Dominant in Serie A last season, Juventus failed to translate that success in to Europe. The club realised this summer’s transfer window will be critical to their future and the market activity to date has recognised the need for evolution, rather than a full-blown revolution. Should he stay, the recently returned Luca Marrone adds depth – there’s loan interest from Verona and Palermo – while French youngster Kingsley Coman arrives with much potential.
But they are still seeking the jewel in the crown - an exciting talent capable of unlocking tight defences. That list has narrowed to three candidates – Alexis Sanchez, Alvaro Morata and Juan Iturbe. Sanchez offers the most experience and guarantees, but interest has cooled recently.
Sky Sport Italia reported late last week that Real Madrid’s Morata agreed in principle to join Juve, while news fresh out of Italy and Spain states the clubs have come to an agreement. And according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Iturbe could call Turin home by the end of this week. Thanks to two swift summer sales – Mirko Vucinic and Federico Peluso – the Bianconeri may secure both players.
Milan, Roma and Atletico Madrid have been in the mix to acquire the Argentine, but Juventus are firm favourites. Having just signed Iturbe on a permanent basis from Porto, Verona are set to make a handsome profit – with reports of up to €28 million set to be handed over.
Described this week as a Formula 1 car by his boss Andrea Mandorlini, it’s easy to see why there is a fight for his services. The 21-year-old was one of the stars of Verona’s impressive top flight return, with his pace, vision and close control all admirable qualities in 33 appearances that yielded eight goals. It made for a good, but not extraordinary, debut campaign. It’s clear the Argentine is a raw talent – he showed the consistency of a player adapting and growing, that is to say it was lacking at times. What he certainly lacks is big-game experience – of the three he is the only one to not play in European competition.
In their Champions League clashes with Real Madrid last term Juve utilised a 4-3-3 formation and it’s thought Iturbe’s signature will allow that option to be used more frequently in the season ahead. He was fielded on the right of Verona’s trident last season and could conceivably complement a trident currently consisting of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. “I believe he is ideal for a trident attack,” Mandorlini claimed.
Such a system would offer Conte a viable alternative to the 3-5-2, says former teammate Angelo Di Livio. “Juventus are looking for an alternative to a formation that has allowed them to dominate the last championships in Italy, but has not been at its best in Europe,” he noted. “With Iturbe, Conte can think on the field of reintroducing his preferred formation, the 4-3-3. Certainly, it is risky to change a playing system that has been successful, but it seems pretty clear that in order to emerge in the Champions League, they have to come up with something different.”
Media speculation has Conte willing to make such a switch, but it’s not something he has discussed publically. Before the second meeting with Los Blanos last term, Conte felt player application was of greater importance than system. “Both the 4-3-3 and the 3-5-2 are formations that my players are familiar with. We’ll see, we could also change during the match. What matters is the performance.” Months earlier in pre-season training the response was, “We’ll play as we always have.” For Conte it’s about ball retention and proactive football, no matter the formation.
Some had hoped Domenico Berardi – a player who was just as good, if not better, than Iturbe last term – would make his way to Vinovo instead. He not only dazzled on the pitch, but given his co-ownership status would represent a far cheaper acquisition, allowing funds to go elsewhere. Staying in Reggio Emilia won’t preclude a Turin future for the Azzurrini attacker and at the same time says something about Iturbe’s promise.
There’s a risk in Juve shelling out such a fee for a player still growing. They are the first to say they can’t yet compete with Europe’s richest clubs. But as the Old Lady strives to improve on the continent, a summer market including Iturbe’s signature could add that edge she desires.