As club football makes its return, Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus are entering a crunch period. From here until Christmas they face rivals in Serie A, vital Champions League showdowns and the Italian Super Cup against Napoli. It starts this Saturday away to Lazio, historically a tough trip for the Bianconeri. While Allegri will be focused on points and silverware the top brass have been kept busy by contract negotiations.
Paul Pogba got the balling rolling by extending to 2019, but before the ink dried matters shifted to those out of contract at the end of the season. On Thursday it was announced Gianluigi Buffon had extended to 2017 and defender Giorgio Chiellini until 2018. The captain said he had offers elsewhere, but didn’t care “because Juve gave me everything I was looking for,” while Chiellini spoke of it being a ‘proud’ day.
Carlos Tevez’s contract has 18 months to run and agent Kia Joorabchian has suggested there will be renewal talks: “The best thing to do is to manage this situation carefully, and take things step-by-step. When the time is right we’ll sit at the table with Marotta and talk about the possibility of a contract extension.”
The situation surrounding Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sebastian Giovinco, both out of contract in June, is not so smooth. In an interview with Tuttosport last weekend Giuseppe Marotta spoke of negotiating ‘on our terms’. The Swiss defender is nearly 31 and Juve appear not willing to meet his €3m salary asking price.
“We are negotiating, but do not want to go outside our parameters,” stated the director general, with an initial offer of €2m now bumped up to €2.5m. There are a number of clubs said to be watching the situation with interest, including Scudetto rivals Roma, plus Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City. Nonetheless, Marotta is confident Lichtsteiner will remain.
Giovinco is said to be unhappy with his limited playing time this term, enough to take other offers under consideration. He’s made just two starts and although agent Andrea D’Amico says he has not questioned Allegri, there are offers from foreign clubs that may appeal.
Marotta says there have been talks between the parties: “We had contact with Giovinco’s agent to see if it’s possible to renew on our terms. If we do, good, otherwise... Giovinco has to tell us what he wants.”
There’s even suggestions Juve will sell the Atomic Ant in January to avoid losing him for nothing, but for now the onus is on Giovinco. If he wants to fight for his place then an agreement can be reached, but if his future is away from Turin the club wants to act this winter. Giovinco has shown in flashes – even without goals to back it up – that he can play a part.
But if Juve can put money from his sale towards a player who enhances their attacking stock, it would improve their standing. Yet Giovinco appears unwilling to leave before June.
Unlike Giovinco, Lichtsteiner has been a regular – to the point of overplaying and lack of rest. Only Claudio Marchisio, Buffon and Leonardo Bonucci have started more matches in Serie A than Lichtsteiner’s nine. He’s also played every minute in the Champions League. The Swiss international is better suited to Allegri’s recent back-four switch rather than a wing-back role, as he recently noted. Should Allegri want to continue in that framework long-term, Juve will not want to lose Lichtsteiner.
Against an admittedly poor Parma he scored one goal and supplied two assists in an assured performance. The wing-back role is a thankless task that requires stamina, durability and proficiency in both facets of the game and while not his favoured role Lichtsteiner has shown he can do the job in that role too. But there is a fallback plan, with an option to permanently sign on-loan Italo-Brazilian Romulo.
Having retained Pogba, Buffon and Chiellini, Juve are showing they are serious about moving forward and building a squad to compete with Europe’s elite. They’ve now hit a fork in the road in regards to Lichtsteiner and the Atomic Ant, contract dealings which will help mould their short-term transfer dealings.
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