We may have given a little bit of a rub to Chucks for declaring just that in last week’s episode of The Old Lady Speaks, but he was pretty much saying out loud what we all thought a little over a week ago. None of us were anticipating such an insane winter transfer window because such things simply don’t often happen, not just with Juventus but for almost everyone in Europe. Big moves the likes of Dusan Vlahovic just don’t often happen in January. The last time moves of that value and import happened in a winter window was 2018, when Liverpool simultaneously sent Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona and bought Virgil van Dijk from Southampton.
This list was initially conceived as a way of saying “of course it didn’t happen, because it never does.” But I decided to stick with it, instead as a way of highlighting just how truly unusual this January — in which most of the excitement was condensed into only the last week — really is.
That being said, I’m focusing solely on the past here, not the future, so neither Vlahovic or Denis Zakaria will be on this list. A few more rules:
- The player must have played in a Juventus shirt, meaning moves like the one that saw Juventus briefly co-own Domenico Berardi (back when co-ownership was still a thing) aren’t eligible.
- The player must have moved to Juve straight away, as opposed to staying with their parent club on loan until a future date. That means players like Dejan Kulusevski, who otherwise might have bumped at least one guy off this list, isn’t eligible.
- The cut-off date for our list is the 2010-11 season, the year that Andrea Agnelli and Beppe Marotta arrived at the team.
So, with that said, let’s take a look at the five best winter transfers of the Agnelli era (so far).
HONORABLE MENTION: SIMONE PADOIN
Padoin was more meme than man at Juventus, generating a rabid following as a limited player who simply played his ass off whenever he did get on to the pitch, usually late in games Juve was already winning. Simply mentioning his name in a group of Juventini will usually prompt a chorus of “Che c’e frega di Ronaldo, noi abbiamo Padoin!”
Padoin was brought in as depth in the winter of the 2011-12 season, and immediately endeared himself to the fan base. He scored his first Juve goal in March, in the 5-0 evisceration of Fiorentina that marked the start of the major run of form that won Juve the first title in the streak. He remained with the team until 2016, taking part in the first five scudetti of the streak before moving on to Cagliari. He spent three years there and a further season in Serie B with Ascoli before calling time on his playing career. This past summer, he returned home to Turin to become an assistant on Massimiliano Allegri’s staff, and he can often be seen in the dugout.
5. STEFANO STURARO
Full disclosure: I had initially forgotten Sturaro was eligible for this list before doing a last-minute check of my research before writing this. That pushed Padoin into the honorable mention slot, because while Padoin was and is beloved by all connected to Juventus, Sturaro was acquired to be a potential starter, and he made a couple of immense contributions to the team over the course of his time at Juve.
Of course, the biggest of those contributions came in the first leg of the 2014-15 Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid. It came as a bit of a shock when Allegri picked him for the starting XI, but he acquitted himself well and was responsible for what was perhaps the most decisive incident of the game, when he stuck a boot up to deflect a James Rodriguez header onto the crossbar, an intervention that proved decisive a 2-1 win as Juve went on to a massive two-leg upset.
The next year Sturaro scored the equalizer in the first leg of the team’s round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich, a tie that eventually ended in disappointment. after Juve were knocked out in extra time.
Sturaro never really got a consistent chance at starting time and was eventually returned to Genoa on loan and then a full deal as Juventus went after other priorities. While he never lived up to the heights that he was capable of, he was responsible for two of Juve’s two biggest European moments in recent memory, and that earns him a spot on this list.
4. MARCO BORIELLO
How does a guy who only played 17 games top guys who spent years with the team get himself ahead of two guys who played dozens? By starting the streak, that’d how.
Boriello was looking like a high-profile bust after his loan move from Roma in 2011-12, but his goal with 11 minutes left against Cesena saw Juventus put some daylight between themselves and AC Milan en route to winning their first title under Antonio Conte. It was a huge moment that changed the history of the club and, frankly, the league.
Still, the fact that he’s in contention for this list at all shows just how bare most January transfer windows really are.
3: MARTIN CACERES
Caceres is a two-time winter transfer in and a three-time Juve player in total. After an initial loan deal in 2009-10, Caceres returned to the Bianconeri in 2012 to act as depth behind Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Caceres ended up not only playing on the right but also as a central defender in Conte’s 3-5-2. He was excellent when he was playing, but he was also hampered by multiple injuries, including a fractured ankle and a ruptured Achilles tendon, that kept him out for long stretches. He also lost time with a bad case of the Stupids when he crashed his Ferrari in a drunk driving incident in Turin.
It was the Achilles injury that spelled the end of his longest and most successful spell in Turin. He would still be in recovery by the start of the next season, so his contract was allowed to lapse. But his journey with Juventus wasn’t done. Three years later, Juve needed some emergency cover in the back due to persistent injuries to one of their main defenders, and Caceres, at the time playing for Lazio, came over for a half-season loan to provide the depth. He played nine more games before the loan expired, then moved on to Fiorentina and Cagliari.
He’s still active now, having just moved to Levante in this transfer window, who hope he’ll be as much of a contributor to success as he was at Juve.
2. ALESSANDRO MATRI
The acquisition of Alessandro Matri was motivated by the serious ACL suffered by Fabio Quagliarella in the first match out of the winter break in the 2010-11 season. Matri had scored 11 goals for Cagliari before his deadline-day transfer, and he would score nine more before the end of the season, putting him fourth on the league scoring chart that year with 20. His performance saw Juve activate their option to buy him permanently, and he became a fixture in Conte’s early teams.
He was the team’s co-leader in goals the next season, but with only half the strikes he had managed the previous season. The goals he did manage were some important ones—particularly a brace in a January top-of-the-table clash against Udinese (yes, you read that right, they were the Atalanta of those years) and the equalizer in the infamous 1-1 draw against Milan in February.
Matri became emblematic of the team’s lack of a true top-tier striker in Conte’s first two years. He was entirely dependent on his first touch. If it was good, he was often a real menace to the goal. His conversion rate for shots to shots on target was actually one of the best in Europe when he was at Juve. The problem was that that first touch wasn’t there nearly enough to make him an elite striker, and the acquisition of Carlos Tevez spelled the end of his time at Juventus.
He moved to AC Milan, whose academy he had grown up in, but played very little and produced even less. He was subsequently sent out on loan seemingly every transfer window. But when Juve needed some striker depth in the winter of 2015, Matri, who had scored seven times in 17 games on loan at Genoa in the first half of the season, was recalled to Milan and re-loaned back to Turin.
He only played nine times in the second half of the year, but he scored two big goals in those nine games, both in the Coppa Italia. In the second leg of the semifinal against Fiorentina, he scored the opening goal of a 3-0 away win that turned around a 2-1 first-leg defeat in Turin. In the final against Lazio, he came on as a sub in the 84th minute and scored the winning goal after taking down a gorgeous long ball from Andrea Pirlo and firing through the hand of Etrit Berisha.
Matri was a hard worker, and his service to the club admirable, but he simply wasn’t good enough to compete on the level that Juventus wanted to be at. The same absolutely could not be said of the final player on this list.
1. ANDREA BARZAGLI
Vlahovic could well be in this place on this list when his career is done, but he has an immense standard to meet in order to get there.
The purchase of Andrea Barzagli is not just one of the best winter transfer moves in history, but one of the best moves, period, in terms of production for cost.
Barzagli had been a promising player in the early part of the 20th century. He made his name at Palermo, with his performances there being enough to get him onto Marcello Lippi’s roster for the 2006 World Cup, where he started in the quarterfinal against Ukraine.
In 2008 he moved from Palermo to Wolfsberg, where he helped the team to an unlikely Bundesliga title, but by 2010 his star had dimmed considerably, and he was no longer a first-choice player at Wolfsberg. Juventus were in desperate need of defensive reinforcement with Nicola Legrottaglie frozen out of the side and Leonardo Bonucci struggling badly. They snapped up Barzagli for a mere €300,000.
All he did was become one of the greatest defenders the club has ever known. When Conte arrived in the summer of 2011, he transformed from an also-ran into Il Muro, one of the absolute best defenders in the world and an integral part of the BBC defense that Juve leaned on in the early years of the streak and that powered them to two Champions League finals in three years. He took part in the first eight seasons of the streak, although the final year was marred by injuries that eventually forced his retirement. He played his last match on May 19, 2019, becoming the third Juventus player after Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon to take a lap of honor around the stadium after being withdrawn.
All this for a fee that amounts to pocket change in the transfer market. He is truly one of the Juventus greats, and easily the best winter transfer the team has ever made.
Dusan, start climbing.