The record Italian champions have conducted thoroughly impressive business this summer, which emphasises the trouble at clubs like Manchester United
When Juventus presented Adrien Rabiot on Tuesday, they were confirming the signing of one of football’s most in-demand free agents. Rabiot is a player who had been on the shopping list at one stage or another for clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona, but who nonetheless chose to take his talents to Turin.
The ex-Paris Saint-Germain midfielder is the latest in a long line of high-class Bosman transfers conducted by the perennial Italian champions but there is an argument to be made that he is not even the best one picked up this summer. That honour might well go to Aaron Ramsey, the ex-Arsenal man, who will add some much-needed dynamism to the Juventus midfield under new coach Maurizio Sarri.
But neither will be the biggest incoming arrival. The best is yet to come. That will be Matthijs de Ligt, whose €70 million transfer from Ajax should be announced imminently. His status as the most promising defender of generation grows by the day. His decision to choose Juve confirms that he believes the club to be the best fit in terms of his development.
There is no doubt that Manchester United and PSG could compete and perhaps even outstrip Juve in terms of salaries and other payments but it speaks volumes about where Juve are right now that they can jump the queue for a player like De Ligt.
Working with Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and returning goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will give De Ligt a postgrad in defending and leave him well equipped to tackle the challenges the next stage of his career will bring. Those three players – not to mention promising full-back Luca Pellegrini – represent probably the finest business done at any top club this summer.
Real Madrid no doubt top the list in money spent but the Juve business looks to be the smartest and all for a fraction of the sums spent on the new Galacticos like Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic.
Juventus have got here – eight straight league titles, two Champions League finals, a brand-new stadium – only 12 years after re-emerging in the top-flight following relegation. They are leading the way in how to do business on and off the field in Italy and serve as a template for any club to follow.
They do not lurch from one potential solution to another, with little or no regard for what comes after, like is happening at Old Trafford. There is sustainability and clear vision and it flows into every aspect of the club.
While Sarri may well be consulted for his opinion on incomings so long as he remains at the helm, the Juventus coach is not the one signing players. Deals for players are conducted elsewhere in the business with Pavel Nedved and sporting director Fabio Paratici considered the power underpinning Juventus’s transfer market strategy.
Paratici – in particular – was reckoned to be the driving force behind signing Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, when former CEO Giuseppe Marotta had reservations over the sky-high fee.
Marotta left last season and is now in charge at Inter alongside Antonio Conte, who he signed to coach Juve during his time in the Turin hotseat.
And Juve are not finished. A deal for Merih Demirel, a 21-year-old Turkish centre back who plays for Sassuolo and is highly-regarded, is expected to be confirmed shortly although he may yet go on loan for the upcoming campaign.
Cristian Romero, another defender, could also see his arrival from Genoa finalised in the coming days. Again, he could develop elsewhere next season before making it to the first team with Juve.
But the big target -and by no means an unattainable one – remains Paul Pogba, a free transfer signing sold by Juventus for a €100m fee in 2016. Although he is under contract at United and heavily linked with Real Madrid – Juventus have not given up hope.
They expect to make some money this summer, with Sami Khedira, Joao Cancelo, Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain among those who could be looking for new clubs. With any significant sums raised, Juve could go back into the market for Pogba. Even Mauro Icardi, of Inter, cannot be discounted as a potential arrival.
This summer marks the continuation of a very effective Juve transfer policy, one which identifies the club as one of the most organised and forward-thinking football enterprises anywhere on the continent of Europe.
While clubs like United struggle to get deals over the line – even in the pursuit of technical directors – Juve plot their course with precision. It could be argued that they have beaten United to the punch on Rabiot, De Ligt and even for Pogba himself. They are, literally and figuratively, in a different league despite a turnover gap of a little under €300m between the two clubs.
Off the field the are taking care of business. But although they are dominant in Serie A, there is work to be done to fulfil their potential on the field.
At times last season, Juve looked one-paced and pedestrian with their lack of urgency being exposed fatally by Ajax in the Champions League. Their €100 million man Ronaldo pulled his weight in Europe – being the only Juventus player to score in the knockout rounds – but elsewhere there were holes.
Outgoing coach Max Allegri was culpable, with an inability to rouse his team from dark spells and to make any significant impact from the bench. Serie A has less and less posed any kind of challenge for Juventus and they look to the Champions League as the true test of their capabilities.
Taken as a rough barometer, it has shown Juve to be a little off the pace. They have earned two final appearances in the past five seasons but need more consistency in their performances in that competition to be regarded as truly great.
That will be Sarri’s big challenge but he has been given every chance to get it done thanks to another summer of smart business from a club at the top of their game.
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