When Juventus made the rather unpopular decision of retaining Felipe Melo in Turin last summer, the directors offered him a second chance. This decision however didn’t go down to well with the Juventus tifosi. Felipe Melo was nothing short of a liability and his performances earned him the embarrassing ‘Bidone D’oro’ award. He was reckless, rash and his disciplinary record was terrible to say the least.
Felipe Melo’s Incredible Transformation
The past season however, the bad brother vanished and arrived the good side of Felipe Melo. He emphatically repaid the faith shown in him by experiencing arguably the best season in his football career. What difference a single season can make! Melo is no longer a liability but a priority. He was impeccable in front of the defense, shielding his back-line with heart, courage and efficiency. The past season he managed to silence his harshest critics and has won over most of the Bianconeri faithful while taming the fire slewing demons of his past to become a monster in his own right in the centre of the park. Melo looked every penny worth the €25 million Juventus paid for him. The only blot on his season was the foolish dismissal against Parma which was the beginning of Juve’s downfall. Aside from that, his disciplinary record improved as he saw yellow only six times.
Even the thought of selling him is ludicrous
Credit for this incredible change in character goes to now ex-Juve manager Gigi Del Neri. Melo endured a ‘special’ relationship with the Mister. The tactician offered Melo a new lease of life. He limited the Brazilian’s offensive responsibilities and focused solely on his forte; his defensive duties. No longer was the onus of creativity from midfield burdened on the shoulders of Melo as it was in the previous season.
He split the load with Alberto Aquilani this season. Together, the duo have formed an impressive partnership in midfield. Aquilani’s elegance coupled with Melo’s steel had worked wonders for Juve. Melo would patrol the area like a lion protecting his back four winning possession and playing the simple pass to Aquilani who would take on the play-making duty. They complemented each other perfectly. Melo-Aquilani were arguably the best central midfield pairing in Serie A in the successful first half of the campaign.
So why would Juve want to give up one of the brightest spots in an otherwise dark season?
Rumors are doing the rounds and heating up that Juve are willing to offer Felipe Melo to Madrid in exchange for Frenchman Lassana Diarra. A move that is so wrong in so many ways. Now while Diarra is a great player in his own right, selling off Melo after the brilliant season he just had would be a ludicrous act. Diarra won’t be an upgrade on Melo by any stretch of the imagination neither does he have any Serie A experience. The Brazilian hardman is an invaluable asset to the Juventus set-up. Melo’s words too don’t offer much hope to Juve fans and perhaps he’s better off taking a leaf of manager Antonio Conte’s book and talk a bit less.
End of the Road for The Roman Prince ?
With the arrival of Il Metronome Andrea Pirlo, doubts concerning the future of Alberto Aquilani too were raised. Il Pricipino’s season was rather inconsistent. He wooed Juventus fans with his exquisite passing ability, skill on the ball and more importantly added a whole new dimension to the midfield. His overall influence on the game was evident and statistics fail to tell the whole story. However, the turn of the year and Aquilani’s level of performances declined. In fairness to him, most of the team was mediocre during that spell. His rich vein of form came to a disappointing conclusion amid speculation surrounding his future. Inspite of the setbacks that came his way, it would be criminal on Juve’s part to not sign him permanently even more so when Liverpool are prepared to sell him for a paltry sum of €9 million. A player of his quality and class cannot be overlooked and signing him should be high on the priority list. His injury record has seemingly gone for a toss given the fact that he had 31 out of a possible 38 starts in Serie A.
He deserves one more chance
The arrival of Michele Pazienza has consequently opened the door for Momo Sissoko’s exit. The constant speculation surrounding the possible arrival of Gokhan Inler too may raise questions over Aquilani’s tenure at the club. One could question this potential move by Marotta as Inler, though a gifted midfielder would take time to settle into the midfield.
A factor which has to be taken into consideration is the possible formation 4-4-2/4-2-4 new manager Antonio Conte might employ. A system which relies heavily on the defensive as well as the offensive duties of the central midfielders. Aquilani definitely offers a lot more in terms of agility and mobility than an aging Andrea Pirlo who in truth is past his best and is not the guarantee he once was. Pirlo’s injury record too is a concern as his fitness level has dropped considerably; while Melo has flourished under Del Neri in the middle of the park alongside Aquilani.
So here’s a request to Beppe Marotta to keep Aquilani and Melo and reap the rewards of their fruitful partnership. The center of midfield is the last area of concern for the ‘New Juventus’. The management would do well to keep both these influential players as they do not need to fix what isn’t broken.