There’s a line of thinking, particularly in American sports, where signings are graded based on the context of the team that is doing the signing, not just in a vacuum. I mention American sports because, unlike football, are built with the premise of parity. Major League Baseball, the NFL and NBA have built in features to enforce a measure of parity. Things like the salary cap and the draft exist with the sole purpose of giving bad teams chances to get good players and hopefully make the league more interesting, more “equal.”
Taking that into consideration, it makes sense to grade signings based on what the objective of the team is. If a terrible team signs an above-average player for an above average amount of money, in a vacuum that’s a good move, but in context it might be a bad signing.
That good player might help you win a couple more games than you would have otherwise, sure, but you are not winning the championship and those extra wins might bump you higher in the draft order, lowering your chances of getting a franchise-changing player.
Same thing for contenders — getting a veteran on an expensive contract might not be a prudent move long-term, but if you have a short window to get a championship, the long-term problems might be worth it considering the situation.
While European football doesn’t have a salary cap or a draft, teams still have expectations, and, in a way, those expectations are the ones that end up dictating how a signing should be graded.
When it comes to Juventus, we all know what the expectation is.
The current Serie A and Coppa Italia champions are not just playing for another domestic. The fans know it, the board knows it and the players know that the big objective for this season is to break the 22-year drought in the European stage. The objective is to win the UEFA Champions League.
With that in mind, let’s grade the summer mercato for the club. All the signings will be graded under one condition and one condition only: Is this player going to be able to start and win a Champions League final for Juventus?
In the current era, Juventus’ market strategy has been very specific — get established players who are known quantities for affordable prices. Outside of a few outliers like splashing the money for Gonzalo Higuain or betting big on a youngster like Marko Pjaca, most Juventus signings fall under that umbrella.
The João Cancelo signing, however, sure feels outside of their usual strategy.
Splashing €40 million on the young Portuguese fullback is the type of move that we are used to see from Premier League teams or the heavy hitters of La Liga. While his talent is undeniable, he is far from a finished product, as there are legitimate concerns regarding his defensive abilities.
He is a risk, but the upside is tantalizing. If he develops and grows into that potential, there is no reason to believe that he can’t become a top fullback with the potential to have a similar playing style of a Dani Alves or Marcelo. That kind of impact from a fullback that many Juventus faithful had been lusting after for many years.
I believe in Cancelo and there is no better situation for a young player that needs to improve defensively than to get coached up by Max Allegri.
Can he start the Champions League final? Yes.
This is a bit unfair to Perin, because I actually like him a lot and for a €12 million price tag, I like him a LOT more.
But, in my mind, Juventus’ starting goalkeeper is still Wojciech Szczęsny, who was absolutely outstanding relieving Gianluigi Buffon last season, even at times even outplaying the Italian legend. Woj didn’t have a great World Cup, mostly due to Poland not being very good, but if he plays at the same level he did last season then he should be the starter for Juve’s Champions League matches.
Perin will still get his starts in Coppa Italia play and some Serie A games when the calendar gets heavy. If he seizes this opportunity, we might be looking at the future of the goalkeeper position for Juventus.
Can he start the Champions League final? No.
The young center back is finally back at Juventus after an 18-month loan spell with Atalanta where he established himself as one of the best defenders in Serie A and earned a call-up to the Italian national team for the first time earlier this year.
While Giorgio Chiellini is still a top player at the center of Juve’s defense, the spot alongside him has been a bit of a question mark since Leonardo Bonucci left last summer. Medhi Benatia has played good football, but also committed mistakes in big games and he is rumored to be sold during this transfer season. Andrea Barzagli is old, and Daniele Rugani hasn’t really developed to the level some fans envisioned he would.
There is not going to be a better chance for Caldara to break into the starting lineup for Juventus than there is this season — and I think he can do it. He performed up to the expectations at Atalanta and, after he spends the first couple of months on the bench as the Allegri tradition dictates, I expect him to become the regular starter at center back with Chiellini.
Can he start the Champions League final? Yes.
The young German was brought in to reinforce Juventus’ midfield and the expectation is for him to take the spot of either Blaise Matuidi or Sami Khedira in the starting lineup. Another guy that needs to develop to fulfill his immense talent, Can has all the physical abilities to become a top midfielder but he was maddeningly inconsistent with Liverpool.
I think this was a good signing and will improve the midfield as a whole, but is he really all that better than Matuidi? I think he can be an improvement on Khedira, who had an up and down season and a ghastly World Cup but is undoubtedly a favorite of Allegri. He will also have to compete for minutes with Rodrigo Bentancur, who is fresh off an impressive showing at the World Cup and will be looking to get more minutes at Juve.
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 becomes an overhyped and overpaid squad rotation player.
Can he start the Champions League final final? No.
And just for fun…
Yes, of course yes. Are you kidding me? He is the best pure striker in the game, don’t get cute with it. Of course, yes.
Can he start the UCL final? YES.
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