The summer moves slow, then the summer moves fast.
After weeks of protracted rumors and hearsay, the first several Juventus-related dominoes have more or less officially fallen: Juan Cuadrado has played his last game for the Old Lady, Timothy Weah is set to join the Biaconeri from LOSC Lille, and Adrien Rabiot has signed a one-year contract to extend his stay in Turin.
While all of these moves are important and carry fairly substantial ramifications about what the squad is going to look like next year, the last of these decisions — the return of our favorite floppy-haired Frenchman — is what I’ll be looking at today.
This is a good move for Juventus, but it’s not without its footnotes and caveats, so let’s figure out what the
The good: the best in black and white is back
There’s a lot of good here.
First and foremost, in a year and summer of turnover and turmoil, Juventus are getting one of its most reliable players back on the pitch for another year. If you had told me three years ago that’s something we’d be saying about Rabiot, I would not have believed you. Yet here we are, The continuity factor is important, both in terms of his presence at the club, his understanding of Allegri, and also his ability to consistently play 90 minutes,
Which is point No. 2: this guy is *almost* unbreakable. For a team that seems to invent new ways of having players miss time every year, that trait is hugely important. And for a unit whose most talented player played about as many meaningful minutes for the Old Lady as I did last season, that’s also hugely important. Let me put it this way: if the choice was between Rabiot for another year or going for an oft-injured guy like Thomas Partey, I’ll take the former every time.
And while there might be some hesitation in signing Rabiot, who truly was Juve’s best (and most consistent) midfielder last year, to a one-year contract, if any of his improved performance was because of the fact that he was on a contract year, we’re going to get that same consequence once again. It might even be more pronounced: Rabiot will turn 29 at the end of next campaign going up for a contract yet again; from his perspective, this will likely be the last time he’s able to attempt to negotiate a contract in the prime of his career.
The bad: what the market might be saying about Rabiot
Alas, this isn’t all daisies and roses.
I, like many Juventus fans, thought sometime in the spring when we began hearing of Rabiot’s agent-mother and her efforts in winning her son (and herself) a lucrative deal, that this was probably going to be the end of the road for his time in the shirt. With how well he played and how much trouble the club had been through on and off the field, that didn’t feel great.
It turns out, though, that the market might not have been that interested in Rabiot at all. From what I’ve read from reputable reporters, there was allegedly one Premier League offer that was “better” than what Juventus offered. If that’s even true — if, say, it’s not a semi-fabrication designed to help Rabiot save some face — then one immediately thinks about a club like Aston Villa or Brighton, solid middle-ish table squads with extra cash to burn.
The market says that Rabiot isn’t worth a big contract or a long contract. That’s a somewhat sobering thought, but maybe he can use it as motivation to have an even better year.
The ugly: the midfield isn’t going to get a major upgrade (again)
Like I said in the beginning of this piece, I think overall this is a good move for the club considering everything that’s going on. Context, again, is key; it might even be king in this instance. Signing Rabiot gives the club some continuity and maybe that’s the wise, if safe, move to make instead of going after someone new. I suppose we’ll find out in a year’s time when we are dancing this same dance once again.
Although the journalists seem to be suggesting that Juventus isn’t necessarily done making moves in the midfield, and that any further actions depend on departures (Weston McKennie, Arthur, Denis Zakaria), color me skeptical if, even with those three finding new homes, anything substantial happened. The midfield room will probably look something like this next year: Rabiot, Manuel Locatelli, Nicolo Fagioli, Fabio Miretti, Paul Pogba, and Nicolo Rovella. Those are probably going to be the guys manning the midfield. How good that unit might become will largely depend on Pogba’s health and the degree to which the young Italian trio can build on their previous campaigns.
In a worst-case scenario, this unit is probably going to look the exact same, more or less, as last year. Maybe the youngsters don’t show much improvement, Rovella is the Italian Paredes, and Pogba keeps finding new ways to get injured. In a best-case scenario, though, this does look fairly promising; if Pogba can slowly ramp up to playing regular minutes, if the kids can take palpable steps forward, and if Rovella can take a small leap to be that regista heartbeat, then maybe we can start to get excited about the future.