Sunday June 28 2020
Juve win big with Arthur

As Juventus prepare to swap Miralem Pjanic for Barcelona’s Arthur Melo, Livio Caferoglu explains why the Bianconeri are getting by far the better end of the deal...

“I didn’t know much about Arthur before [he joined], but he’s really similar to Xavi,” Lionel Messi raved about Arthur Melo in September 2018, just two months after the midfielder left Gremio to join Barcelona. “He’s really safe and reliable [on the ball]. He has the style of a player that’s come through La Masia. He plays well over short distances, he doesn’t lose the ball… He’s got to grips really quickly with the team’s dynamic.”

Praise doesn’t come much higher than that. Not only did it come from arguably the greatest player in history, but Leo was comparing the Brazilian to arguably the game’s greatest metronome. Luis Enrique’s Barca, while hugely successful, were accused of betraying the club’s DNA after the departure of Xavi in 2015. His departure coincided with the last time the Blaugrana won the Champions League and, with no like-for-like replacement, their play under the former Roma boss increasingly bypassed the middle of the park.

Even with a front three of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, that was considered sacrilege. That all changed during the 2017-18 campaign, when Neymar moved to Paris Saint-Germain and Ousmane Dembele flattered to deceive in his place. Barca were markedly average for much of the season, their 3-0 defeat to Roma an unfortunate highlight, and they stepped up their search for a Xavi heir, tying up a €39m deal for Arthur, who had just won the Copa Libertadores with Gremio and was also wanted by PSG and Chelsea.

Ernesto Valverde had envisaged lining Arthur up in a midfield three with Sergio Busquets and Philippe Coutinho, who at the time had been backed to take over from Andres Iniesta. Although things didn’t quite pan out that way, the 23-year-old didn’t take long to make an impact. Not at least on his teammates, who quickly began queuing up with praise, from Rafinha saying he had ‘a touch of Xavi about him’ to Thomas Vermaelen stating he ‘has all the battling skills and technical ability to go right to the top’.

In two particular matches during his debut season at Camp Nou, he confirmed his credentials as the heir to Xavi. First, he completed 135 of his 142 passes in 1-1 draw at Valencia to play the most successful balls in a Spanish league game away from home since his predecessor back in November 2012. He then followed that up in the Champions League, achieving a 98.6 percent pass completion rate with 71 successful passes out of 72 during a 5-1 rout of Olympique Lyonnais.

This term, however, he has been unfairly made a scapegoat by his club and new boss Quique Setien, who ludicrously suggested Arthur had failed to live up to expectations. While it’s fair to say Barca have endured a turbulent campaign by their lofty standards, levelling any sort of blame at the playmaker is absurd when you consider he has missed part of the season with injury and has always been a quiet cog. The problem lies with how the Catalans’ poor performances have forced him out of his comfort zone, hanging out to dry.

“Since Arthur has been with me, he has tried very hard to take on the things we’ve asked [of] him,” the coach argued. “Sometimes he has been lacking some consistency, but it is not easy to change things in a player which other coaches have said are very good. Arthur has been used to being told to make sure of holding the ball. Now we come in and say you should play one or two touches. He has found it a challenge, but he is on a good path. It will make him a better player.”

That may well be one area where Arthur needs to improve, but Setien’s credibility is quickly shot down when the player replacing him at Camp Nou is Miralem Pjanic, who needs even more time on the ball and - at 30, seven years older than the Brazilian - has been showing signs of slowing down for some time. It may be that he enjoys a new lease of life as one of the outside central midfielders in the Blaugrana’s 4-3-3, but that seems unlikely. As the old saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

So what are Juve getting? They’re not signing Jorginho, but rather the next best thing. Arthur will slot snuggly into Pjanic’s No 5 shirt, protected by two ‘mezz’ale’ beside him. He has the quality to dictate games with his precise passing and brilliant footballing brain for the next decade. Defensively, the ball sticks to him like a magnet and his signature move, whereby he pirouettes his way out of trouble with poise, will be a weekly sight to behold for Juve fans, relieved their club has finally brought in a competent ‘regista’.

Arthur made no secret of his desire to stay at Barca and the deal may be primarily motivated by financial incentives, amidst speculation that Juve are standing to pocket a ‘plusvalenza’ - or capital gain - of €47m, with Barca’s balance sheet set to benefit from a much-needed €49m, but one thing can’t be disputed: the Old Lady are not only significantly weakening a direct rival. They’re also significantly strengthening themselves.

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Have your say...
Very good pickup - am still wondering why barca are so keen to get rid of him. Tried to push him to inter originally, then basically forced him to Juve. Something happening behind closed doors? Especially as they know pjanic has struggled too. Would have preferred Tonali (italian, much higher potential) but he was attracted by the inter project.
on the 29th June, 2020 at 1:09am
assuming Sarri is goin to be coach next season.then arthur being a deep lying play maker wouldnt be a good idea. better to play bentancur there. i think you better off playing Arthur as a RCM. he has good ball winning skills and he has alot of guile and can make surging runs.playing his as a deep lying playmaker would be counter-productive. i thought pjanic was world class till i saw the c.league final & the game against Ajax. if u watched those games u wouldnt have known Pjanic was on the field
on the 29th June, 2020 at 12:51am
Great signing, age, stylistically, shifted on a past his best Pjanic (who at his peak was a great player) and upgraded him with a player more suited to Juve's system. Irrespective of whether he gets anywhere near Xavi's levels (lets hope he does) - it's good business. Without this deal, Pjanic may have stayed on way too long like Khedira, draining the wage bill and declining in ability.

In a year they've signed Rabiot, Ramsey, Arthur, and Bentancur's come of age. Pogba or Zaniolo anyone?
on the 28th June, 2020 at 11:18pm
This statement: "Arthur has been used to being told to make sure of holding the ball. Now we come in and say you should play one or two touches. He has found it a challenge, but he is on a good path" is really worrisome if true because it's one of the reasons Pjanic is being shown the door. Even at 30 though, its quite possible Pjanic will rediscover his natural talents at Barca being completely free of Allegri's ghost but I still wonder what Arthur's natural talents are after this statement.
on the 28th June, 2020 at 10:09pm
it is absurd swapping a 30 year old player for 23 year old player even without considering their individual qualities.

barcelona transfer business over the last couple of years is laughable, this is just another example of poor business from barcelona to add to the many expensive failures over the last couple of years.

juve saw barca coming and have just robbed barca whilst making barca like it.
on the 28th June, 2020 at 7:43pm
Agee with MilanFan, Arthur to me seems best suited as mezz'ala, especially with Bentancur having made his own the deep-lying playmaking position in recent months (he is more at ease there than further up). Either way, it can't possibly be worse than Pjanic! A midfield of Bentancur-Ramsey-Arthur with Rabiot as backup would be much better than what we've been accustomed to in the last few years
on the 28th June, 2020 at 7:28pm
Juventus have madea huge coup.

Best case: The insane (+ unfair) blame placed by Barca on Arthur spurs him on and he performs better and better with every season for the better part of 10 seasons from hereon. €10m well spent!

Worst case: He doesn't live up to the billing, in 2 seasons he never performs well - we cut our losses, sell him to an EPL or even La Liga side for 20. Still, no harm done.

Optimal case (likely): Best case above + we got rid of a tortoise like Pjanic.

on the 28th June, 2020 at 5:59pm
For some reason this reminds me of when Juve signed Diego in 2009. He played a slightly different position, more of an attacking midfielder, but I think they ended up selling him the next season. To be fair the team was kinda struggling at that point. Hopefully Arthur works out and fits in with Sarrismo better.
on the 28th June, 2020 at 5:27pm
Isn't he better as a mezz'ala? I think he'll be used there.
on the 28th June, 2020 at 4:12pm

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