Continuing the BWRAO tradition of the season’s end rankings we move forward to the part of the squad that puts butts in seats for any football team, the attackers.
(Butts in seats is obviously metaphorical with no fans being allowed for the foreseeable future. So, instead of that, let’s call them the players that sell shirts online.)
If you wanted to sell yourself on the now-defunct Maurizio Sarri era of Juventus football you had to do nothing more than to look at the Juve depth chart for attacking players. Names over names over names, tons of talent, tons of options and a coach famed for getting the most out of his forwards — how could this possibly not pan out?
Well, despite scoring 70 goals as a unit on the season, with Sarri’s dismissal, I guess the consensus was no, it did not pan out.
As per usual with my ratings, players will be sorted from most to least amount of appearances and stats reflect all competitions.
I also will only be taking into account the full time senior squad players, so apologies to the couple of Under-23 guys who got their feet wet during the last few games of the season. Maybe next year, fellas!
Cristiano Ronaldo — 8
Season stats: 46 appearances, 37 goals, 7 assists and 3 yellow cards.
It was a record breaking year for the Portuguese international, as he broke Juventus domestic records galore and fell short by only a few goals for the Golden Boot.
Looking at the stats, it is hard for me to make the case to ask anything more from him. In fact, I’m unsure how you could ask for anything more from any player in the world. He was durable, he scored goals and he was often a clutch player when Juventus needed him to be.
If you want to get picky, his numbers were inflated by a ton of goals via penalty kicks, his free kick shooting continued to be a disaster — he did get one in, though! — and he suffered through some abnormal stints of bad form.
(Abnormal for him, I guess, since the dude is 35 years old and a few gassed games here and there are not such a big deal, to be honest.)
But that’s just being nit-picky for the sake of argument. He deserves an 8, he gets an 8 and it’s the right grade.
However, because he is Cristiano Ronaldo and he is a global figure and he does get paid an insane amount of money and Juventus — foolishly or not depending on the day of the week and your general outlook on football/the world — seem to have their entire future banked on the CR7 machine, it’s hard to make an accurate assessment of his contributions to the team. Should he be graded only on what he brings to the field? Or should he be graded by the entire universe of commercial interests that follow him, social media followers — which everybody says means something, but I’m still unclear how much it actually truly matters — and the seemingly ungodly amount of influence he carries with him regarding the coaching, the tactics and even the transfers as it’s sometimes reported?
Or, to put it into other terms, has it been worth it for Juventus to bring in Cristiano Ronaldo?
They have got the good — the goals, the player on the pitch, the recognition — and the bad — the expectations, the massive wages, the scrutiny over his every move — and, well, just the entire CR7 circus.
Two years, two coaches and no UEFA Champions League finals appearances into the move ... so I still don’t know.
Paulo Dybala — 8
Season stats: 46 appearances, 17 goals, 14 assists and 6 yellow cards.
It is well known on this blog that I’m a full-on Paulo Dybala stan.
Mainly because of the type of game he plays, which is exactly the style of play I admire the most — not physically overpowering necessarily but technically exquisite and effortlessly deployed. Also, because he was the one guy that from the moment he came to Juventus I was 100% right about his future as a star despite being the only person in my group of friends that knew of him before his Juve move. And, given my other numerous horrible takes — some of which we will get to later in this blog — yes, I have a special appreciation for the one guy that made me look good for once.
So before we get into the write-up, if you think this grade is too high, just bump it down to whatever you, fair reader, think it’s the right one and make up the difference from the writer fully admitting and being aware of his bias towards the subject.
(In all seriousness, I think anything under a 7.5 would be a disservice to the season La Joya had.)
Despite all these caveats, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that Dybala was the most important player for Juventus this past season. If not statistically, then certainly stylistically, Dybala was the one player Juventus could not do without.
Picking up the MVP of Serie A award by the end of the season, Dybala had grown leaps and bounds in Sarri’s system and was back to his usual best after an underwhelming season during Max Allegri’s last year in charge. Despite the early concerns, he adapted to playing alongside Ronaldo and by the end of the season they were finally fulfilling their potential for being one of the most feared attacking duos in the continent.
A muscle injury in the last few games of the year prevented him of being a difference maker in the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Lyon, but it’s a testament to the kind of player he is right now and the season he had that he was still trotted out there in hopes that he could do some magic despite being on essentially one leg. There is very little doubt that if he had been fully fit and managed to play more than he did in that game, Juventus would have been in Lisbon and we wouldn’t be doing our end-of-season ratings quite so early in August.
Gonzalo Higuain — 6.5
Season stats: 44 appearances, 11 goals, 8 assists and 3 yellow cards.
I had to double check when I saw the number of appearances Higuain had this season. Forty-four?! That’s only two less than Ronaldo and Dybala? What?!
While he featured a bunch of times as a sub, I had forgotten how much Juventus relied on Pipita early on in the season and as Sarri tinkered with the tactics. He continued to provide minutes for a Juve squad that might not have been as deep as previously thought.
I think it’s clear Higuain is not a top tier striker anymore, but he was often asked and given the minutes of one this year and that was putting him in an unfair situation. While he may still have the wages of the record-breaking striker he once was — and that’s a big reason why he was maligned and is almost assuredly on the outs with the club — he is just not at that stage on his career anymore.
That doesn’t mean he can’t still be a serviceable player which he mostly was for Juventus this season. Unfortunately for him, what Juventus needed this year and what they need moving forward is no longer to be just serviceable.
Federico Bernardeschi — 6
Season stats: 38 appearances, 2 goals, 3 assists and 6 yellow cards.
Hey, remember how I mentioned I had some terrible takes? Check this out!
“Ronaldo will be an immovable starter, Dybala looks more and more like he will stay and start as a false 9 considering Sarri’s comments on the matter and Bernardeschi is the most natural player in the squad to fill in at right winger. […] these guys are the most critical members of the team for the 2019-2020 season.”
Chalk that up to like 1 1⁄2 right things for your boy on that statement!
That quote is from my season preview for the recently completed campaign, so take a look at it if you want to hear some other choice takes that didn’t pan out. The worst one, however, was determining that Bernardeschi was going to be a massive part of the season for Juve. After a decent showing in his second season at Juventus and a few incredible performances along the way — most of note the Atletico Madrid comeback — it wasn’t so farfetched to assume Fede was ready to take the next step and finally fulfill his potential as a linchpin for the Juventus attack. However, what we got was a big fat disappointment.
As far as appearances go, I was kind of right in that he would play a big part for the team, as he tallied 38 appearances. But it’s what he did with those appearances that is rather appalling.
I don’t care who you are and I don’t care what excuse you give, you cannot and I repeat cannot have more yellow cards in the season than goals and assists combined and think you had anything resembling a good season playing as a full-time attacker.
Bernardeschi apologists will claim that his role in the Sarri system was more of a workhorse type of role, and the guy that tracked back and covered for Dybala and Ronaldo during the defensive phase of the game. That it was only until late in the season that he was finally deployed on the right wing which is his natural position, that he kinda had some good games sometimes and that he is just so damn likable and Italian and god, please just let this work.
As much as it sucks to say, though, it seems like his time as an important piece of the Bianconeri puzzle is over. With Dejan Kulusevski on his way to Turin — with the best young player of Serie A award under his arm for what it’s worth — it looks like Fede’s Juve adventure might not have the ending we were all hoping for.
Douglas Costa — 6
Season stats: 29 appearances, 3 goals, 7 assists and 2 yellow cards.
While he managed to do more, stats wise, than Bernardeschi in significantly fewer appearances and minutes, Costa’s issues remained the same as they have ever been during his career.
Dude cannot stay healthy.
It’s maddening. Costa might be the most maddening player to wear a Juve shirt in the last decade at least. He is so good when he is healthy and when he is in form. Hell, he can do these type of things and bail a club out in seconds!
(Also, hell of a backheel pass from Higuain! I’m telling you, there’s a column brewing in me explaining why he’s one of the most unfairly maligned top strikers in the last like 20 years.)
However, at this point in his career, he is what he is. A sometimes brilliant player, with an extra gear when it comes to speed that can sometimes be a difference maker off the bench but that is just a bad bet to be relied upon consistently. His future, as a ton of Juve players nowadays, feels uncertain. But if you catch me in a certain mood and maybe a couple beers in I will still pound the table making the case to keep him around.
Sometimes, 29-year-old incredibly injury prone guys become more reliable as they turn 30, right?
Marko Pjaca — =(
Season stats: One appearance for Juventus, 4 appearances for Anderlecht with one goal.
I’m breaking my rule of only talking about full time senior squad guys, but look, he technically played for Juve this season, OK? He featured a whole 15 minutes in Coppa Italia play against Udinese and that’s enough for me because I have made it my mission to remind you all that Marko Pjaca was good and he was on his way and he has had heartbreaking injury after injury and it’s just all so sad and unfair.
He’s still 25 years old, still technically owned by Juventus and I don’t know, man. I just wish things work out for the poor dude.
Plus, how good of a story would it be to have him come back and somehow gain his form and get minutes in next year’s Juventus team and maybe score a pivotal goal at a key moment or two? In what seemed like a drag of a season overall, mostly devoid of a lot of feel good stories or moments, Pjaca somehow contributing again next season would be exactly the type of story to remind us why we love football and why we get so invested in something so inconsequential.
Let’s get next season going, ASAP.