Juventus have been active in their transfer activities this window and managed to snap up Torino’s Angelo Ogbonna for a fee €13M. Ogbonna joins Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez as the club’s third big signing this summer mercato.
A player of Nigerian descent, Ogbonna was born in Italy and has identified Italy as his country of choice. The Italian International joined the Torino youth set-up in the year 2002 at the age of 14. After 4 more years with the Torino Primavera, Ogbonna was handed his full professional debut at the age of 18 with the senior side. But Ogbonna would go on to record just a meager 4 appearances throughout the 2006-2007 campaign for Torino before they shipped him off on loan to Crotone to gain experience.
After a good spell with Crotone, he returned to the Granata with confidence but couldn’t cement a starting spot, playing second fiddle through most of the campaign. It was only after Torino were relegated and they lost their two starting central defenders, Natali and Di Loreto, that Ogbonna came into the picture. With solid performances that raised eyebrows throughout the season, Ogbonna firmly laid claim to a starting eleven role. His excellent outings earned him a call up to the u21 Italy side in 2009.
At the age of 23, the Azzurri Coach Cesare Prandelli deemed Ogbonna worthy of a position in his Euro 2012 squad. A feat that marveled at his precocious talent given he was, at the time, plying his trade in Serie B. Ogbonna, though, wouldn’t feature in Italy’s brilliant run to the finals.
Since then, Ogbonna has acquired 6 caps to his name and will eye a spot in next summer’s World Cup squad. A move to Juventus will certainly do his chances no harm.
A quick glance at the 25 year old and you notice his imposing physique. At 6’2’’, Ogbonna boasts of an impressive stature but don’t let the stereotypes get the better of you. Despite his tall frame, Ogbonna has a distinct ball-playing ability.
Bringing out the ball from the back and releasing counter-attacks is well within his comfort zone, a talent he has developed over the years and an added bonus when Andrea Pirlo is shadowed during a game. His 92.7% pass successful rate lies as testament to his quality. With Leonardo Bonucci and now, Angelo Obgonna, Juventus have two extremely proficient passers of the ball from defense to feed their runners.
What has also come to the fore is Ogbonna’s athleticism, a trait that has often been sighted as a deficiency in a very tightly knit Juventus defense. He will inject a bit of pace to a defense that certainly has, at times, its lack of speed exposed.
A few of his critics have pin-pointed his momentary lapses in concentration as his drawback; silly errors that may play a part in conceding goals. If there’s any manager capable of wiping out these blips, it’s Antonio Conte. Under his tutelage, Leonardo Bonucci went from a faulty defender to an almost flawless one. Ogbonna will take inspiration from his renowned team-mates and hopefully for Juventus and himself, take his game to the next level.
Another area that attracted criticism was his fitness. Having played just 22 Serie A games last campaign, questions were immediately raised about his fitness and consequently his indifferent form. He isn’t coming off the best of seasons with Torino which could explain the reduction in his price-tag. With the high energy levels and determination that Conte demands off his players, Ogbonna will need time to fully recover and recuperate from last season’s injury woes.
It’s widely accepted that Juventus have the strongest defense in the peninsula and the addition of the Ogbonna will only strengthen its depth. His versatility will work to Conte’s advantage as will his ability to slot in at left-back with ease which certainly makes him an attractive proposition for a troubled area. By trade and preference, the centre of the back-line will predominantly be his position. At 25, there is space for Ogbonna to grow and Conte certainly will aim to nurture his talent and bring out the best of the defender.
Expect Ogbonna to act as insurance to Giorgio Chiellini. He will deputize in place of Chiellini, should the latter succumb to injuries or suspensions. Ogbonna will be a more than decent deputy to call up on and will be a reliable cover for Chiellini, which will further allow Conte to not hesitate about rotating the two defenders providing ample rest for each in a tumultuous season.
The talent is there and Juventus is the platform for Ogbonna to showcase it. A quality addition to a stubborn defense, if Conte manages to hone Ogbonna’s raw talent, Juventus could have the next great Italian defender in their side.