I, like a lot of other people, enjoyed seeing the youngsters play in Juventus’ first couple of friendlies this summer. It has come out necessity, sure, but it’s also been a chance for the young kids — whether they are just out of the primavera squad or have some Under-23 team experience under their belts — to show what they can do against competition they might not normally get because of the current context of the preseason. (Like, you know, so many internationals coming back from holiday in bunches rather than all at once.)
In what has become a very quiet summer for Juventus in terms of actual transfer happenings, seeing the youngsters like Filippo Ranocchia and Matias Soulé play quite well in the first two friendlies gives you those prototypical hopes about what’s the come in the future and that Juve’s got some talent waiting in the wings — no, not those wings — despite the youth setup’s struggle to produce talent over the last decade.
But in the present time, there’s one giant question mark hanging over Juventus’ summer as the 2021-22 season opener quickly approaches: Can they get a deal done for Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli?
For the past handful of weeks — and please forgive me because, at this point, I’ve honestly lost count — Juventus has been negotiating with Sassuolo for Locatelli. It’s been about as drawn out of a process as we’ve seen in some time. And about the opposite of a negotiation process as we’ve seen when compared to the man in the picture above that is trying to steal the ball from Locatelli, Weston McKennie, who arrived on seemingly a deal out of nowhere from Schalke last summer. We’ve seen a familiar trend play out with reports in the Italian press the last handful of weeks:
Juventus submits an offer. Sassuolo declines said offer. The Italian media says a new meeting will come in the next few days or that next week. It’s a cycle that, unfortunately, has become the norm this summer as Juventus tries to get a deal done.
Hell, we’ve even seen reported over the last few hours that Juventus and Sassuolo have another meeting regarding the Locatelli deal set for .... Friday! (That is, for the record, nine days before Juve kicks off the 2021-22 season in Udine.)
But they need to get this deal done. Boy oh boy do they need to get this deal done.
If not just for the simple amount of time that they have invested in trying to get something done with Sassuolo, right? This is Federico Cherubini’s first major negotiation for a player since he took over as Juventus’ Chief Football Officer. And obviously he is doing so under the context of Juventus being extremely strapped for cash and the ability to close the gap between what he’s offering and what Sassuolo wants isn’t as easy as it could be in previous years.
As it stands right now, Juventus has offered Sassuolo a variety of different formulas to try and get the deal done. Depending on where you read it, the details of the deal vary. But Juve’s latest offer has essentially become something like Federico Chiesa deal was structured last October during final days of the “summer” transfer window. Sassuolo aren’t exactly welcoming that kind of deal with open arms, but at this point something where the main portion of the transfer fee is kicked down the road a year or two seems like the only thing Juventus can afford. (Remember, that €400 million influx of capital wasn’t so Cherubini could go wild on the transfer market, folks.)
The good news in all of this is that if Locatelli wanted to move to another club beside Juventus then Sassuolo would have already sold him to the highest bidder. He hasn’t gone to Arsenal, which reportedly offered €40 million weeks ago. That means Juventus are the only option Sassuolo have of cashing in on Locatelli.
And that’s a good thing considering just how important a Locatelli signing can prove to be for Juventus’ midfield and how it goes a long way to solving some of the problems that area of the field has had the last couple of seasons.
It’s pretty apparent that Juventus’ midfield has missed a player with Locatelli’s characteristics and passing ability the last few years. You get Locatelli and you can get Rodrigo Bentancur into a much more effective position as a No. 6. You can let Adrien Rabiot and McKennie be box-to-box threats who can both score goals and be effective defensively. And, maybe most important of all, the experimenting with Aaron Ramsey as a regista would, thankfully, come to an end and not be looked as a legitimate backup option if somebody like Locatelli or even Miralem Pjanic doesn’t arrive this summer.
We’re hearing a lot about the domino effects of transfers whenever a big move happens.
Well, signing Locatelli — as well as missing out on him — also has its fair share of dominos falling, too.
That’s why it has to happen. There’s no other way around it.
Let’s hope so or else Juventus’ main transfer target this summer will likely still be a Sassuolo player when the 2021-22 season kicks off next weekend. (Seriously, it’s next weekend. That’s crazy, right?)