These tend to be the slow months for us here at Black & White & Read All Over. It’s summer, the weather is nice, and there’s generally little going on in the world of football besides your occasional soap opera transfer saga and friendly matches. Thankfully, the Women’s European Championships in England was a much-needed source of competitive football this summer.
Anyway, things are starting to pick up again as pre-season wraps up and the new Serie A season is only a few weeks away. But first, a look back at what happened in July.
The highlight of the month was, of course, the field trip that Danny and Sergio (with Hunter as a sidekick) went on to the glamorous city of Las Vegas. No, they didn’t go there for the reasons that everybody else does — as the wholesome man that I am, I wouldn’t know what shenanigans people get up to there.
Instead, they visited Vegas to attend Juve’s first pre-season game against
the C-team of Chivas Guadalajara. Better yet, they had press seats for the game and our very own Sergio Romero was able to squeeze in a question for Juan Cuadrado in the post-game interview mix zone. Make sure to read his awesome three-part Las Vegas Diary series about his adventures there.
As for the game itself, the Bianconeri comfortably beat Chivas 2-0 thanks to goals from Marco Da Graca and Mattia Compagnon and a sparkling performance by new signing Ángel Di Maria. Next up was a slightly more challenging encounter against
the big-spending-but-technically-broke Barcelona. It’s fair to say that Juve were not quite up to this challenge.
The phenomenal Ousmane Dembélé who, thankfully for Barcelona decided to extend his contract with the Catalan club, ran rings around Juan Cuadrado and (especially) Alex Sandro. It was a tale of two strikers as he scored a sizzling first half brace and had an overall fantastic performance, while his counterpart for Juve, Moise Kean, also scored two despite having a poor game overall. It reminds us of the strange nature of the job of being a striker: you can (temporarily?) get away with bad performances as long as you score goals.
As is often the case in pre-season friendlies, the game fizzled out after the second half as both managers substituted their entire starting XI to ensure that everyone got some playing time. Final score 2-2, though Allegri has much to worry about when it comes to the defensive strength of the team’s left side.
Last, and probably the least, the Bianconeri faced Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles/Pasadena/wherever it actually is. It was a(nother) stark reminder of just how far behind Juventus is from the top, top teams in Europe as Real Madrid, playing a full-strength side in the first half, comfortably won the game 2-0.
Welcomes & Goodbyes
As temperatures rise and Europe deals with an unprecedented heatwave, the activity in the summer transfer market also warmed up significantly during July. Here’s what happened:
- Juventus sold Rolando Mandragora to Fiorentina for €8.2 million plus a potential €1 million in add-ons.
- The mighty Federico Bernardeschi ended his five-year stay at the club and, together with Lorenzo Insigne from Napoli, joined MLS side Toronto FC.
- Argentina international and former PSG and Real Madrid winger Ángel Di Maria joined Juventus on a free transfer. He signed a one-year contract.
- Young Belgian defender Koni De Winter has joined Empoli on a season-long loan deal.
- The Paul Pogback-back-and-forth-and-forth saga has finally concluded as the Frenchman has rejoined Juventus ... and quickly gotten injured for what will likely be a substantial amount of time.
- Juventus signed Italian defender Andrea Cambiaso from Genoa for €8.5 million plus €3 million in bonuses, with Radu Dragusin going the other way on loan (with an option to buy for €5.5 million plus €1.8 million in bonuses). Cambiaso immediately joined Bologna on a season-long loan deal.
- Paulo Dybala joined AS Roma on a free transfer after Inter declined to sign him.
- Aaron Ramsey has finally, finally left Juventus after both parties agreed to terminate his contract. A miserable three-year stay at the club has ended as the Welshman aims to stay fit and get playing time in preparation for this year’s World Cup.
- Juventus is in advanced talks to provide promising young midfielder Nicolo Fagioli a new contract with the club.
- And a collection of transfer rumors: Valencia CF, headed by former Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso, has allegedly made an offer for Arthur Melo, Juventus might be interested in Chelsea flop Timo Werner and Liverpool striker Roberto “my teeth are whiter than snow” Firmino, Allegri is still not giving up on getting Álvaro Morata back to the club, and Monza and Salernitana are interested in signing Juventus youngster Nicolo Rovella.
- Regarding the Firmino rumors, Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp seems keen on keeping the Brazilian and his shining teeth at Anfield though after saying that Firmino is “crucial for us, the heart and soul of this team.” The player added to this by stating that “I love this team, this city and the fans. I’m here. I want to stay of course.”
- Undoubtedly the two biggest transfers of July were Matthijs de Ligt’s departure to Bayern Munich for €67 million plus €10 million in bonuses and Gleison Bremer’s arrival from city-rivals Torino €41 million plus €8 million in add-ons. More on that later.
It’s always sunny in Bavaria...
Now that we’ve had time to absorb the news that Matthijs de Ligt has left Juventus to join German champions Bayern Munich, many of us are left with the nagging feeling that the Dutchman was very good at Juve, but never quite reached the heights that we thought he would during his three years at the club.
The first year was very much a trial-by-fire year where he was immediately thrown into the chaos and not given much time to acclimate. Understandably, he had a difficult first season: handballs, penalties conceded, and an aging defense/squad next to him certainly didn’t help.
But he steadily improved with every passing game. He showed admirable leadership skills in a team that, as I said, was slowly crumbling. There were even whispers of making the Dutchman the captain of the team once Giorgio Chiellini departed and as Leonardo Bonucci enters the twilight of his career. But we’ll never know what might have happened because those whispers were quickly drowned out by the laughs and joyful greetings of his new employers at Bayern Munich.
“I’ma open up a store for aspiring MCs
Won’t sell ‘em no dream, but the inspiration is free”
—Kanye West, “Gone”
Of course, we all expected this day to eventually come. Even though we heard about those captain-material rumors, there was always a nagging feeling that Juventus was merely a pitstop for de Ligt. And therein lies the real, and somewhat demoralizing lesson.
The Dutch defender truly seemed to enjoy Turin and Italian lifestyle and made genuine attempts to assimilate into the culture. He was getting a very nice salary as well, although he doesn’t seem like the type of player to care about money (especially at this stage of his career). As a result, it’s clear that he left Juventus for purely sporting reasons.
More specifically, I think it’s fair to say that he left because Juventus simply wasn’t a good enough club for him, so he went to a better club that stands a much better chance of winning big silverware.
In a bittersweet way, it’s quite refreshing that in the age of ego’s, superstar dramas, “The Decision”, and footballers drowning in their own egos by making documentaries about themselves, such a big transfer was so simple and so fast. He’s an ambitious guy, thinks his current employer doesn’t match his ambition, joins a club that does, and the whole transfer is sorted out within a week or so. No drama, no explosive interviews, and no obnoxious documentaries about himself.
...But not in Rome
This website is about football and all things Juventus-related. That said, I’ve always argued that, as Lilian Thuram once said, sport is politics. The two are intimately connected, even though many people wish they weren’t.
As is frequently the case, Italy is experiencing both a political and financial crisis. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi submitted his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who first denied his resignation but accepted it the second time. I obviously won’t go into the specifics of that fascinating political episode because I want to focus on something else instead.
Italy was already in a precarious financial condition when Draghi — who was widely praised for maintaining financial stability in Italy and assuring investors of the country’s ability to service its debt — was in charge. However, they now find themselves in even more uncertain waters with a government that is in limbo and a mountain of public debt to handle.
Given that the Serie A is already lightyears behind the Premier League and other financial juggernauts in Europe, I’m left wondering what effect, if any, this political and financial crisis in Italy will have on Juventus, other Italian football clubs, and their finances.
Will it affect their ability to get loans and other financing? Will it decrease fans’ ability to pay for football games and related services, thus decreasing matchday (and possibly commercial) revenues? Does it make Italy a less lucrative market for broadcasters?
So many questions, so few answers.