Since returning to the pinnacle of Italian football, Juventus have been active players on the transfer market, snapping up some of the world’s premier talents for cut-rate prices. Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Kingsley Coman are just a few players that spring to mind when thinking about Giuseppe Marotta’s Bosman bargains.
What separates the good sporting directors from the great ones and frankly, the good teams from the great ones, is their ability to hold on to their best players. Juventus have learned this lesson the hard way in recent times and have lost key players every summer for the past three seasons. For a side twice close to European glory, the constant upheaval has arguably been a massive hindrance.
Juventus are very clear with their selling policy: If you want to leave, you can. Over the last few seasons, Marotta has often cited “the player’s will” as the over-arching reason why he has sold his side’s key players. It was the case for Arturo Vidal. It was the case for Pogba. And shortly, it will likely be the case for Alex Sandro, who’s rumoured to be on the way to Chelsea for €70m. While the Bianconeri have astutely replaced their departed stars and have typically acted diligently with their profits, the case of Alex Sandro is a unique one.
Unlike forwards and midfielders, quality full-backs are few and far between in the modern game and aren’t frequently available. After releasing Dani Alves for free, Juventus cannot afford to lose Alex Sandro, even for the reported €70m. Should the former Porto full-back follow his compatriot to the Premier League, the Italian champions will have lost one of the world’s best fullback duos and will struggle immensely to replace them.
At the moment, the names being touted to replace the Brazilian full-backs are quite frankly underwhelming. Real Madrid’s Danilo is being strongly pursued for the right-back spot, while Matteo Darmian, Leonardo Spinazzola (already on their books, albeit on loan to Atalanta) and Mattia De Sciglio have all been linked in light of the recent Alex Sandro news. Even if Chelsea are handing Juve are small war chest for the 26-year-old, the lack of alternatives is truly worrying.
Spinazzola had a fantastic break-out season for Atalanta, but there’s no denying that he’ll be a significant step down from Alex Sandro and will hurt the Bianconeri in the long run in the Champions League. In addition, the Atalanta man benefitted greatly from Gian Piero Gasperini’s offensive 3-4-3, which gave him license to attack while reducing his defensive responsibilities. De Sciglio and Darmian, by contrast, are two players whose careers have stalled at their respective clubs after showing early, promising signs. The reality is that none of the potential replacements can realistically replace Alex Sandro’s offensive and defensive output.
If Juve are truly serious about winning the Champions League, like they say are, they absolutely cannot sell Alex Sandro. After all, almost any replacement that’s brought in, bar Marcelo, will be a downgrade. Simply put, the dearth of quality full-backs on the market is enough reason alone to keep the Brazilian. When you consider the fact that Juve’s window to win Europe’s elite competition is soon closing, it wouldn’t make much sense to part ways with a full-back who’s currently in his prime and will only get better. It’s now time for Marotta and co. to prove their Champions League aspirations are more than just talk and finally put their foot down.