Juventus’ five summer signings could tip Champions League balance
Holly Thackeray | July 31, 2016
Old Lady eyes Europe after blockbuster summer signings
Juventus may be about to lose one of their prize possessions in Paul Pogba, but they are still the talk of the town – at least in Italy, where their Serie A record-breaking £75.3m swoop for Gonzalo Higuain looks to have effectively guaranteed a sixth successive Scudetto for the Turin team.
It would be a real feat for any of the remaining Italian elite to compete with the Old Lady’s spending and pulling power in the foreseeable, with Coral pricing Juve odds-on for the league title this term.
So, The Girlfriend of Italy’s domestic dominance looks set to continue, but it is the craving for continental relevance and that elusive third Champions League title (11/1 with Coral to be caught this season) that is behind the bold Higuain statement.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) July 31, 2016
That of course, and the potential £95m in Pogba money that is expected to come their way from the Old Trafford coffers.
So, Coral run the rule over Juventus’ five big signings so far this summer, though there may well be another midfielder to come, and consider what they can bring to the Champions League charge.
Will they be enough to compensate for the likely departure of Pogba plus Alvaro Morata’s earlier exit, and the holes in the squad since midfield duo Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal sought pastures new last summer?
Since Juve like to be able to switch between three or four at the back, between attacking full backs and wing backs, Massimiliano Allegri could not have asked for a defender better suited to his systems than Alves – especially on a free tranfer.
No solidity will be compromised by adding this Bosman bargain from Barcelona, who is brilliant going forward, as the Brazilian’s competition is Stephan Lichtsteiner – a player far from reliable defensively on the flanks himself.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) July 26, 2016
Now Allegri has plenty of depth and choice for who to trust bombing forward, and Alves is a decorated addition who can certainly extend his career in Italy and bring much know-how in Europe, having become a master of the flying full back position.
With three Champions League medals plus as many UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup trophy triumphs, as well as 102 assists and 21 goals in all competitions for Barca in around 400 games, Alves should bring more than one different dimension to the Old Lady.
For a long time the heart of defence was not an area the Italian giants need worry about but, with both Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli edging toward the twilight of their careers, Daniele Rugani still young and raw, plus much speculation surrounding Leonardo Bonucci, an addition made sense.
Step forward Morocco centre back Benatia, who joins Juve on a season-long loan deal with an option to buy from Bayern Munich.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) July 30, 2016
The 29-year-old is no spring chicken himself at the same age as Bonucci, but is seasoned enough to help the Old Lady challenge on all fronts – provided they see his former imperious Roma self, rather than the inconsistency of his Allianz Arena stint. Serie A is a league Benatia knows well though, and he can dominate it again.
This is just the type of competition required to stop a similar early slide and complacency on league duty as happened last season, allowing for an eye to be kept on Europe.
Big things are expected from Croatian plotter Pjaca, after the Old Lady supposedly staved off competition from AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund to land the Dinamo Zagreb winger.
The creative midfielder, usually fielded wide but able to play across any attacking positions bar outright striker, excelled in Euro 2016 cameos. A trickster but no lightweight, Pjaca should be handy if coming up against bruising Premier League defenders in Europe, and at 21 should be an impact player conisdering Juve’s wealth of riches up top.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfc) July 22, 2016
Yet, he is a weapon that can add something a little different to the Turin titans’ armory and it seems his dreams align with Juve’s: “I am making my dreams come true,” said the youngster.
“One of those was fulfilled when I earned a national team call-up; another would be to win the Champions League, to lift that trophy.” With Pogba soon to be gone, having another maverick in team couldn’t hurt.
A fee of £24.5m is a steal from rivals Roma for playmaker Pjanic – in fact it would be snip for the Bosnia and Herzegovina international’s set-piece prowess alone.
With this move, Juve have again impeded a direct rival, achieving a stranglehold on the Italian top-flight similar to Bayern’s in the Bundesliga.
A haul of 10 goals and 12 assists in 33 Serie A outings last season from string-puller Pjanic should cover for Pogba’s provision of eight and 13 in 35, with the silky central midfielder not able to bring the bite and dynamism of his peer or indeed Vidal, but at least some of the vision that has been lacking since Pirlo left.
One of those players around the mid-point of his career at 26, Pjanic has much to prove and should be hungry to help Juve to titles – with his guile key to unlocking defences on the continent, in a way Pogba was yet to fully do.
Of course, the weight of expectation will be heaviest for Higuain. Though he may replace Pogba as the superstar name in the squad, it is Morata whose spot he fills – making for an undoubted upgrade in quality.
The Argentina international has questions to answer about cutting the mustard in crunch clashes, and it remains to see whether he can iron out the big stage bottling at the far from tender age of 28.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) July 29, 2016
Compatriot Pablo Dybala could prove the perfect foil for the proven poacher, however, and the partnership may possess the qualities to take the Piedmont club at least back to a second Champions League final in three years.
Out-gunned by both Bayern and Barca in recent seasons, the pairing of compatriots Higuain and Dybala looks just as able to propel their club to silverware.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) July 28, 2016
Though, Higuain’s bread and butter may still be the league – where he pipped Dybala to the Capocannoniere by 17 with a record-equalling 36 goals in 35 games. Just like Juventus, he needs to proven he is not only a big fish in a small pond of former glories.
“Now I need to show to them that I am worth the money they paid for me,” Higuain told press after his contentious switch. Scoring more than Morata and Mario Mandzukic’s 17 combined Serie A strikes again would be a start.