Carlos Tevez may be the most prolific Juventus striker since David Trezeguet, but his contribution extends far beyond his goal output. Livio Caferoglu profiles Serie A’s best player of 2014-15.
From Paul Pogba’s wonder strikes and Felipe Anderson’s electrifying wing play to Luca Toni’s 20-plus goal haul and Paulo Dybala’s emergence as Calcio’s new poster boy, the 2014-15 Serie A season will surely be remembered for its frequent moments of individual brilliance – and Carlos Tevez.
The Juventus striker too has been the subject of numerous highlight reels on YouTube, eclipsing the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Gianluigi Buffon to become the Bianconeri’s most influential player of the past nine months and leave them on the verge of a historic treble.
In truth, we all should have expected Tevez to take the season by storm. Not for nothing was he named Football Italia’s Player of the Season last term, and Massimiliano Allegri had continually urged the board to sign the Argentinian over the course of his reign at Milan. The Coach’s wishes finally came true when he took charge of the Diavolo’s arch-rivals last summer.
Allegri started off by sensibly preserving the work of his predecessor Antonio Conte, until a mix of injuries and poor performances throughout October provided the cue for the 45-year-old to finally go about stamping his authority on the team – and in turn unleash Tevez’s potential in Turin.
Having failed to score in six matches up until the switch, the Apache’s role in the side would be transformed. The biggest beneficiary of Allegri’s decision to switch from a 3-5-2 formation to his famed 4-3-1-2, the attacker was consequently given the licence to impose himself all over the pitch.
Whereas his efforts were once confined to the final third, he could now utilise all aspects of his game to maximum effect, whether it be harrying the opposition with his pace and dribbling, exploiting space with his vision and creativity, or starting and ending attacks with his energy and stamina.
In the 50th minute of only his second game since the positional tweak, Tevez won the ball in his own half, skipped past several Parma jerseys and drilled a finish home. On paper, he had just scored Juve’s fourth goal in a Week 11 7-0 drubbing of the Crociati, but it proved so much more than that.
Aside from being one of the goals of the season, Tevez’s strike went down as pivotal moment in the Old Lady’s season. Winners against Genoa and Fiorentina followed, while he orchestrated victories over Milan and Lazio as well as earning his team a point in the first Derby d’Italia of 14-15.
He then cemented his indispensability to the Juve cause with match-winning displays against Verona and Empoli. Having helped himself to a pair of finely-taken finishes en route to a 4-0 triumph over Hellas, he replicated that intensity and grabbed another double in a hard-fought 2-0 win versus the Tuscans.
The 31-year-old has also fired Juve to within just 90 minutes of a first Champions League trophy since 1996 thanks to his best-ever European campaign, which has so far yielded seven goals – one more than his entire return with Manchester United and Manchester City in four seasons.
Tevez’s haul of 29 goals this season means he has scored more than any Juve player since David Trezeguet did with 32 in 01-02, but his impact ventures far beyond any statistical inference. The catalyst in Juve’s re-emergence as one of Europe’s super-clubs, is there anything he can’t do?
Stefan de Vrij - Coming in at just €7.5m, more than Napoli shelled out for Kalidou Koulibaly, the Dutchman was the rock Lazio built their fluid, and ultimately successful, brand of football upon.
Paul Pogba - Injuries meant he missed just under a third of Juventus’ matches in Serie A, but a regular stream of world-class performances also means he is now the rest of Europe’s envy.
Franco Vazquez - Unfairly overshadowed by the Paulo Dybala publicity machine, the Italo-Argentine outshone his teammate on the pitch with double figures in goals and assists, as well as Azzurri recognition.
Felipe Anderson - Emerging as Serie A’s most devastating outlet, the Brazilian’s season is made all the more impressive when you consider that he didn’t establish himself in the Lazio side until December.
Luca Toni - Accounting for almost half of Verona’s goal output this season, the 38-year-old’s haul of 22 strikes made him the oldest Capocannoniere winner since Dario Hubner for Piacenza in 2001-02.