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Manu’s Summer Grab Bag: Taken for a fool

Some long-rumored deals finally got made and Juventus had their two first official signings of the transfer season.

Juventus Unveil New Signing Paul Pogba Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

In the continuing saga of me trying to get back in shape, a fun part of the journey has been trying new gyms and studios to go to. Due to recently moving, my usual spots are now too far and inconvenient for me to continue going, so bye bye to the CrossFit studio and boxing gym that consistently belittled your manhood whenever you stopped to catch your breath.

(That sounds harsher than it was — it was a very old-school type boxing gym. Getting made fun of and challenged when getting clocked was kind of its charm. You don’t play boxing, indeed.)

Because I have this app that let’s me pick and choose where I want to go the last couple of weeks have just been spent trying out different places and seeing what I like. Most of them are variations of HiiT workouts because that’s what's trendy at the moment. In theory, I like the idea — one hour, you’re in and you're out. One of them is boxing themed, so you’re running around in timed “rounds” or doing pushups until its time to lace up the gloves and throw basic combinations in a heavy bag until your shoulders can’t keep up.

It’s fine, but I dislike the fact that boxing is mostly used to tire you out and actual technique or sparring are nowhere to be found. Some others have a slightly weird military motif so a ton of climbing ropes, turning over giant tires and hitting them with a sledgehammer in an aggro display of repressed masculine anger.

The one that puzzled me the most, however, was this one joint in which the gimmick is that you alternate between running sprints in a high speed treadmill, you step down and then do a bunch of workouts. This is all done in a dark, cramped room, with LED strobe lights going on and unbearably loud electronic music. It’s essentially a club in which you also work out. It succeeds in making the class - which to its credit is pretty challenging - go by pretty fast, it also succeeds in being on the edge of getting seriously injured due to the limited visibility and the lightning hitting you in the eyes more than its reasonable.

Decidedly the best part of the place though, was the neon signage on the walls. Most of it is vaguely positive mantras, like “Sweat Today, Strong Tomorrow” or “It’s you vs. you.” It’s the type of stuff you could find at the Target home decor section. But there were some hilariously transparent ones that I just had to respect. “Do it for the selfie” was particularly good, but “Think how you’ll look at the beach” probably takes the cake.

Most of us try working out for vain reasons, and that’s fine! But I’ve never seen a place just own up to it in such a brazen manner. I will continue to go up until the inevitable moment I sprain an ankle jumping over a kettlebell to get back to the treadmill and a strobe light hits me in the eye at the wrong time.

Let’s cook.

The Signings That Were Announced

After weeks and months of speculation and unnecessary updates and tweets announcing that deals were in several stages of being done, we finally got our first two new players in black and white.

It wasn’t a shock signing to absolutely anybody, but it was still nice to see both Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria finally stroll through the doors of J Medical, awkwardly pose in front of the building — as per tradition — and finally, officially, become Juventus players.

At this point, we have already discussed a bunch the pros and cons of the signings. Pogba can be a truly elite midfielder and he brings a dynamism and technique that simply no other player on the team has. If you get a healthy Pogba, you are getting a top 10 midfielder in the world, period, end of sentence. Of course, Manchester United didn’t let his contract run out for no reason, and injuries have made his form go up and down, so this signing is far from a sure thing.

Di Maria is old. That’s kind of the one problem with the signing. He has one year in him and that’s it. Will Juve take advantage of this short-term shot in the arm? El Fideo is probably the signing I’ve flip-flopped on the most. It’s gone in my head from dumb signing, to low-risk/high-reward roll of the dice, to at worst decent depth and another option off the bench.

It’s reasonable to have questions about both players, but I can’t deny that I’m recently more optimistic about them. Perhaps things do pan out for Juventus for a change, so why not imagine a scenario in which a revitalized, motivated Paul Pogba goes back to his best self, becomes the midfield fulcrum Juventus has been missing for years and helps lead this team back to Serie A glory? Who’s to say that Angel Di Maria doesn't have one more double-digit assist season in him while he becomes a veteran leader and mentor to younger wingers like Federico Chiesa and fellow Argentine Matias Soule?

It’s the summer guys, positive vibes only.

Leaky Walls

As the Matthijs de Ligt transfer drama continues — with the most recent leader in the clubhouse to sign the Dutch international changing from England to Germany — suddenly the real possibility of losing a guy that was supposed to be an entrenched starter becomes more and more likely.

Once again, I’m forced to look at a positional depth chart and feel pretty queasy about its prospects. I give you the center back depth chart for Juventus without de Ligt:

  • Leo Bonucci
  • Federico Gatti
  • Daniele Rugani

To reccap, that’s a veteran figurehead who’s form has been dipping for a few years now and will undoubtedly miss time this next season due to injury, a newcomer standout ... but in Serie B ... and — hilariously — Daniele Rugani.

And look, I get that if the de Ligt transfer goes through then a large chunk of those funds will be allocated to another defender, but even then, you are still looking straight into the barrel of being one injury away of Daniele Rugani getting minutes once again, which is a truly bonkers thing to be saying in the year of our lord 2022.

That leads to the second problem — who is even this mystery replacement center back? Kalidou Koulibaly made sense from a talent standpoint, but it always felt like an odd fit given his strong ties to Napoli and the fact that he was a short-term solution given his age. Plus, he’s now going to Chelsea, not Juventus. Brazilian defender Bremer was a trendy name but it’s been reported for what feels like months that Inter is going to get the signature and it seems unlikely that Juve can swipe in and steal him from under their hated rivals.

After that it’s just a bunch of names that seem more like wild transfer rumors than anything concrete. Gabriel from Arsenal! Pau Torres from Villarreal! Benoît Badiashile from AS Monaco! Can we interest you in Arthur as a counterweight in any of those deals?

There’s still reasonably enough time to find a solution, but the more you look at some parts of the depth chart — specifically the defense — the more the optimism previously mentioned starts to fade.

Parting Shot of the Week

We broke some news on our latest episode of The Old Lady Speaks — the BWRAO crew is heading to Las Vegas next week to cover our beloved Bianconeri in the Soccer Champions Tour as they take on Chivas Guadalajara at the Allegiant Stadium on July 22.

(Mexican clubs Chivas and America are slated to play in a few of these games exclusively due to the high density of Mexican immigrants in the area. This is not me being a dick about it, but the Mexican League is already going on, there are official competitive matches being played in Liga MX as we speak. It makes zero sense to change the domestic schedule in order to accommodate a friendly in the United States. But as always, money talks, so who’s ready to see the entire Chivas bench get wrecked by European teams?!)

I do not want to overstate how a legitimate dream come true this is for yours truly. As any fan of a foreign club can tell you, watching your club play live is a bucket list item, and I always sort of thought I’d get around to it whenever life allowed. But never, in a million years, could I ever imagine that it would happen as an officially credentialed member of the press.

(They’ll let anybody in if you ask nicely enough, apparently.)

This would not have been possible without the work being done on this blog by everyone who contributes and by everyone who makes it the community what it is. Therefore, we want to make the content that comes out of this trip as much about the community as about the people actually covering it, so whatever you want to see let us know and we’ll try to get you as much of the inside scoop as possible.

See you next week.