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Tuesday February 1 2011
Juve's Matri gamble

In a tense and exciting calciomercato finale, Juventus signed Alessandro Matri from Cagliari. Serafino Ingardia unveils the man who has the infamous job of replacing Amauri

It was long, tiring and stressful, but in injury time of calciomercato Beppe Marotta managed to deliver a much needed top-class striker. Initially he was thought to have secured the services of Valencia ace Alejandro Dominguez in what was later revealed to be a deceptive negotiation in order to get a discount on the Bianconeri's real target – Alessandro Matri. Transfer market drama at its finest.

If there was a discount, it must have been a tiny one because the Old Lady really did splash the cash on the 26-year-old Cagliari forward and fans celebrated even more when Marotta completed his masterpiece by offloading Amauri to Parma.

Juve sign Matri on loan for €2.5m, covered by the other half of Lorenzo Ariaudo's contract, and will be able to buy him permanently in June for €15.5m. Peanuts compared to the fees Liverpool and Chelsea paid for Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres respectively, but a huge effort from the Bianconeri and an important signing in the world of Serie A where players are still rated at reasonable transfer fees.

So who is this boy who managed to win the heart of the Old Lady? Matri is a Milan youth product who did a fair amount of gavetta before reaching the top flight. His spells at Prato, Lumezzane and Rimini weren't particularly prolific but there was enough in there to grab Cagliari's attention.

In the first two seasons at the Sant'Elia, Matri scored 12 goals. He then flourished in 2009-10 netting 13 over 38 injury free League games – something important for Juve nowadays – while his tally has been even more impressive this term with 11 goals in 22 games.

Important figures which, however, don't help denying that the former Cagliari man, who has no international experience, was a little over priced especially compared to Inter's last capture Giampaolo Pazzini, paid €12m plus Jonathan Biabiany.

Il Pazzo is only a couple of weeks older but with a better pedigree. Still in this mercato context, Marotta had no option. Matri has to be seen as the latest desperate move to provide Gigi Del Neri with a good enough squad to finish in the top four. Fail to deliver that and Juve will face disaster.

"Poor Marotta doesn't know what to do, he called Real Madrid for Karim Benzema but they are not selling," confessed agent Ernesto Bronzetti during the hot hours of the calciomercato. All things considered, the Direttore Generale felt Matri was the only worthwhile way to spend the extra budget available.

It is a big gamble but Juve could not afford to miss out on it. After all, Matri respects the club's criteria in the transfer market – he is young-ish, Italian and hungry for success. And let's face it, a depressed Amauri wasn't going to get them anywhere. The Brazilian may flourish in Parma but he has simply not been up to Juve standards for too long.

At least from this point of view there isn't too much pressure on Matri as he cannot do any worse than Amauri. Over the past four years he has scored 36 Serie A goals playing for a relatively small club. Four years older Amauri, instead, has netted 32 and most significantly hasn't shown any signs of improvement.

Matri has a real chance to make it big at Juventus as he takes on the biggest challenge of his career which will hopefully bring him to the Nazionale too. Alessandro will certainly be on the pitch when Juve travel to Sardinia to meet Cagliari next Sunday. But he cannot feel too nostalgic because the Bianconeri need his goals desperately. Juve can only keep their fingers crossed – they might have landed a striker who can live up to expectations. As we say in Italy, se son rose fioriranno…

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