Saturday January 23 2016
Juve best school for Rugani

Daniele Rugani might not play regularly, but Edward Stratmann feels Juventus is the best place for him now.

Only one man played every single minute of Serie A action for his club last season without earning a yellow card. That man was, of course, Empoli's Daniele Rugani.

The Juventus owned defender's durability and the immense quality he showed, despite his tender years, was nothing short of spectacular last season, especially considering it was the then 20-year-old's first full campaign of top flight football.

Playing and learning under the meticulous, dedicated Maurizio Sarri, who's since moved on to high-flying Napoli, unquestionably has worked wonders for Rugani. "For me it is Rugani [who is the best young Italian player]," Sarri told the Corriere dello Sport.

"He has excellent capabilities and concentration. I gave him his debut as an 18-year-old.

"He will be a very important player for the future of Italian football."

High praise indeed from Sarri, who excels in setting up and organising a defensive unit. His time at Empoli and Napoli has certainly proved so, where he quickly turned his respective backlines into cohesive, well-oiled machines, with his fascinating use of a drone in training to analyse every detail from shape, positioning and spacing forming a crucial component of his training sessions.

Having benefitted from the Tuscan tactician's methods, Rugani returned to Juventus for the 2015-16 season full of confidence and ready to play. And while he's had to be patient and wait his turn behind arguably one of the best defences in Europe, which features Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, simply training and learning every day from this exceptional trio must be massively benefitting his development. It must be said, however, when he's been afforded an opportunity, mainly in cup games and less important Serie A fixtures, he's looked the part within this magnificent Juventus outfit.

Although his agent, Davide Torchia, has recently blasted The Old Lady and Massimiliano Allegri about his client's lack of playing time, Rugani's attitude has been exemplary. He's remained patient and showed impressive maturity about the situation, knowing full well he has to earn his spot.

“Juventus have invested in young talent this summer and we are all keen to repay the trust shown in us,” he explained.

“I have a great opportunity here but I won’t be taking anything for granted. I’ve only just started at Juventus and I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. However, I must be ready when called upon.”

This cool, calm and collective thought process, much like his on field approach, gives testament to a man who's got a very level head on his shoulders, and one who refuses to be drawn into any unnecessary controversy.

With Juventus traveling to Udine last weekend, in a match that held extra significance, for it was opening of The Little Zebras' brand new Friuli stadium, Rugani demonstrated his worth by putting in a splendid, no-nonsense shift on the right side of central defence, as Juventus went on to record a 4-0 win to christen the stadium in the worst possible way for the home supporters.

With Allegri opting to organise his team into a 3-5-2 formation, this saw Rugani deployed alongside the battle hardened duo of Chiellini and Bonucci. And aside from a few sketchy moments at the beginning, the 21-year-old looked right at home beside the veteran duo, undertaking his role with a great deal of composure, comfort and customary intelligence.

Positionally, he remained flawless throughout, always ensuring his spacing between his nearest defeder, Bonucci, and right wing back, Stephan Lichtsteiner, was ideal to deal with the attacking threat Udinese possess. On their day, dealing with Udinese's strike partnership of Antonio Di Natale and Cyril Thereau can be a real handful for any defence, but Rugani's exceptional defensive work helped prevent them from having any real influence on the contest. Whenever either man drifting into Rugani's designated area of operation, he tracked them well and used his enviable athleticism and smarts to nullify their impact effectively. Moreover, if Bonucci needed support or got caught out of position, Rugani's alertness and covering speed saw him able to rapidly get across and cover for his colleague.

Rugani's astute defensive contribution also extended over to situations where Lichtsteiner pushed forward, in typically aggressive fashion, as the Italian international would slide across and cover the space in behind the Swiss hardman, which allowed him to motor upfield with plentiful freedom in the knowledge Rugani had his back in case of a turnover.

All things considered, Rugani's exceptional body of work highlighted his undeniable quality, in a match where he displayed great conviction, discipline and assuredness in almost everything he did against Udinese's veteran strike force.

Standing at an imposing 190cm already, it was yet again remarkable to see how well this young defender shone when dealing with battles in the air and on the ground.

Although this was just his fifth match of the season for the reigning Serie A champions, he showed just how valuable a strong grasp of the defensive fundamentals can be. Upon factoring in his athleticism, Rugani truly is the perfect blend of physicality and intelligence.

It's little wonder why he's drawn comparisons to the likes of Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Barzagli. He's just that good, but the frightening thing is that at only 21, he'll only keep developing his craft.

Being at Juventus is unquestionably the best spot for him to do just that. While he's definitely one for the future, the elegant centre-half has already got all the tools to contribute to Allegri's wonderful Juve team right now.

Have your say...
What's worse is that Italy could've used him in friendlies and the upcoming Euro's but because of such a lack of playing time he now has no chance as Italians don't seem to like risking youngsters. Thing is,Italy's defense at international level at moment could really do with a fresh injection of youth in case any of the traditional Juve rearguard are injured or out of sorts. But no.Too much of a risk so Italy will prob get knocked out from no picking up from a corner or some such again?
on the 6th February, 2016 at 12:52pm
Apparently so, once the loan is up Juve will send him back to Chelsea.
on the 26th January, 2016 at 9:25pm
Hmm, right... What? Cuadrado sent back to chelsea??!!. No waay!!!
on the 26th January, 2016 at 4:23am
Completely agree with you, still i feel that the difference was made by the fact that early in the season Juve started so slow and everyone panicked so to avoid further setbacks Allegri chose not to experiment and or trust youngsters at the back. I am sure if Rugani had been a forward or an attacking midfielder he may have gotten much more playing time. It is very disappointing to see young talent not get more chances. Also very disappointed for Cuardado apparently being sent back to Chelsea.
on the 25th January, 2016 at 9:53pm
@Al Dino, Yes there were reasons. But why he had to wait until december when he could easily be part of some cup ties or against minnows!. He is not even used sparingly!!, man. Thats why i'm complaining...
on the 25th January, 2016 at 1:42pm
@spirit_willy Allegri is by no means the only coach that does that... many players have suffered due to the pressure for coaches to keep winning. However I'm sure while this season Rugani is being used sparingly in my opinion due to Juve's slow start and a lot of new elements being introduced. Next season i am sure he could well be an integral part of the setup.
on the 25th January, 2016 at 2:52am
Its hard & painful to hear such stuffs. This bright & young fellow already sacrifised a lot by warming bench withoul playing time. Its such a irony for some one who recorded in last season for playing every single match. And this is why i thought allegri is shortcoming to be a greater coach like conte. By the time ruguani supposed to imposed himself at juve by playing minimum role but thanks to allegri's dumbness he needs to start from the scratch next season.. Goodluck Rugani!
on the 24th January, 2016 at 1:14pm

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