. Juventus look to have held on to their prized asset Paul Pogba for another season, having already offloaded Arturo Vidal to give more freedom to their young superstar. However, Pogba is one of the most coveted footballers in world football right now and is destined for a move to a bigger club (read FC Barcelona) in the near future.
If and when Pogba does leave Turin, the Bianconeri will have the near-impossible task to look up a replacement for the Frenchman. It is true that a player of Pogba’s stature cannot be replaced in the blink of an eye, but potential replacements who could turn out to be just as effective can always be considered. Here we look at the top three players who could help fill in the huge void Paul Pogba is likely to leave in the near future.
1. Marco Verratti
The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder could be seen more as a player in the mould of Andrea Pirlo than Paul Pogba. The diminutive Italian does not have that all action style of play as exhibited by Pogba but rather relies more on intelligent passing, exceptional ball control and good dribbling skills. Verratti also does not command the physical presence of Pogba and as such is more suitable for a deep lying play-maker role in the Bianconeri side.
However, such is the quality of the Italian that he need not replace Pogba directly but instead add a different facet to the game of the Old Lady. Verratti can help shield the back four with aplomb and initiate the build up from a deeper role with his excellent passing range. The Italian might not boast the goal-scoring ability that Pogba has under his name, but, he does have the combative attitude and likes to put in crunching tackles every now and then.
Verratti is still improving on the timing of his tackles and other disciplinary issues that have seen him collect more cards than goals. The 22-year-old has one obvious weakness in his game: his tendency to get caught on the ball. While he still needs to work on this aspect, the signs have been encouraging lately.
Verratti is loved in Paris and PSG would look to hold on to their prized asset as they try to build a team around the diminutive playmaker. However, a huge bid or a mouth watering swap deal with Pogba could tempt the Parc des Princes outfit to consider letting their prized asset leave.
2. Aaron Ramsey
The Welshman is currently one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the game. However, at Arsenal FC he is often used out of position by Arsene Wenger in a bid to accommodate Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil in the midfield. Add to that Jack Wilshere, if and when he is available, and you have a plethora of number 10’s playing out of position, running in the same channels and negating each other’s effect.
Ramsey and Coquelin don’t particularly excel as the double pivot that Arsene employs, as Ramsey has the knack for making more forward forays exposing the defence at times. At Juventus this will not be the case with the likes of Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio and Roberto Pereyra all hugely versatile and capable of guarding the back line on their own. The Italian league in itself is not as fast as the English Premier League and would help Ramsey excel in the box to box role.
The only obvious flaw in Ramsey’s game is his penchant for the spectacular which sometimes clouds his judgement – although it is probably the same urge that has seen him score some stunning goals in the last couple of years. The 24-year-old often shoots even when not in the best of positions and ignores a teammate who potentially has a better chance of scoring. With age on his side, the former Cardiff midfielder is bound to improve and could be the most like-for-like replacement for Pogba in Turin. However, it’s not easy to fathom Wenger letting go of one of his most prized assets having invested 7 years in developing the Welshman.
3. Blaise Matuidi
Another potential replacement for Pogba could be PSG’s tenacious midfielder Blaise Matuidi. The 28-year-old reads the game excellently and is a willing runner known for his ability to cover every blade of grass. The Frenchman also has a reputation of being a tough tackler although he does not have as many goals in his game.
Matuidi is more of a defensive midfielder than a box-to-box one. His excellent reading of the game and positioning helps PSG’s attacking players to bomb forward while Matuidi sits back to clean up. In the Bianconeri midfield his presence could enable Sami Khedria to venture forward more often if and when the German is available, considering his poor injury record.
Matuidi is another who is not a like-for-like replacement for Pogba, but does add a different dimension to Juventus’ game. Currently one of the most underrated members of the PSG squad, the Frenchman could be instrumental in the Old Lady’s push for a European title.