With the return of ‘pazza’ (crazy) Inter and the general chaos that’s surrounding the reigning Italian champions this summer, it’s been easy to gloss over the goings on at the team Inter replaced at the summit of the Italian game – Juventus.
It’s been a very quiet summer for The Old Lady. Too quiet, some may argue.
Wounded from the end of their nine-year dynasty of Serie A that stretched throughout the 2010s, the club have faded gently into the summer background, leaving the Inter fire sale to take centre stage of every newspaper in the country.
Negotiations for Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli have dragged on for weeks. Juve see the midfielder as someone who can bring more cohesion to what is a dysfunctional area of the pitch. The now-departed sporting director Fabio Paratici didn’t cover himself in glory in his two summer transfer windows in charge of the Bianconeri’s business following the departure of Beppe Marotta in the autumn of 2018.
Paratici signed multiple players that possessed the same attributes (Arthur, Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot). Moreover, the latter two arrived as free transfers but with huge wages, which the club now are struggling to shift. This has hindered Juve’s ability to operate on the transfer market.
Locatelli’s excellent showing at Euro 2020 for Italy added an extra €10 million ($11.7m) to his valuation, with Sassuolo now seeking in and around the €40m ($46.9m) price range for the player.
Juve failed to conclude a deal before the tournament began, and so found themselves scrambling to reach an agreement with Sassuolo post-Euros. Despite Locatelli’s desire to only join Juve, Sassuolo held a firm stance, at least initially. They demanded the $46.9m in cash, without adding youth players into the deal, and wanted the money paid up front.
However they’ve seemingly relented to an extent, and are now ready to let Juve spread the payment out over a period of several years, much like they did last summer when they signed Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina.
Yet a deal still seems far from a forgone conclusion: the latest reports suggest Juve aren’t willing to meet Sassuolo’s valuation of Locatelli, with about $11.7m (€10m) separating the two at present.
Juventus, like every side in the Italian game, has suffered due to the global pandemic. The club recently sought a €400m ($475m) cash injection from Goldman Sachs
Their lack of activity on the transfer market has also been affected by the relative lack of interest in Cristiano Ronaldo, his $36m-per-season salary putting off every major European club. Ronaldo will stay another season, more through a marriage of convenience, rather than any real wish to remain in Turin.
Furthermore, with loanees Douglas Costa, Mattia De Sciglio, Daniele Rugani and Marko Pjaca all being returned to sender this summer, rather than seeing their deals turned permanent (Douglas Costa has since been sent out on loan again, to Brazilian side Gremio), Juve have been unable to generate much in the way of player sales.
Contract extension talks with Paulo Dybala, which have been on-going for more than a year, is one of the club’s main priorities this summer. The Argentine is into the final year of his contract, and discussions over a new deal continue, with it being recognised that the extension will likely happen.
The reason for that is the return of Max Allegri on the Juve bench. Allegri unquestionably got the best out of Dybala during his first stint as coach, and wants to make the Juve No.10 the centre of his team going forward. Being made vice-captain will also go some way in convincing the player to remain.
Allegri will likely be Juve’s best signing of the summer. The Tuscan-native spent two years out of the game following his somewhat harsh dismissal at the end of the 2018/19 campaign, but his track record at the club speaks for itself: four consecutive domestic doubles and two Champions League final appearances in five years.
After the failed Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo experiments, Allegri will be charged with getting results, first and foremost. He’s familiar with the terrain, and will make Juve a more defensively solid team than under Sarri and Pirlo. The desire to embrace style over substance now no longer a directive by club president Andrea Agnelli.
Juve have been quiet so far this summer, and that’s arguably for the best.