After the remarkable 2011-12 campaign, Serie A champions Juventus were involved in a particularly busy transfer market. The goals and targets were laid down early by transfer guru Beppe Marotta. A “top player” was clearly the need of the hour. A player that could take Juventus to the next level; a striker ruthless in front of goal, to be specific, was the only inadequacy in an otherwise powerful squad. With the Champions League on Juventus’ plate this season as well, depth too was aimed at, so as to enable the Bianconeri to pose a threat on all three fronts this season.
Juventus swooped in on Kwadwo Asamoah as the transfer window opened. For a fee reportedly in the region of €9m, the Bianconeri bagged their man on a co-ownership deal. Asamoah ticks all the boxes as far as attributes are concerned for an ‘Antonio Conte type’ player. Strong, young and tenacious with over 100 Serie A appearances to his name, Asamoah will bring quality and depth to the famed Juventus midfield.
His role at Juve, for now, looks that of a wing-back on the left which certainly represents a new challenge for the Ghanaian. One though, he looks to be succeeding at, given his recent performances which have been rightly lauded. His maiden goal for the club at the Supercoppa Italia was an excellent volley, underlining his technical quality. At 23, there is plenty of scope for improvement and the potential there is frightening. Asamoah is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best captures this window and could prove to be the jack of all trades.
Another recruit from Udinese, the Chilean International brings versatility to Juventus. Capable of covering a variety of positions in midfield and doing so with a great deal of effectiveness, Mauricio Isla arrived at the Juventus Stadium in a deal which saw the Champions pay Udinese € 9.4m for half of his ownership. Isla, like Asamoah, has over 100 Serie A games under his belt and should fit into Conte’s footballing philosophy.
His job remains clouded for now, whether he does manage to displace the excellent Stephan Lichtsteiner on the right remains to be seen but expect him to be rotated along with the Swiss defender. Isla is another signing that will aid Juventus in their Champions league campaign and is a clear indication that the Bianconeri mean serious business this season.
After two impressive seasons at Parma, where he excelled, Sebastian Giovinco was brought back to Juventus. Beppe Marotta reportedly had to dish out € 11m to get his man. Giovinco, familiar to followers of Serie A has great technique, acceleration and has an eye for that incisive final pass. But he will definitely be feeling a burden on his shoulders as he is expected to fill the void left by Alessandro Del Piero.
A herculean task, no doubt and while no one can really offer the same aura and influence as Del Piero, Giovinco can in his own way go on to permanently write his name in the illustrious Juventus history book. Early indications point towards a positive future for Giovinco in Turin. But this remains a decisive season for a player that has often been on the fence with regards to whether or not he was good enough for Juventus. An exceptional season might see him receive the famous no. 10 he has been craving, anything else and he could head for the exit.
A seemingly endless transfer saga came to a close when Juventus finally announced the signing of prodigious young talent Paul Pogba. The 19 year old Frenchman put pen to paper for the Old Lady after contract disputes with Manchester United. Pogba arrived for free and was eased into the first team and his pre-season outings have prompted the club to keep him this term amid rumors circulating about a possible loan away from Juventus. Pogba is one for the future and his development will be monitored closely by Antonio Conte’s staff. Breaking into the starting eleven looks an uphill task given the wealth of talent Juventus possess in midfield but if he does progress the way he has been, that day won’t be far away.
Brazilian center-back Lucio made his move to Juventus from bitter rivals Inter in early July on a bosman transfer. The burly defender brings bucket loads of experience to the Juventus back-line. Life at his new club hasn’t gotten off to best of starts though. An abysmal pre-season for the former Leverkusen man was followed by a ligament injury that has ruled him out for a period of six weeks. Lucio’s experience was taken into account when he was signed and is expected to act as cover for the three key Juventus defenders – Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini.
After the promise of a “top player” and with stellar names such as Cavani, Jovetic, van Persie linked with Juventus, the Bianconeri in the end had to settle with Nicklas Bendtner in an anti-climatic manner. Beppe Marotta failed to deliver on his promise and Bendtner’s arrival was met with skepticism and rightly so. The striker was hardly prolific in front of goal, a trait which the club was in desperate need of. A loan deal was struck with Arsenal and while Bendtner may require time to adjust to a whole new different league, Juventus fans won’t be generous with him and patience will wear out quickly as he is expected to back the self-confidence he portrays.
Other arrivals include Nicola Leali, who has been heralded by many as the ‘next Gianluigi Buffon’. A heavy title indeed for the young keeper, whose promise has certainly warranted comparisons with the Juventus skipper. Leali was sent on loan to Lanciano in a bid to gain experience. Defender Alberto Masi was signed by Juventus in the summer as well. His series of strong performances during pre-season convinced the club to make an outright purchase for him from Pro Vercelli, to whom he has since been loaned to. 19 year old Ghanaian Richmond Boakye was another youngster that Juventus deemed fit enough to invest in. A co-ownership agreement with Genoa was met and Boakye was sent on loan back to Sassuolo for this season. Juventus also redeemed the loans of Emanuele Giaccherini and Martin Caceres.
Players that have been regarded as excess to the club’s needs have been disposed off by Juventus and were told to find new homes this window. Eljero Elia, one of the club’s most mysterious transfers, unsurprisingly vacated the Juventus Stadium in the hope of reviving his career. He was shipped off to Germany with Werder Bremen for a fee of € 5.5m. Milos Krasic, another winger who found himself out of favor with Antonio Conte left the club for Fenerbache which saw Juventus pocket € 7m. The Serbian who endeared himself to the fans with his commitment remains one of the most loved Juve players in recent memory but his inability to adapt to Conte’s style meant his time at the club had run out. Felipe Melo and Reto Ziegler were sent on loan to Galatasary and Lokomotiv Moscow respectively while the contracts of Fabio Grosso and Alex Manninger were not extended.
But the most high-profile departure not only for Juventus but for Serie A remains that of Alessandro Del Piero. The former club captain who enjoyed immense success for the Old Lady left the club this mercato and has recently signed for Sydney FC. His departure leaves a hole at Juventus as his impact both on and off the pitch is seen as irreplaceable. He leaves with his grand no.10 still unassigned as Juventus are still not convinced any of their current crop of players is worthy enough to take up that iconic number.
It’s been a mixed mercato for Juventus. Beppe Marotta has wisely reinforced the squad with some shrewd signings that look set to give Juventus the much needed depth they could do with. But the fact still remains that a team that is hunting for three titles this season, doesn’t have a good enough striker to lead the attack and produce a bit of magic when it’s most desired.
The obvious shortcoming in the Juventus squad hasn’t been addressed and Marotta once again proves his ineffectiveness in roping in a big name player amidst competition. Nevertheless, with the team Juventus boast of, they should bag the Scudetto but will the lack of a proven goal-scorer harm them in the crème-de-la-crème of Europe? Only time will tell and while winning it is being a bit far-fetched, reaching a respectable stage like the quarter-finals certainly isn’t and that remains the goal.