It’s early August again, so, you know what that means.
As a reminder, we are going to rank the current squad into tiers from least to most important to the success of the club this upcoming season. This is to say, it’s not a straight up ranking of who’s the best player at Juventus, but who’s the most important to the team.
So, for example, if I were to rank Rodrigo Bentancur ahead of Leo Bonucci, it does not mean that I believe the Uruguayan midfielder is, in a vacuum, a better player than the veteran Italian defender necessarily. It just means that whether he performs or not is more pivotal to the fate of the season than whatever Bonucci does.
We are also only taking into account active players — or confirmed to be — in the senior squad as of Sept. 12, with only one exception that we all know who is going to be. I’m also not counting all the Under-23 kids because, unless something extremely weird happens, I don’t really foresee any of them making a big impact this season.
Lastly, I need you all to remember that this is an opinion-based article, so if you happen to find something here you disagree with, it’s fine. Some might say differing opinions and the following respectful exchange of ideas and points of view that follows is the key to what makes us humans that are able to grow, learn and become more complete, emphatic, better beings with time. Alas, as always and because it is in my contract, I’m right and you are not, in fact what you are is a …
Tribute to the Fallen
Merih Demiral – CB
Marko Pjaca – LW
Gianluca Frabotta – LB
Cristian Romero – CB (Technically?)
Gianluigi Buffon – GK
Yeah, no, this feels right. Keep on keeping on, Gigi.
Poor Marko Pjaca, man. To have to go back to the Juve facility year after year after year, train with the team for a couple of weeks, go through the motions while holding a dim hope that you will finally stick around … only to be loaned out yet again because, at this point, the odds of fulfilling the promise you showed before all of the injuries is practically nil. Brutal, pour one out for my boy.
Here is how out of nowhere Gianluca Frabotta came out last year: I didn’t even have him ranked in my last year’s power rankings. At this point in his career a loan is probably good for him but I wouldn’t really hold out a lot of hope for him developing into an important piece for Juventus later on. But, who knows, stranger things have happened.
Juventus got €16 million for a guy that Atalanta developed into the best defender in Serie A and flipped for him over €50 million to the Premier League. That very same team is now receiving Merih Demiral for a €3 million loan with an option to buy at €28 million. How much do you want to bet they flip him for like €60 mill next year?
In the history of mismanaged position groups, how badly the Juve management handled their center-back depth will be written about on text books.
(There were some bad luck factors sprinkled in, but still.)
Tier 8: GOAT
Carlo Pinsoglio – GK
Another year with the best job in the world for our guy Carlo.
I get that seldom-used players generate a cult of personality-ish following among the followers of that club, but, I really can’t recall another third string keeper getting so much love from the fans while also being a non-factor in the results on the pitch of said club.
Keep being you, Carlo, keep being you.
Tier 7: What would you say you do here?
Mattia Perin – GK
Aaron Ramsey – MF
With the season fast approaching and the rumor mill running dry on goalkeeping rumors for Juventus, it sure looks like Perin is getting another look as a Juve keeper. Because of Buffon being on the team the last few years, the second keeper in Turin has seen more playing time than in many other squads. With that being said, I can’t imagine that Perin is going to get a ton of minutes this time around.
The less said about Ramsey the better. He’s hardly on the pitch, and when he is on the pitch he fluctuates between being below average and actively harmful. As someone who at times has underperformed at work while still cashin’ them paychecks, I can respect the hustle. As a fan who has to sit through and try to derive any enjoyment from his play, I’m pretty over the Aaron Ramsey Era at Juve.
Tier 7: “Anything is gravy”
Radu Dragusin – CB
Luca Pellegrini – LB
Federico Bernardeschi – LW/RW/LB/?
Kaio Jorge – ST
Low expectations is the name of the game, and if you can get any amount of time of above average to good play from these guys you’ll be in good shape.
Of course, there is one thing in this tier that is not like the others. Dragusin, Pellegrini and Kaio Jorge are young guys who will try to break into the team and prove their quality. If for whatever reason they don’t get a ton of playing time and/or look unimpressive in that playing time, you can still hold out hope that with time they’ll develop into solid players for you.
Bernardeschi, on the other hand, is what he is at this point. An inconsistent guy that hasn’t been able to shine in pretty much any position he’s been put in. Either through mismanagement or just a lack of upper echelon talent, I’d say his ceiling for this season is a solid rotational piece backed by the good vibes of his decent Euros performance.
(And it was only decent since the guy only played over 100 minutes in four matches. His PKs were awesome, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.)
Tier 6 : “Failing Upwards”
Mattia De Sciglio – LB/RB
Daniele Rugani – CB
If you combined their two careers, I firmly believe you could find somewhere between 30 to 45 matches of good performances — none of which happened in the last, I don’t know, four years?
These two guys have shown time and time again that they are not good enough to be Juventus players. Yet, due to bad management and a poor financial situation for everyone not named PSG or Manchester City/United, we have found ourselves in the horrific, yet very real scenario of Daniele effin’ Rugani and Mattia effin’ De Sciglio getting real competitive, meaningful minutes for Juventus in the year of our Lord 2021.
Do you know how bad you have to mismanage your club in order to claim to be an elite European club — a SuperLeague club, if you will — and have to field these two outright mediocre players? Do you understand how old our center back line is?! ARE WE ALL AWARE THAT WE ARE ONE (1) MUSCLE INJURY AWAY OF OUR 37-YEAR-OLD CAPTAIN OF HAVING DANIELE RUGANI BE A FACTOR IN OUR SEASON?!
I cut Fabio Paratici more slack than most, but the fact that we will still have to watch these two and Aaron Ramsey play for Juventus this year is unforgivable.
Tier 5: Steady as S(he) Goes
Alex Sandro – LB
Danilo – FB
Leonardo Bonucci – CB
Wojciech Szczesny – GK
Ideally you should have no problems with these guys.
They have all shown to be dependable at worst and legitimately good at best. Sure, we can nitpick Woj’s form last season, whether Bonucci and Sandro are past their prime and if Danilo’s last year is only a mirage or a legit sign of a career resurgence.
But, overall, there’s very few questions in this group, which should be a relief.
The Wild Card Tier
Arthur – MF
Rodrigo Bentancur – MF
As every year, the Wild Card tier is unranked because we legitimately don’t know what to expect from these players.
Arthur has started the season recovering from a surgery intended to fix the bizarre injury that cost him the majority of the second half of last year. Why did he decide to wait until the holidays had passed to get this surgery? God knows, but after a lackluster showing last year, that’s probably not the way he wanted to get this season started under a new coach
Bentancur had as bad a season as anyone under Andrea Pirlo. The only good thing you can say about it was that he at least didn’t get hurt and it’s over. Will we see a renaissance from the guy many were pegging to be the next great Juve young midfielder? Or will he crash and burn for good?
Wild Cards, baby.
Tier 4: “Gotta Prove It”
Adrien Rabiot – MF
Weston McKennie – MF
Dejan Kulusevski – RW
Alvaro Morata – ST
They’ve all shown flashes, they all have talent, but for one reason or another this could be a make or break season for the players in this tier.
Morata is playing for his Juve career given his loan status from Atletico Madrid and his relatively hefty price tag in what is sure to still be a COVID-depressed market next year. At this point, Morata is who he is — a streaky as hell striker that on his day will look world class and when he is not he can’t hit the ocean from a boat. Can he finally put it all together this year? Or does Juve pay upwards of €30 million for an at-best 15-20 goal scorer?
McKennie was a pleasant surprise in a season that had very few. His form in the first half really had a lot of us crowning him as the best player in the midfield and a top player for the team as a whole. After an injury in the second half, however, he never quite found that form again. While what he did early on was more than enough to acquire him outright from Schalke, he still has to show that side of him again if he’s to be considered a guy to watch or just a rotational piece.
Rabiot was an undisputed starter for Pirlo and to a certain degree for Maurizio Sarri as well. And while his performances in that double pivot spot were lackluster to say the least, we all know he can be a lot more than what he’s shown. At some point you do have to show it week in and week out though, under his third coach in three years, let’s hope Max Allegri is the man to take the most out of the French international.
Of all the people screwed over by Juve’s “Get all the wide players available” approach, Kulusevski was arguably the worst hit. Nothing seemed to work in his favor, the system, the competition, the general approach to the game that was a complete opposite to what he thrives on. And yet, he still had some unarguably good moments last year, which only goes to show you how talented the kid is. Of course, there’s a gulf in difference between having good moments and actually starting for this team.
Tier 3: “Fighting the Odds” (AKA, please, God, don’t get hurt)
Giorgio Chiellini – CB
It is legitimately unnerving to go into a season depending so much on the health of one of the oldest players in the squad, but here we are.
Chiellini has struggled to stay healthy for the last few years, and up until a few months ago the majority of us expected last season to be his last. However, thanks to a turn-back-the-clock Euros performance and a solid end of the year, Juve’s captain was renewed for another go-round with the Bianconeri.
And, honestly? With good reason. He’s the key to Juve’s defense, both Matthijs de Ligt and Bonucci are just plain better when paired with him and when health allows he can still be as rock solid as ever. Still, to ask of him a season’s worth of appearances is misguided. In the best possible scenario, he gets a lot of rest and plays only in big matches while avoiding long stints at J Medical. The most likely scenario, however, involves at least a few months in which he’s out and the rest of the crew has to hold down the fort.
Like, I said, unnerving.
The Manuel Locatelli Tier
Manuel Locatelli – MF
I’m hoping and assuming the Locatelli deal finally, mercifully came through. And if it did, there’s plenty of good reasons to celebrate in Juventus land.
(Narrator’s voice: It’s still not done.)
It’s not only that Locatelli is a talented player on his own merit and getting talented players is more often than not a winning recipe. It’s that if he lives up to his promise, he can unlock this team and his potential. A guy that can carry a double pivot or play in front of the defense is exactly what this team has been missing for the last few years. If Locatelli is that, it allows you to play so many more formations and puts other guys in better positions to succeed.
This is not a top tier team as it’s currently constituted. With Manuel Locatelli in the fold, however, it gets you a lot closer.
Tier 2: “Side B”
Mathijs de Ligt – CB
Juan Cuadrado – RW/RM/RB
Paulo Dybala – CF
These guys are as key as ever next year.
Cuadrado bared the brunt of the creative play for large stretches of last season as he led the team in assists and was, at times, the only guy who seemed capable of making anything happen on the offensive front. They are going to need more of the same from our favorite Colombian.
De Ligt has been, for the most part, just as advertised. Even at his worst he’s still one of the better defenders in Europe, and when he’s at his peak there’s very little he cannot do. Perhaps because of the hype or his massive transfer fee, I still feel like he has another step to take and as he starts Year 3 in bianconero, this feels exactly like the year to make that jump.
We all know what fully healthy, fully in-form Dybala can do. The guy can be as electric as any other superstar in world football right now but for one reason or another he had his worst year as a pro during last season and due to his interminable contract renewal drama he looked like he could be out the door. However, with Allegri back in charge and a strong boost of confidence from the man himself, Dybala has to go back to the guy we were used to seeing.
Tier 1: “Top of the Charts”
Cristiano Ronaldo – ST
Federico Chiesa – RW/LW
There’s a lot of discourse about Ronaldo — his wages and his position and his age and his wages and his fame and his supercars and his wages and how he doesn’t defend and his Instagram followers and his wages and his shirt sales and his rivalry with PSG’s new signing and his free kicks and lastly, his wages.
But, one thing is absolutely undeniable: the guy scores a lot of goals. He’s really freaking good at scoring goals. In fact, he might be the best ever at scoring goals. And last time I checked, scoring goals was a thing that was needed in order to win football games. And you can spin it however you want to spin it, having the guy who has scored the most goals ever in your team in a sport that revolves around scoring goals is — as a whole — a good thing.
Whether the Ronaldo signing was a positive or negative for Juventus will be a thing discussed for years to come. This might be the last year of the gambit and regardless of what happens in the future, for Juve to reach their self-ascribed hefty objectives they are going to need the greatest goal scorer of all time to keep increasing his tally.
To close us out, we have to talk about Chiesa. He started his Juventus career as an expensive gamble in the eyes of many. He begins his second in the cusp of becoming the best player in the squad, and if all things break right, the whole league.
If Chiesa has a repeat of what he did last season, Juventus will be a very good team, no doubt. If he keeps his current trajectory up and can elevate himself and the team to a whole other level, though? Watch out.
Can’t wait to get started.