The only thing worse than a protracted quarantine at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic is a protracted quarantine at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic in which the only Juventus content is an infinite litany of transfer rumors.
I shall not, therefore, in my assessment of some of the rumors out there, link to various tabloids which attack visitors with dozens of aggressive pop-up ads. Instead, I want to put a general ear to the whispers going around right now and, rather than saying, “Oh this one is true and this one is not true,” or even speculating which player would be better for the club — e.g. Sandro Tonali vs Gaetano Castrovilli — I want to look at what the general trend of rumors seems to be pointing to, even if it’s a big and dumb and obvious point.
Big and dumb and obvious points may be big and dumb and obvious, but they’re sometimes really important to make, all the same.
Here we go!
Attacking whispers: the Higuain reunion may or may not be short-lived
The two names that I’ve seen Juventus most frequently connected two with attackers are PSG/Inter’s Mauro Icardi — remember him? — and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus. Both guys are true No. 9s who do a lot of great work in a lot of ways, and both are pretty proven products at high levels of play. Icardi is 27 years old and has a, um, interesting and rambunctious past, while Jesus, 23, has dealt with a few light injuries over the years and, oh yeah, has played behind Sergio Agüero, who is pretty good.
Am I saying that one of these deals is going to happen?
No. I’m not saying one of these deals is going to happen. In fact, there’s certainly a lot that could convince me that neither is going to happen. You know Inter would wring Juve for every last ounce of cash in any deal to get Icardi, and Agüero, as great as he is, is about to turn 32 this summer, so if I’m Pep and Man City I probably don’t want to send a very good striker like Jesus all the way to Italy.
Now, whether or not one of these two things does happen, we know this much: the Gonzalo Higuain era, with its strange little hiccup of a brief AC Milan/Chelsea stint, is probably ending this summer or next.
I was actually extremely surprised and satisfied with how well Pipita played this year, and I think if the midfield gets significantly better and with the addition of Dejan Kulusevski, the attack could be just fine with one more year of Higuain as an option. Let’s say, for a moment, that Federico Bernardeschi is the only attacker who departs Turin. That gives you the following options in attack: Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa, Higuain, and Kulusevski. Feel free to use Juan Cuadrado as a winger every now and then.
In my opinion, the attack is going to be fine whether or not we trade in Higuain for a new shiny No. 9. I don’t think this should be the main priority or spending focus for the club — just the opposite, in fact.
Midfield whispers: the one thing I know for sure
Goodness gracious, it felt like this day would never come: Juventus is almost without a doubt going to revamp the midfield.
The Paul Pogba rumors are very active. There are Gaetano Castrovilli rumors. There are Sandro Tonali rumors. There are Sergej Milinković-Savić rumors. There are a million other rumors and if I stated every midfielder-to-Juventus rumor we’d be here a long time.
Here, for me, is the translation: No matter what exactly happens this summer, Juventus is going all-in with a midfield makeover. I dearly, dearly hope what that means is one proven commodity (think Pogba or SMS) plus one rotational piece who’s on the younger side (Tonali or Castrovilli).
With the recent discussion being that manager Maurizio Sarri is more inclined to play Rodrigo Bentancur in the holding role over Miralem Pjanic, one probably thinks immediately of that left center midfield position, occupied by either Blaise Matuidi or Adrien Rabiot, and sees a Pogba or SMS fitting pretty nicely.
Add to that report that Bentancur is apparently totally off-limits for the transfer market, and there’s a departure that does loom: Could Pjanic be done in a Juve shirt? The Bosnian has been solid in his tenure with the Bianconeri, but he didn’t quite evolve into the playmaker we thought he could under Sarri. If the manager really does prefer the Uruguayan, then maybe a change of scenery would be the best case for everyone.
Let’s say, theoretically, that Juventus sell Pjanic, part ways with Sami Khedira, and add two midfielders. Then you have a list of six guys that looks something like this: Pogba, Matuidi, Bentancur, Rabiot, Castrovilli, and Aaron Ramsey.
Um, yeah. That would rock.
I don’t know what is or is not going to happen in the midfield, but it does feel like whatever is coming this summer is going to be heavily midfield-related.
Defense whispers: maybe there will be changes, who knows?
Merih Demiral and Matthias de Ligt are reportedly not going anywhere, either, which is a very good thing. That makes you feel pretty good about the cohort of center backs with Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, and Cristian Romero possibly joining the club from Genoa. Also, Daniele Rugani is still here! If there’s a single center back who may head for clear waters, it’d be Rugani, who has never ascended the pecking order enough to be a regular starter.
But no matter how you spin it, the center backs are set.
The fullbacks may be another story. The two names I’ve seen tagged to Juve recently have been Chelsea’s Emerson Palmieri, who doesn’t feature super often, and Alex Telles, Porto’s left back. Of course, we’ve still got Alex Sandro holding down the starting job on the left flank, something I’m pretty satisfied with for another season or two (although I realize not everybody agrees with that), and on the right, uh, well, there’s the suicide carousel with Cuadrado and Danilo. Cuadrado started the season looking like a right-sided Marcelo but then sort of fell into a “sure, I guess” kind of player, while Danilo has always been a “very decent backup at a big club” kind of player. The right back position doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.
Translation: maybe Alex Sandro is going to be a surprise sale, or maybe the club is just looking for his successor to overlap a bit because they don’t have full confidence in Luca Pellegrini. Either way, the focus doesn’t seem to be here, although there are only a few fullbacks on the entire planet who’d demand prices that would lead one to conclude that the focus is indeed on the fullbacks. Ah, well.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, and the thing about transfers is that there are, in fact, deals that happen so suddenly that everything you previously thought was a sure bet dissipates like smoke. Remember when Ronaldo came? That changed everything we thought about the summer. Remember how quickly the Kulusevski rumors materialized into a deal?
Barring a pretty major unforeseen circumstance, though, I feel pretty confident in including the following: Juventus is finally, finally revamping the midfield.
And that, my quarantined friends, is a very awesome thing.