The last day of the transfer market in Italy closed just as Juventus rolled into an international break — which will be followed by five games in 16 games, including two Champions League ties, one of which is a date with Barcelona in Turin. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, we’re officially in the “age of chaos.” Nothing gets less complicated moving forward.
Before we move forward, though, let’s take a glance back at the mercato: the ins, the outs, and the assessment. For each major incoming player, for the cumulative exits, and for the overall effort of the club, I’ve created a score from 1-10, highlighting some things I liked and, alas, did not like. Pretty straightforward.
As Fabrizio Romano would say, here we go!
Dejan Kulusevski: 9 / 10
What I like: Snagging the Serie A Young Footballer of the Year from 2019-20 from Atalanta before the market had a real chance to assess the Swede’s value was an absolute masterclass by Fabio Paratici, even in a world that was subsequently wrecked by COVID-19 and might have seen some price depreciation for what Kulusevski would’ve fetched in a normal year.
Still, the club inked the then-teenager after he’d played just a few months of top-flight football. That takes balls; that takes an eye for talent. And beating Inter Milan to the transfer? The deal is that much sweeter. There’s some nice poetry to Kulusevski scoring the first goal of this campaign, too. Where he fits into the squad on a regular basis, in terms of position, remains to be seen, but he’ll be on the pitch.
What I don’t like: Literally nothing, but I’ll refrain from a perfect 10/10 by just saying that, I suppose, there’s a chance he doesn’t work out as well as we all think he will, in which case maybe Paratici jumped the gun.
Arthur Melo: 6.5 / 10
What I like: The overall value seemed fair to good in what was essentially a financial doping move with Barcelona, sending Miralem Pjanic to Spain for way more than he’s really worth and bringing Arthur to Turin for way more than he’s really worth. Whatever — soccer is more corrupt than 4chan.
What I don’t like: I don’t love getting a player who was dragged kicking and screaming and pouting away from his dream club. Maybe that means he’ll be motivated; maybe that means he’ll be sulking. But any way you want to frame it, he wasn’t happy about leaving Barcelona and coming to Juventus.
Weston McKennie: 7/10
What I like: Before I get accused of nationalist favoritism, these assessments are not about the values of the particular players, of course, but instead about the overall deals. In McKennie, Juventus added a depth piece with important qualities, a player who’s hungry and eager to grow and young, moldable.
The terms of the deal were great, and even if McKennie doesn’t work out over the course of two or so years he’ll just be hitting his mid-20s; i.e., there’s not a chance in hell a Premier League team wouldn’t snatch him up for at least the price that Juve paid, if indeed Juventus go through with the purchase and if indeed they decide to part ways with him in the future.
What I don’t like: If there’s anything to complain about here, it’s that McKennie is not the complete midfielder you’re looking for when you’re hoping to completely revamp the midfield. We saw in his second game back that he struggled with the speed and with keeping shape; that’s normal. He’ll get better, and he’ll have a role to play, even if it’s mostly from the bench. The Bundesliga is a lot different than Serie A, and his teammates at Juventus are a lot different than those at Schalke. Despite the second poorish showing, he’s hit the ground running very well.
(On a side note, the whiplash reaction of some Juventus fans from McKennie’s first game to his second was astonishing — and embarrassing. There was always going to be a learning curve; it’s impressive that he started his first two games with a club like Juventus in a completely different league at the ripe age of 22. Yet the criticisms were vociferous. It’s funny: I don’t remember Matthijs de Ligt getting the same backlash. It was always, “He’ll figure it out, don’t worry ...”)
Alvaro Morata: 6.5 / 10
What I like: Morata isn’t the most prolific goal-scorer out there, but with Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, you don’t need the most prolific goal-scorer out there. Morata will run, he’ll do the sacrificial work that he was brought here to do, and he’ll be able to play in a lot of different formations and with different lineups.
Also: He wants to be here. Don’t overestimate that fact. He’s not a sour grape on the bench waiting to go bad and spoil the whole barrel of wine.
What I don’t like: The total price for the production seems a little bit much to me. I think the justification would be some of the things I mentioned above, plus his wealth of experience even though he’s only about to be 28 years old.
Federico Chiesa: 5 / 10
What I like: I genuinely like Chiesa as a player; I think I might grab a blue away jersey with the new No. 22. Or maybe a Kulusevski jersey. Or McKennie. I don’t know.
Anyway, I like the way Chiesa carries himself on the pitch. He players with anger, with energy, with pizazz. He can be genuinely lethal and game-changing when he’s dribbling the ball or making long runs, and I imagine he’ll put a lot of pressure on the defense wherever he ends up lining up when he gets minutes.
I also think at least some of the apparent stagnation he endured at Fiorentina has been due to the fact that, well, Fiorentina kind of sucks, and Chiesa has always seen himself — or at least this is what it seems like to me, from my very limited perspective — as a star, and in this case a star being dragged down by mediocrity. We’ll table the question of whether or not he’s a star for now and see how he grows and improves with a star-studded list of teammates.
What I don’t like: The terms of the price are pretty good, with the bigger costs deferred a couple of years, but I still feel like the club is paying too much for Chiesa. That was always going to be the case.
That’s not my main gripe, though. Chiesa is not a wingback, and there’s really nowhere else for him to play but wingback. There’s no way to say this without sounding like an ass, but if you think his best moments at Fiorentina have been when he was at wingback, you’re just objectively wrong — please check in with literally anybody who watches Fiorentina regularly and is intelligent.
Chiesa, like Kulusevski, needs to be higher up the pitch. In the Italian’s case, a true wing is the best position for him. But we’ve gotten ourselves into a situation where it doesn’t seem like that’s entirely possible very frequently, at least for the time being.
Now, I’m happy to be proven wrong. I would love that! Because I like Chiesa, and I like Juve. Maybe there is indeed a world in which both Chiesa and Kulusevski are playing on the right side of the field in a sort of interchangeable role in terms of defensive duties (3-4-3 with one as wingback and one as winger, sharing the defensive load), and that’s able to work out. Maybe Pirlo will find some other way to activate his talent; I don’t know.
But right now, color me a bit skeptical.
Exits & miscellaneous: 5.5 / 10
What I like: Moving Pjanic was a good move for all parties involved, and finding a somewhat clean resolution to the protracted Gonzalo Higuain saga was nice, and bidding bon voyage to Blaise Matuidi was also the right decision — those are the best things that happened in terms of exit strategy, unless you’re a huge fan of temporary loans providing wage relief (in which case I’ve got great news for you!).
What I don’t like: Daniele Rugani was loaned, not sold. Douglas Costa was loaned, not sold. Mattia De Sciglio was loaned, not sold. There was some other outgoing business of varying success — Simone Muratore, Cristian Romero, Luca Pellegrini, and the incoming/outgoing combo of Rolando Mandragora — but I just can’t derive a lot of total satisfaction from what feels like a partially failed effort to fully offload some of the driftwood.
Overall: 6.5 / 10
Here’s the thing about a 6.5 out of 10: I’m choosing that rating based on all the factors as I see them here and now. The money, the players, the apparent fits, etc. etc. But what Paratici certainly succeeded in doing was adding a whole lot of young blood to a side in desperate need of young blood. He added speed and guile; he added grinta. And, maybe more than anything, he added a couple of players with tremendous upside. There also doesn’t appear to be an insanely stupid, irresponsible, or risky move in this bunch. There’s something to be said for that.
So while you might huff and puff that I only gave the Bianconeri a 6.5/10, what Paratici accomplished was a situation in which, in just a few months, this could be a club-changing mercato, one that brought in players who will grow into Juve legends, who will define this organization for a decade or more. This was a solid window for the present weighing all the factors, and it could be an epic window looking back a decade from now.
Hold onto your hats, folks.