. Now, should Cuadrado play an important role for a dangerous Columbia side at the World Cup, that value could go up and Juve might be tempted to cash in when they can (he turns 30 in May).
Until that happens, though, I expect him to be around next season.
Marko Pjaca, winger (on loan at Schalke)
All reports out of Germany have been pretty positive with regards to Pjaca as he looks to regain his fitness coming off an ACL tear. He’s been getting minutes on a team sitting second in the Bundesliga, and already has two goals to his name. One of the smaller transfer rumors over the last couple of days was that Pjaca was generating some interest around Europe, but that Juve believe he is improving and have no intentions of letting him go. Unfortunately, I believe Marko is going to be the odd man out here.
To clarify, I by no means want him to leave, and I’d personally prefer they sell Cuadrado. Pjaca has shown flashes over the last two years that he could be one of the best up-and-coming wingers in Europe. He’s in his early 20s, and is going to be good for a long time. But I just don’t see him logistically fitting in next year. As mentioned above, Bernardeschi and Costa are going nowhere, and I think Max would really fight hard to keep Cuadrado. You add in Dybala and Higuain, and there’s not many openings for him to play regularly.
If Juve were still playing the 4-2-3-1 consistently, there might be room for him. But with the current set-up, and assuming Dybala stays, I believe he could be sold. Juve are going to need to raise funds to improve the squad elsewhere (midfield), and aside from the inevitable Alex Sandro sale, Pjaca could be the most valuable chip they have. Maybe Cuadrado does light it up in Russia and a good offer comes in for him. If that were to happen, Pjaca could easily stay and still get good minutes. Maybe Pjaca is the one who lights it up, and Juve decide they have to find a place for him in the team. I’m just struggling to really believe that either of these scenarios will actually happen.
In a world where Pjaca does get moved, I would hope a buy-back clause is inserted as a cover for any potential Dybala sale down the road (again, please no) or any other attacking exits. Pjaca has the potential to be a star, and I really don’t want another Kingsley Coman situation to happen. It’d suck to see another talented winger go without seeing him realize his potential in Turin.
VERDICT: GOES (SOLD, WITH A POTENTIAL BUY-BACK)