As Dejan Kulusevski spun his left-footed shot toward the back post against Sampdoria in Andrea Pirlo’s first game as Juventus manager two Septembers ago, we thought it was just the beginning for the Swedish winger. It was a goal that oozed confidence and swagger, the kind of thing that Kulusevski showed plenty of during his loan spell at Parma the season before.
The thing is, though, it was just one game.
And as Kulusevski’s season and a half with Juventus played out, the consistency and the fit at the club just never seemed to mesh as much as we all hoped it would.
Because of that, Juve clearly deemed Kulusevski expandable. And on Monday his move away from Juventus became official, as it was announced that the 21-year-old Swede joined Tottenham on an initial 18-month loan deal with a €10 million fee attached to it, €3 million for this season and €7 million next season. There is, as has been reported over the last couple of days, a option to buy that will kick in under either one of two conditions — Tottenham qualifies for the Champions League or Kulusevski appears in a certain number of Spurs’ matches, believed to be at least 50 percent. The buy option that becomes an obligation if those certain sporting objectives are met is worth €35 million, pushing total value of the deal to €45 million. The buy option would be paid over the course of five years.
Here are the official details of the deal, courtesy of Juventus’ website:
Turin, 31 January 2022 - Juventus Football Club S.p.A. announces that an agreement with Tottenham Hotspur for the temporary disposal, until 30 June 2023, of the registration rights of the player Dejan Kulusevski has been reached for a consideration of € 10 million, of which € 3 million for the sporting season 2021/2022 and € 7 million for the sporting season 2022/2023.
The agreement further envisages:
• the obligation for Tottenham to definitely acquire the player’s registrations rights, subject to the achievement of certain sporting objectives by the end of the season 2022/2023;
• the right for Tottenham to definitively acquire the player’s registration rights in case such objectives are not achieved.
In both cases, the agreed consideration for the definitive disposal is € 35 million, payable in five years.
Kulusevski, who Juventus signed from Atalanta at the start of the January transfer window two years ago, was looked upon to be one of the potential young building blocks as Juve tried to lower the overall age of the squad following Max Allegri’s first tenure as manager where players with plenty of miles on their tires was the norm. In his season on loan with Parma, Kulusevski won the Serie A Young Player of the Year award, showing just what kind of player he can be when he’s is full of confidence and in a system that fits his attributes to near-perfection.
But ever since coming to Juventus, the story of Kulusevski’s play has been more about showing his talent in flashes rather than over an extended period of time. He started out well and looked to be a player that Andrea Pirlo could truly let loose in his attack-minded, high-pressure lineup. Then came the struggles — some of it having to play out of position as a striker due to injuries up and down the roster, and some of it was just a young player struggling to find his footing. He closed the season with Pirlo strong, giving us hope that he could be turning a corner and would come into the 2021-22 campaign with some momentum.
That hasn’t happened, though. For all of the talent he clearly has, he’s never been able to put it all together and show Allegri that he can be a player that the veteran manager can count on. Kulusevski started all of five Serie A matches this season, proving to be more of an option off the bench — and sometimes, with only a few minutes at a time — rather than a consistent starter on a squad full of talented wingers. Essentially, as Federico Chiesa took the next step toward stardom prior to his ACL injury, Kulusevski never kicked into gear.
Kulusevski will now hope that Tottenham is the place that gets him back on track. There’s plenty of competition there, too, but he will certainly be playing for a manager that has turned a whole lot of careers around in quick fashion. It just is unfortunate that any potential Kulusevski consistency won’t happen at a club he clearly wanted to thrive at.