Juventus fans have faced a difficult few years.
After seeing her nine-year Scudetto reign come to an end at the hands of dreaded rival Inter Milan in 2021, the Old Lady failed the following two seasons to hoist the trophy as well, seeing AC Milan and Napoli crowned champions. UEFA punishments, doping scandals, gambling, the entire board resigning, financial numbers in the red, a persistently discombobulated roster, a rotating door of managers — not ideal.
The Max Allegri 2.0 came along, and while he’s certainly not a crowd-pleaser, and while he needed a fair amount of time righting the ship, against all odds he has put together what, I think, might go down as one of the most heroic Juventus campaigns of all time, especially if they top the table. This season has been enough to make one fall in love again; the grinta, the embodiment of fino alla fine, fighting through adversity, the whole script is there.
Just when everything seemed to be going right, instead of the usual plot twist — everything going wrong — Kenan Yildiz happened. And a great season just became legendary.
1. Yildiz has unlocked Vlahovic and is the best attacking fit in a 3-5-2
I’ll say two thing: first, Yildiz does not make Federico Chiesa expendable; second, Yildiz is a more complete player in the formation Max currently prefers to use.
The Italian, who has continued to struggle with injuries in a worrisome development, has made significant strides in his ability to play in the 3-5-2, which in Max’s (and my, for what it’s worth) opinion is still a necessity for the general defensive solidity of the team. Chiesa has bagged some goals and just looks more comfortable out there.
Yildiz, though, is on a different level. And the funny thing is, he is really more of a winger as well. But he’s more of a Dybala winger, adept at floating inside. His recent string of starts has been incredible to watch; a couple of highlight-reel goals are nice, but the more impressive thing to me has been the fluid integration into the squad. It hasn’t been awkward at all. Even when Yildiz isn’t attacking a defender one on one or scoring or assisting a goal, he draws a lot of attention from defenders, and he finds the right space. He looks like he knows what he’s doing; that is unspeakably awesome for a teenager who doesn’t have a full season of top-flight football under his belt.
2. Yildiz creates some much-needed financial flexibility
Like I mentioned in my last piece, I struggle to see a world in which all three of Yildiz, Chiesa, and Mattias Soule are on the roster next August. As much as it would grind the gears of many Juventus fans, my hunch says that Soule might be the odd man out here: he’ll be coming off an incredible season with what figures to be a pretty high market value, and he hasn’t yet had the time to gel with this current version of Juventus. But really this is more about Chiesa, whose injury record and form probably combine to lower his market value.
At the end of the day, Juventus need to make one big or biggish sale, and maybe more than that. It’s the simple fact of the matter with the midfield. Yildiz has already proved what kind of player he is and hinted at the type of player he could be; no, he doesn’t have the scoring record of Soule yet, but he’s been effectively bolstering this team’s offense here and now.
Whether it’s Yildiz or Chiesa or Soule who goes to market this summer is beside the point I’m trying to make here: the rise of Yildiz is the only reason this is even an option. If there was no Yildiz, then Soule probably comes back and integrates with squad. In that scenario, who knows? Maybe even Vlahovic would’ve needed to go.
This summer will be incredibly interesting to watch with Cristiano Giuntoli having some options as far as creating capital. The midfield, we know and have long known, needs to be reconfigured. Yildiz has unlocked a lot more possbilities here.
3. Yildiz is hope
Hope is not easy these days in football.
The Premier League has run so far ahead of the competing European leagues in terms of TV deals and the cash allotted to its members. Barcelona and Real Madrid, along with Bayern Munich, are the non-English big brands. For a long time Juventus felt like the big fish in the small pond of Serie A who could play as a dark horse in the Champions League. These days, without having been in contention the last few campaigns domestically, it has been depressing: where there has been European football there has not been much hope. The club is behind the chains financially, and there is no silver bullet for all the various issues the club is facing.
Yildiz is indeed no silver bullet, but he gives me, at least, that most elusive thing: hope. It’s going to require a lot of luck and a lot of skill and a lot of hard work for Juventus to get to a place where she can compete again for Champions League crowns, where she can be at least some sort of threat, but Yildiz — maybe not the player himself, but what he symbolizes in a way: that we can still find and procure great players — makes me feel it’s not impossible. Twelve or 24 months ago it looked like a decade of darkness ahead, to be honest.
The future is yet unwritten, both with Yildiz and this Juventus team. Allegri has done a phenomenal job, Giuntoli has done a solid job without much room to maneuver, and now, with a top-four finish all but technically certain and with the options that Yildiz provides this team once the summer transfer market opens, I’m waiting with bated breath to see how and whether, finally, we can put together a better midfield and a more complete squad to get things back to where they ought to be.
In other words: for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the future.