It has probably been one of the longest and most protracted transfer sagas in the entire history of Italian football. After their unbeaten Scudetto triumph last season, the only piece missing in the Juventus championship winning puzzle was a goalscorer – a true, fox in the box, 25-goal a season man.
Antonio Conte’s side searched high and wide for the right man over the summer. First it was Robin Van Persie, then it was Fernando Llorente. Robert Lewandowski’s been touted as the one. David Villa’s name has been mentioned. Even Didier Drogba has been linked with the Turin club.
None of those names came through the doors of Vinovo however, and Juve had to make do with a move for lumbering Arsenal loanee Nicklas Bendtner, who has started all of two League games so far and not scored a single goal.
Administrators, management and fans of the club may bemoan a lack of cutting edge up front, but with the news on Wednesday that Giorgio Chiellini will miss three months out due to a calf injury, it’s at the back where Juventus may have to look for reinforcement come January.
The 28-year-old’s lay-off comes at just the wrong time for the Old Lady as they go into the Christmas break looking to reaffirm their dominance at the top of Serie A. An away game against Cagliari on Friday evening looks simple enough, but with the Italy international out until late February, a quick look at the fixture list shows matches against Parma, Fiorentina, Roma and Napoli during that period – all of whom have the ability to cause Conte’s men defensive problems.
The Livorno youth product has been a rock for the Bianconeri this term and has been one of the main reasons why they have the second best defensive record in Europe’s top five Leagues, with only Bayern Munich conceding less goals.
His aerial prowess, calmness on the ball and infallible concentration have made him one of best centre-backs on the continent – if not the best. With a regular trio of Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli setting a template, Juventus have arguably the pre-eminent backline in world football – a cornerstone for all their success.
But with this calf tear that could be about to be undone. Number one back-up Lucio has just been released after failing to force his way into the starting XI and the team only now have Martin Caceres and Luca Marrone to cover – neither of whom are naturalised centre-backs.
It is a genuine concern for Juventus as they go into this critical part of the season. Not only are they within touching distance of Inter in second place, but having just been drawn with Celtic in the last 16 of the Champions League, they can start to fear for their European lives.
We’ve seen earlier in the competition what the Scottish side can do with an electric home crowd and some inspired defending. Barcelona weren’t immune to the famous Celtic Park roar, so the same can certainly be said for Italy’s number one team.
Early reports this week have seen Juve linked with Neto of Siena and Atalanta’s Federico Peluso. Both are promising players at provincial Serie A sides, but have yet to prove themselves on the biggest stage.
It may not be the most popular decision, but is it wiser to invest some of their budget on a high-quality central defender rather than a striker?