The World Cup is a spectacle unlike anything else of its kind. Thirty-two nations arrive with the hopes and dreams of all of their fellow compatriots on their shoulders. Vibrant supporters flock to a single country to witness their nation’s representatives do them proud, and possibly reach the glory of winning it all. Emotions are high, and rightfully so, like Panama’s starting XI and the crowd all singing the national anthem in unison. Not a dry eye could be found amongst these players, as they are the country’s first ever squad to make it to the World Cup. It’s all a part of what makes football so great.
As well as all of the emotion that goes into a World Cup, another great aspect of it is being able to see up-and-coming talent that may be somewhat off the radar, or to scout potential players that could add value to a club. 2014’s coming-out party was undoubtably James Rodriguez, helping Colombia top their group and reach the quarterfinals, as well as his “announcement” to the world which would. James was able to parlay his efforts into a massive transfer to Real Madrid, and now he is a global superstar.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the talent that Juventus brass is keeping a close eye on in Russia, and how they have faired so far through their first (one or two) matches:
Aleksandr Golovin — Russia
Before the tournament even began, we were hearing rumblings that a young, 22-year-old Russian midfielder named Aleksandr Golovin could possibly be on Juventus’ radar. Then we heard that personal terms with the player had already been completed, and a fee was the only thing left to agree upon with CSKA Moskow. And finally, Golovin entered the world’s biggest stage and arguably was the best player on the pitch against Saudi Arabia.
Golovin would immediately be helpful to Max Allegri’s squad, as he can be used in attacking positions on either the left or centrally, something he showcased in Russia’s 5-0 win in the tournament opener. His first assist was a beautiful cross from the outside-left of the box to the far post, meeting Yuri Gazinksy’s head for the first goal of the tournament. On the second goal, Golovin used his pace and strength to win the ball on the edge of the box, this time on the right before feeding it to teammate Roman Zobnin who would then assist on the play. To make it 3-0, Golovin followed the theme he set of magnificent crosses — this one from the right — to find Artem Dzyuba’s head for his second assist. Golovin wasn’t finished, however, as in the third minute of stoppage time he placed his free kick perfectly, sending it past the keeper and into the net.
Golovin showed everything that makes him an ideal candidate for a transfer to Juventus, as he flashed his technical ability, superb passing vision, and threat on free-kicks.
Against Egypt, Golovin continued to be a presence all over the pitch. Constantly whipping in good crosses to his teammates, he is someone defenders have to be consistently aware of. Golovin’s motor is also quite high, as he runs box to box while his energy seems to never dip. Chances are that when you were watching the match against Egypt, you saw No. 17 in red more often than not. Golovin also flashed that same technical grace, as he did in the first match, as he routinely made close touches and connected the attack between his teammates seamlessly. He has shown the innate ability to drop deep to receive the ball and then push it forward on Russia’s attacks, able to create attacking moves at ease. Everything the young Russian has done so far has been an absolute joy to watch.
Beppe Marotta himself has said that closing a deal for Golovin was “more than just a possibility,” and this is a promising sign that an agreement will eventually be reached. With what we saw out of the Russian midfielder on the opening day of the World Cup and against Egypt, we should just hope a deal is completed sooner rather than later for Golovin. He’s already had me on the edge of my seat, and I just can’t stop thinking about the free kicks we’d see from him, Miralem Pjanic, and Paulo Dybala.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic — Serbia
If there is a player at this year’s World Cup who is most likely to emulate James Rodriguez’s rise in 2014, it is our hopeful future friend Milinkovic-Savic. The Serbian is perhaps more well-known than the Colombian was entering the World Cup, as he has been linked to not only Juventus, but every other big club across the continent of Europe, from Real Madrid to Barcelona to Manchester United.
SMS is the creative focal point for Serbia, just as he was with Lazio last season when he recorded 14 goals along with seven assists. Milinkovic-Savic continued to do his usual Milinkovic-Savic things against Costa Rica, showing the world what we already knew he was capable of from watching him in Serie A. He displayed his insane close-touch control of the ball, wide array of creative passes, and his way of creating something productive out of nothing. It is amazing to watch him process the game, as he receives the ball and quickly decides the best course of action and where to go with it. At one point he got the ball on the right flank and put in a perfect pass to Aleksandar Mitrovic, but the striker squandered the chance. He routinely took opponents on with his adept dribbling and caused Costa Rican defenders to be preoccupied with containing him. SMS even had an overhead bicycle kick, which was saved just in time by Keylor Navas, after freeing himself from his marker only for it to be wrongly called offsides. Sergei continually created goal opportunities for his teammates, as evidenced by his three key passes. He also always seemed to have the ball at his feet, with 61 total touches.
Milinkovic-Savic will continue to be at the forefront for Serbia’s chances in Russia, and any time he takes the pitch is a reason to watch. We’ve heard that his father is trying to push him towards Juventus, and whether true or not, hopefully that’s what he is thinking about it. We all know how much a player of his caliber would boost the squad, as he would bring an unrivaled attacking threat and skill from the middle of the park. It is clearly the midfield that needs the most work this offseason, and SMS would be the one player who would most elevate Juventus. Yes, the price is steep, and yes, Lazio owner Claudio Lotito is annoying to deal with, but if SMS wants to truly come to Turin, he can try to push through a move. This move seems unlikely and then more likely on a day-by-day basis, but that Juventus is continually mentioned in reports that come out on the transfer saga can only mean the club is still in the hunt.
Come on, Sergej, don’t you want to live in the same city as your brother?
These players will most likely be the two that Juventus fans keep a close eye on in the coming matches that aren’t currently under contract with the bianconeri. In the coming match days, players Juventus may not have ever been linked to will probably be connected to the club in some way or another through standout performances, some being more tangible than others. In the meantime, Golovin seems more likely to join, while SMS is still in the “dream” category of transfers, but nothing is impossible. Hey, we got Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic when we weren’t supposed to as well.