January transfer window is generally a time for desperate gambles and forced hands. Last year Juventus and Inter Milan were very close to swap Mirko Vucinic and Fredy Guarin which ultimately collapsed. The crazy mercato began this year with Sebastian Giovinco officially being announced as a Toronto FC player while head coach Max Allegri highlighted the need to fill the playmaking void behind the two strikers. The defence has looked rock solid yet Andrea Barzaglia s long term absence meant a move for a defender made sense. Giovincoa s departure opened up a space in attacking department and the continual use of Simone Padoin as a wingback because of Romuloa s injury meant a midfielder was needed with Luca Marrone not fit enough to make the squad.
While Juventus are currently enjoying an enviable position as the only Italian club remaining in the Champions League and a seven-point lead over second placed AS Roma in Serie A, this season has been far from perfect for the Bianconeri. On the field a few players have performed well below their previous high standards. Giorgio Chiellini has been probably the biggest disappointment of the season so far. At a glance it may seem that the defence is in fine shape having conceded just nine goals in 21 league games but there is no escaping the fact that the Pisa-born defender has underperformed. He has been averaging just 1.7 tackles per game compared to 2.5 last season which represents a significant drop-off in such a small period of time since Italya s embarrassing World Cup exit. The long term absence of Andrea Barzagli coupled with Martin Caceresa injury meant that Juventus were looking to bring in a cover in central defence and were linked with 29-year-old Rolando of FC Porto who appeared to be a good fit to cover the injuries. But finally they decided to buy the entire tag of Daniele Rugani, the 20-year-old Empoli defender who is currently enjoying an impressive debut top-flight campaign. Rugani joined the Bianconeri in the summer of 2012, spending a year in the cluba s youth sector before returning to Empoli last season. He played a major role in their promotion and has made the step up comfortably. Standing 6’2″ tall, Rugani clearly has the perfect attributes to play at the heart of defence. Recently he earned a call up to the national squad in November. He is physically solid, quick, has superb aerial ability and rapidly improved his technical skills over the last two seasons. He is comfortable with the ball in his feet and his attitude to make an impact next season will serve him well when he wears the jersey of his beloved club in the summer. Paolo De Ceglie returned from Parma because they were not paying his wages. De Ceglie is still owned by Juve and he offers some flexibility as he is a home grown player and with Kwado Asamoah out injured till April he is expected to play a little bit at left back. De Ceglie scored two goals against Inter Milan in November and hopefully he will make some impact in the last six months of his career at Juventus.
Stefano Sturaro also joined Juventus last month. The midfielder was purchased over the summer but loaned back to Genoa where he put in impressive displays and showed much promise. Juvea s midfield is already crowded but Sturaroa s arrival will allow Padoin to be used more often in wide areas. The habit of comparing young talents to previous generation greats may appear simplistic but Luigi Di Biagio who is the coach of the Italian national teama s Under-21 side, firmly believes Sturaro is similar to Milan legend and World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso because of his characteristics. Sturaroa s physical, assertive style of play and tireless work rate can offer a new dimension in the midfield. The current starters in Allegria s midfield- Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba- are more elegant precision than aggressive presence in the middle of the park. Arturo Vidal is the type of player Sturaro is developing into but he has struggled with knee injuries over the summer and has failed to perform consistently so far. Juventus signed him in the summer with the agreement that he would be loaned back to play for Genoa for one more season, but changed their minds early in January and brought him to Turin on deadline day. Sturaro is capable of covering many roles in midfield. At Genoa both in youth and senior teams he played successfully as both a mezza alaa and anchoring role in the centre of midfield. Sometimes he performed admirably in the defensive midfield zone as a a medianoa . His points of strength are his courage and positional sense in one-on-one situations, breaking up attacking play while his pace and work rate are also praiseworthy. He has been praised by his coaches as determined and hardworking by nature and will no doubt make a mark in an already strong Juventus midfield.
As mentioned earlier, Giovinco moved to Toronto FC in Major League Soccer. Originally he was to join in the summer, but Juventus and Giovinco managed to come to an agreement, and he will be starting immediately. It was a sad end to a Juventus career that promised so much. A graduate of the Bianconeri primavera from the age of nine, as a teenager he was regarded as one of the most talented players to have been produced by the club. Not long after his first team debut in 2007, he was celebrated as the natural heir to Juventus icon Alessandro Del Piero by the Italian media. For five senior years at Juventus- either side of a successful two-year spell at Parma- Giovinco has simply not cut it in Turin. He flattered to deceive under different coaches – Claudio Ranieri, Ciro Ferrara, Alberto Zaccheroni, Antonio Conte and now Massimiliano Allegri a failing to secure a first team place. Giovinco was replaced by Alessandro Matri who is getting reunited with Max Allegri for a third time in his career after a successful period at Cagliari, and a woeful one at Milan. Allegri launched Matri on to the national and international scene at Cagliari, wanted him back in Milan, and now has him back once more in Turin. Matri scored 31 goals and had 7 assists in 84 appearances previously at Juventus and will be looking to continue his fine start to this campaign which has seen him score 7 goals for Genoa.
Overall it was an uneventful market for Juventus. Depth players were shuffled around; promising young players arrived while a host of Primavera players were brought in by Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici. Fabio Grossoa s side have been struggling this season so the new players like Pol Lirola, Felipe Tello, Claudio Zappa and Andrija Filipovic gives him options to make the necessary changes to turn things around. Sturaro and Rugania s signings are aimed at a future project which will almost certainly include Sassuoloa s dynamic pair, Simone Zaza and Domenico Berardi. The Juventus of the next few years is taking shape, and it is a largely Italian one which can only be good news for the national team.