What to do with Luca Marrone is a question that Juventus will have to answer this summer. Antonio Labbate writes.
“I certainly won’t be on the move this month. Then, in June, we’ll evaluate the situation again. I’ve spoken with the Coach and with the club. We all believe that it is better for me to play 10 games for a big outfit like Juventus instead of 30 for another team. Staying here will help me to grow.”
That was Luca Marrone committing his future to the Bianconeri in January. Six months on, and at the end of a campaign where he did indeed make 10 Serie A appearances, it’s time to consider the biggest decision of his career to date.
Marrone can’t afford to spend another campaign on the periphery in Turin. Learning the tricks of the trade from more established teammates in training is one thing, but playing week in and week out is another. The player and the club seem to have acknowledged as much. A summer move is, thus, on the horizon.
The Italian Under-21 international, whose European Championship was cruelly ended by an injury sustained in the opening victory over England, has no shortage of admirers. However, he and Juventus will have to choose his next destination wisely.
At this stage it seems unlikely, although not impossible, that the champions will sell him outright. A loan or a co-ownership are subsequently options for La Signora. The loan is the safest ploy for the club in terms of making sure that the player returns to base if that is their desire. Yet the co-ownership solution, despite what happened with Ciro Immobile in the last campaign at Genoa, could arguably deliver the biggest return.
If you offer a share of a player’s contract, it is in the interests of the buying party to regularly play that individual in the hope that he develops. The tactic worked with Sebastian Giovinco and Parma. The fact Juventus had to spend €11m to buy back a forward they had previously owned is often cited as a failing. But they got €3m from Parma in the first place and the Atomic Ant now, even after his problematic 2012-13, is a better player than when he left and is today comfortably valued at over €10m.
What Marrone and Juventus need is a club who can guarantee the ex-Siena loanee regular first team football because he’s already in a race against time. Italian football worryingly considers Marrone as a youngster, but he’s 23 and, if he indeed is as good as his potential alludes, then he can ill afford to waste another campaign. His Serie A career to date? Just 15 appearances.
There is a complication however. Simply finding Marrone a new home will not be enough, deciding on a role for him is also a necessity. While versatility is an appealing trait, it can also endanger development in one particular position. Before the start of last season, Marrone was very much a central midfielder with playmaker potential. That was until he was transformed into a centre-back by Antonio Conte.
Hit by a defensive shortage in pre-season, Conte, who also worked with him in Tuscany, needed a player with good feet as an alternative to Leonardo Bonucci in the middle of the back-three. Marrone was the chosen one and it became evident why.
“I felt comfortable in the role,” he said last term. “But the important thing is that you play at Juventus, not what position you play. I was used to a midfield berth, but now I can play elsewhere and this will be good for my experience.”
Marrone was used at the back in nine of his 10 League appearances in the past campaign. In the interests of his own personal growth, a decision needs to be made on what he wants to be when he grows up. Resuming his career as a central midfielder perhaps makes more sense, especially as there are doubts regarding his suitability in a flat back-four should Juventus one day revert to a rear-guard of that configuration.
“I certainly hope to play more regularly,” Marrone stated while in Israel with the Azzurrini when asked about 2013-14. “I’ll evaluate all of the offers that I get. Training is of use up to a certain point, but games are the real exam for a player. Playing consistently would be important. And, who knows, I could have a good season elsewhere and then return to Turin.”
That scenario would be very neat and has to be a consideration the club are seriously thinking about. The last 12 months have shown that Marrone would struggle to get into the best midfield in Italy, but, sooner or later, La Signora will lose the 34-year-old Andrea Pirlo. Now few are proclaiming Marrone to be his heir, but at a time when Marco Verratti’s agent is constantly reminding us that his client is too expensive for Italian clubs, Luca is a home grown option that must be evaluated – even if it means initially waving goodbye or selling 50 per cent of his contract.