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July’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Getting Ready

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Preseason was in full flight in July, so let’s take a look at the month’s action in the world of Juventus.

Juventus v K.League All Stars Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

It’s still the end of the world as the heat of a thousand volcanoes manifests itself in Europe a blazing hot summer, which means that there’s not too much Juventus news to report for July. Last month I had the pleasure of writing about the plethora of international tournaments going on, though most of these tournaments concluded in the first week or so of July.

Besides a few transfers, some pre-season friendlies, and the conclusion of the aforementioned tournaments, July was awfully quiet. Nevertheless, let’s review the month’s activities (if you don’t melt while reading this).

All over the world

What a summer of (international) football.

A staggering eight (!) international tournaments were played in the months of June and July. Most of these concluded in July, so let’s quickly look back on the footballing action that happened across the globe.

The Women’s World Cup in France saw the United States successfully defend its title with a 2-0 victory in the final over my dear country, the Netherlands. Before reaching the final, the Americans beat England 2-1 in the semi-finals in what was one of the most entertaining games of the tournament. The Dutch, meanwhile, overcame Sweden 1-0 after extra-time in an extremely hard-fought — though not quite as entertaining — game at the Stade de Lyon. Finally, Sweden beat England 2-1 in the much-maligned third-place playoff game.

Host nation Brazil won the 2019 edition of the Copa América after beating surprise finalists Peru 3-1 in the final and bitter rivals Argentina 2-0 in the semi-final. In one of the surprise results of the tournament, Peru thumped Chile 3-0 in the other semi-final to reach the big stage. Despite Paulo Guerrero’s equalizer from the penalty spot just before half-time, 10-man Brazil were always the more threatening team and, eventually, deserving winners.

The third-place playoff was quite the controversial and heated occasion, with Lionel Messi and Gary Medel both inexplicably sent-off in what seemed like a relatively innocent off-the-ball scuffle.

Argentina v Chile: Third Place Match - Copa America Brazil 2019
“A red card!? For me!?”
Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

Mexico beat the United States 1-0 in the final of the Gold Cup to win this year’s edition of the tournament. The Americans beat Curaçao 1-0 in the quarter-final and Jamaica 3-1 in the semi-final before falling to the Mexicans at the final hurdle. Mexico beat Costa Rica on penalties (after a 1-1 draw) and Haiti 1-0 after extra-time on the way to the final.

Algeria won the 2019 African Cup of Nations after beating Guinea (3-0; R16), Ivory Coast on penalties (1-1; QF), my home country Nigeria (2-1; SF. A 95th-minute Mahrez free kick. Yes, I’m still disgruntled), and favorites Senegal (1-0; Final) in the knockout stage. Senegal beat Uganda (R16), Benin (QF), and Tunisia (SF) all by 1-0 scorelines on the way to the final. A 5th goal of the tournament by Golden Boot winner Odion Ighalo helped Nigeria beat Tunisia 1-0 and win the third-place playoff game.

Finally, France won the Women’s U-19 European Championships in Scotland after beating Germany 2-1 in the final at Saint Mirren Park. The Netherlands and Spain were the losing semi-finalists. Elsewhere, Spain won the U-19 European Championships in Armenia after a 2-0 victory over Portugal in the final. The Republic of Ireland and France were the losing finalists on that occasion.

Tunisia v Nigeria - 2019 African Cup of Nations Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Let’s be friends

Confession: I haven’t watched a minute of any one of Juventus’ preseason friendlies this summer. I blame it on the time difference (Eastern Standard time vs. Singapore).

Time difference aside, though, Juventus played three friendlies in July. First, there was the entertaining 3-2 loss against Tottenham, in which Harry Kane scored what has to be the most spectacular pre-season goal ever in the 94th minute of the game. Gonzalo Higuaín and Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goals for the Bianconeri.

Next up was the pre-season Derby D’Italia game against Inter which, after a 1-1 draw in normal time, went to a penalty shootout. Juventus won the shootout 4-3 on penalties after Gigi Buffon saved a stunning three (!) penalties. In the final game of the Asia tour, Juventus faced Team K-League, a group of all-stars from around the country’s top flight.

It was a six-goal thriller that ended 3-3 as Juventus came back from 1-0 and 3-1 down to salvage a draw. Blaise Matuidi, Simone Muratore, and Matheus Pereira were the goal scorers for the Bianconeri.

Last but not least, make sure to check out the Serie A schedule for the upcoming 2019-2020 season and Sam’s thoughts on the 5 most intriguing fixtures for Juventus this season!

The transfer train keeps moving

As the conclusion of the (Italian) summer transfer window draws closer, movements of players in and out of clubs become a little more hectic and more difficult to keep track of. Here’s a wrap-up of July’s Juventus transfer news (and rumors):

  • Our dearly beloved and legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon returned to Juventus after an underwhelming year at Paris Saint-Germain. That makes it two free transfers from PSG to Juventus this summer after Adrien Rabiot’s recent arrival.
  • Closely related to that piece of news is the fact that Mattia Perin is (sort of, eventually) going to Benfica. Maybe. Perin was on the verge of a €15 million to Benfica when, during the medical exams, the Portuguese club found that his recovery from injury would take longer than expected. As our all-conquering overlord Danny reported, “an agreement has been reached between the two clubs that Perin will stay in Turin and rehabilitate at J Medical for the four months, with a move to Benfica likely to take place in December or January when the winter transfer window officially opens come the new year.
  • Turkish defender Merih Demiral has joined Juventus from Sassuolo for €18 million. He scored a tidy (winning) penalty against Inter in the aforementioned penalty shootout.
  • I still have no idea what’s going on (with Federico Chiesa).
Federico Chiesa of ACF Fiorentina looks on during the Serie...
Me neither mate, me neither.
Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Writing all this makes me realize that Juventus is spending a boatload of money. And here I was always criticizing clubs like Real Madrid for buying their way to success. Joke’s on me, I guess.

Still, though, it’s nice to see management address the team’s most critical needs this summer — central defense and central midfield — by buying young, promising players in these areas of the pitch. The future’s bright.

Speaking of the future ...

Close to Home, Far from Home

Juventus Trainig Session Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

The entire thing is still pretty surreal to me. Matthijs de Ligt, one of the most sought-after young stars in Europe joined Juventus in a €75 million deal. This transfer not only strengthened an area of the team in serious need of reinforcements (given injuries and retirement), but it has also given me a secondary job as Juventino: teaching everyone how to pronounce his name (it’s a hard ‘G’). Honestly, his first name is the difficult part (‘Mah-tice’), but hey I’ll be here all season to assist my fellow linguaphile Juventini.

In all seriousness, though, this move is very personal to me. He’s Dutch, was born and raised in my hometown, and played for a club where I very briefly used to work*. I like Ajax a lot, grew up with lots of Ajax fans, and still have many friends who support the club (which, by the way, was probably why last season’s loss was almost irreparably painful for me). As a result, the transfer made me feel a little conflicted.

*I worked in the VIP Lounge of the stadium where people would hang out and have drinks and snacks before and after games. During half-time they would have a proper meal. Believe me, it was nothing glamorous. If you’re a minute late with a dish during half-time, then good luck keeping your job.

Every summer, clubs like Ajax get plundered by rich clubs for their young stars. It’s an unfortunate sight, but I’m not here to preach the (im)morality of this phenomenon. As the saying goes, it’s business baby. Nevertheless, for the sake of the personal development of the players being sold and the long-term footballing strength of the selling clubs, I prefer to see players like de Ligt and de Jong stay and grow at their clubs for at least a few more years.

Hence, my internal conflict. My team, Juventus, is gaining an absolute gem of a player, but I’m sad that a club I like very much loses him and rarely has the chance to build a true long-term project with players like de Ligt, de Jong, Davinson Sánchez, Arkadiusz Milik, and many others. My heart is torn.

2019 International Champions Cup - Juventus v FC Internazionale Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Some argue that de Ligt’s arrival signals a significant shift in Juventus’ image as a club. I’ve become so used to seeing the up-and-coming, young superstar players in the world join Barcelona, Real Madrid, or even Manchester United the instant they have one truly fantastic season. You know, the 20-year-old trailblazer who just had a breakout season for his club and is immediately involved in an intense bidding war between Europe’s biggest clubs, with Juventus watching the action unfold from the sidelines and not even remotely considered as a contestant.

But here we are, with one of Europe’s most highly-rated defenders signing on the dotted line for Juventus and donning the No. 4 shirt.

Have times changed? Is Juventus becoming a Galacticos-esque club, more interested in buying its way to success by purchasing talent (for exorbitant fees) rather than producing it from within? Who knows. All I can say is this:

Let the games begin.

“It’s a funny thing, ambition. It can take one to sublime heights or harrowing depths. And sometimes they are one and the same.”

— Emily Kaldwin from the game Dishonored