When Juventus secured the services of Matthijs de Ligt earlier this month, everything about it made sense. He was the most-desired player on a transfer market where big money had already been thrown around like it was no big deal at all. He’s the player, at 19 years of age, that is already really, really good and is viewed as the bridge into the next era of Juventus’ string of success. He seemed to check every single box that there could have possibly been.
It all made sense.
Matthijs de Ligt made sense — and we celebrated his signing accordingly.
Today is the final day of July, a month that has been filled with transfer rumors galore and some very, very good business done by Fabio Paratici. And as much as the €75 million move for de Ligt — and Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey and Merih Demiral and Gigi Buffon — made just all the sense in the world, what Juve is now looking like they will do come the start of August is just confusing as all can be.
That’s not a good thing.
Moise Kean, his incredible amount of talent and his dance moves are about to officially sign with Everton in the very immediate future. Paulo Dybala, his own world-class kind of talent and his boyish good looks are increasingly looking like they won’t be in a Juventus kit come the start of the new campaign a few weeks from now after reports came out Tuesday that his agent was in England to talk to Manchester United about a possible move to Old Trafford. Current Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, very much an Inter Milan transfer target for much of this summer prior to this past weekend, is now suddenly more likely to sign with Juventus than he is head to San Siro and get yelled at by Antonio Conte.
All of this, just days ago, didn’t really seem all that possible — or, better yet, conceivable knowing the attributes that each one of these three players has.
But here we are, sitting in a world where Juventus will sell — buy-back clause or, more than likely, no buy-back clause — one of Europe’s best talents for €40 million or so to a mid-table Premier League side. And, on top of that, the striker that Juve is linked to the most right now — Lukaku, not want-away Inter striker Mauro Icardi — is far from what you think of when the idea of a Maurizio Sarri-type of striker is put into your head.
As much as the de Ligt move made sense, this striker merry-go-round doesn’t.
The elephant in the room is Cristiano Ronaldo. The elephant in the room will always be Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus did what every other club in their position would have done last summer when adding one of the game’s best ever players no matter what age he is and how much he has left at his truest top level.
But with said elephant in the room around, Juventus has obviously been forced to change a lot of things around — how they operate in terms of roster construction, how they operate in terms of financials and, simply, how the manager probably approaches his tactical setup.
Dybala might have been the player most impacted by Ronaldo’s arrival last summer, with Max Allegri trying like all hell to make his No. 10 play out wide a thing that can be an effective piece to the puzzle. This was after a season where Dybala’s highs were about as low as his lows, with drastic surges and dips in form about as regular as ever before.
But the arrival of Sarri, at least with how the Tuscan wants to manage his attackers, was supposedly to be a possible cure to what illed Dybala under Allegri. An attack- and creativity-minded manager combined with a talent like Dybala who has characteristics of both a No. 9 and No. 10 could be the combination that truly unlocks the Argentine once again. Sarri has even gone so far as to essentially talk up using Dybala as a false 9 when he returns to training in a matter of days.
“I think Dybala can play as a false nine quite comfortably.
“We can also set up the attack slightly differently, with the 4-3-1-2 and Dybala playing on the right of a front two.”
For whatever reason, the club’s tune regarding Dybala has changed, it seems. It was Paratici himself who said toward the end of April that “Of course Dybala will stay” when asked about the transfer rumors involving the 25-year-old Argentine. And as much as those rumors have been coming and going over the last couple of years, the general line of thinking was that Dybala had no intentions of going anywhere, with multiple reports throughout the course of this summer — and as recently as over the weekend — saying just that.
But, from the outside looking in, Juventus want to cash in on Dybala even though the best option right now might as well be to keep him and see what he can do with a manager like Sarri calling the shots. If you had to pick between Dybala or Lukaku (and €15 million in the bank) as the better option for Juventus next season, I’d like to think that the former would win that battle with a whole lot of room to spare. Dybala makes sense for a manager like Sarri, while a striker like Lukaku ... doesn’t really do it.
Under certain circumstances, seeing Dybala leave isn’t exactly a grab-your-pitchforks situation. But when you subtract Dybala and essentially replace him with somebody like Lukaku who was far, far from impressive in the second half of last season — and for a large portion of his United career — it makes you wonder what kind of end result Paratici is trying to get to.
Offloading players was bound to happen at some point this summer. Juventus has added plenty of talent, which means just about everywhere you look on the roster there is some trimming of the fat so that they don’t enter the season with way too many players for their own good.
Selling Sami Khedira makes sense because he will likely be toward the bottom of the midfield depth chart. Selling Blaise Matuidi makes sense because he doesn’t really fit the profile of a Sarri type of midfielder. Selling Gonzalo Higuain makes sense because he is on the wrong side of 30 and might be a part-time player at most.
Like I said, this roster needs to be trimmed down and some salary needs to be shed while trying to recoup as much transfer capital you can.
But selling somebody like Moise Kean? Was that something even remotely part of the equation in February or March? Hell, was it even something that was an actuality last month?
I get that the Dybala and Kean situations are probably quite different. Kean, at his age, is so desperately in need of regular playing time after two seasons where he has logged half the amount of minutes that Ronaldo played in his first season in Turin. And as we saw last season, anything close to regular playing time is something where the true potential of Kean truly starts to get tapped into.
So why sell him?
Unless this is something that Kean’s agent Mino Raiola has basically forced on Paratici and Co., then letting go of such an explosive talent — and one that’s homegrown — just makes you shake your head over and over again. Maybe this had something to do with the contract extension Italian media outlets said Kean had agreed to but obviously never officially signed. It was tough enough to see Kean not get playing time for basically the entire first half of the season a year ago under Allegri. But now will are certain to see him un-tap his massive potential in another league all together.
And all of this coming as one of Juve’s most talented youngsters in years looked like he was ready to take that next step in Turin just a couple of months back. What a shame.
I’ll stop rambling now.
I’m just confused. Also kinda angry. OK, a lotta angry. But mostly confused because this transfer window looked to be so damn good even before the internationals returned from their respective holidays. Now ... I don’t know, I really don’t know.