Wednesday will see a big step toward the 2019-20 season, as the first preseason workouts will begin under new coach Maurizio Sarri.
Thirty-three players will congregate for training, 20 from the first team and another 13 from the Under-23 team. Some, like Douglas Costa, have been at Continassa for a while already to get an early start.
New arrivals Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey, and Merih Demiral will all be in attendance, as will the returning Gianluigi Buffon. There are two other returnees also receive the call, as Gonzalo Higuain and Marko Pjaca come back to at least train as Juventus players again.
Higuain is probably the most interesting attendee to Sarri’s first practice. Since the acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, Higuain has been in an awkward place. Looking to get his wages off the books after splashing a record amount of cash for CR7, Juve sent him on a loan with an option to buy to AC Milan. Higuain hadn’t wanted to leave, and had been emotional leaving the training ground in the wake of the move.
Unfortunately for him, the loan didn’t go very well. Higuain scored eight times in 22 games before the loan was cut short and he rejoined Sarri at Chelsea. His stint in London was even less successful, seeing just five goals in 18 contests in all competitions. Now, he finds himself surplus to requirements again, but he has thus far refused a move to anywhere else in Italy, and earlier in the week came a report that he is determined to prove himself to Sarri and work his way back into his plans.
Whether or not he does—and the knock-on effects if he were to do so—remains to be seen, but in the meantime he will again train under the eyes of the man who guided him to the Serie A goals record just four years ago.
Also called up for duty is Joao Cancelo, who has been the subject of long-standing transfer rumors involving Manchester City all summer long, with the latest report coming as recently as Tuesday. The Portugal international’s future with the team at this point remains to be seen. Mario Mandzukic, who is (unfortunately) also a top candidate for a departure this year, also returns to at least start his fifth year with the club.
The youth sector will also contribute some bodies. Grigoris Kastanos will lend a hand to the midfielders. Luca Clemenza, who impressed in the ICC tour of the US last year, is also summoned, as are Stephy Mavididi and Matheus Pereira, the latter of whom impressed in a few cameos at the end of last season.
There are a few who will be absent from Wednesday’s session. Cristiano Ronaldo and Blaise Matuidi have been given an few days of extra vacation and will join the team on Saturday. There are also a few big names absent whose offseasons are just starting. Juan Cuadrado, Alex Sandro, and Paulo Dybala will be allowed to kick up their heels after playing in the Copa America, while Moise Kean and Luca Pellegrini are still on holiday after the U21 European Championships. They will trickle in as their breaks end, although if the past is any indication they’re unlikely to rejoin the team until the preseason tour of Asia is done.
Of course, it would be wonderful if another player—someone Dutch, perhaps—were to join this group in the course of the next few days, but official word on Matthijs De Ligt remains elusive, even as it seems imminent.
As the ICC looms, these players will be the first to be exposed to Sarri’s new system. The first steps into the season start now. This should be a fun ride.
FIRST TEAM PLAYERS CALLED UP FOR TRAINING
GOALKEEPERS: Gianluigi Buffon, Mattia Perin, Carlo Pinsoglio, Wojciech Szczesny.
DEFENDERS: Leonardo Bonucci, Joao Cancelo, Giorgio Chiellini, Merih Demiral, Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Rugani.
MIDFIELDERS: Emre Can, Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic, Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey.
FORWARDS: Federico Bernardeschi, Douglas Costa, Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic, Marko Pjaca.