Juventus’ summer transfer window was a success – but only because of their embarrassing failure to sell several high-profile players.
In a desperate bid to balance the books a year after the sensational €340 million (£293m/$375m) package they put together to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, the Bianconeri tried to offload Mario Mandzukic, Gonzalo Higuain and, most shockingly of all, Paulo Dybala.
Despite the best efforts of chief football officer Fabio Paratici, not one of that trio of forwards left Turin before the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
Article continues below
- Why Borussia Dortmund is a better fit for Haaland than Man Utd
- Abraham's Drogba moment at Arsenal sees Chelsea go from brittle Blues to comeback kings
- Keep the faith! Promising signs for Arteta's Arsenal despite devastating Chelsea defeat
- Manchester United need Pogba at his best to salvage their season
That proved a blessing in disguise because while Mandzukic was ostracised by new coach Maurizio Sarri, Argentine duo Higuain and Dybala both played pivotal roles in Juve’s solid first half of the season.
The Bianconeri topped their Champions League group, qualifying with two games to spare, while they entered the winter break level on points with Inter at the summit of the Serie A standings.
Going into January, then, the focus will not be on strengthening an already formidable squad but on belatedly reducing the largest wage bill in Italy (€294m gross).
Before the Champions League dead rubber against Bayer Leverkusen on matchday six, Paratici insisted that Juve would not make any major signings in January.
“We have a squad that is already very competitive right now,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “We won’t operate in the market. We’re already covered in midfield.”
However, that is precisely the one area in which Juve would consider strengthening should the right player become available – and, perhaps more importantly, at the right price.
The Old Lady is a long-time admirer of Sandro Tonali and the 19-year-old playmaker has impressed in what is his first season in Serie A.
However, Brescia would be reluctant to sell ‘the new Andrea Pirlo’ during the winter window given they are locked in a relegation battle – and certainly not for anything less than €50m.
Consequently, it seems far more likely that the Italy international will arrive in Turin next summer, when Juve traditionally prefer to do their transfer business.
There was a lot of talk in November of a deal with Barcelona for the out-of-favour Ivan Rakitic but the Croat has forced his way back into Ernesto Valverde’s starting line-up, starting six games in a row before the win over Alaves just before the winter break.
Leandro Paredes’ name has also been mentioned frequently, potentially as part of a swap deal involving both Emre Can and Mattia De Sciglio, but Paris Saint-Germain are reluctant to let the Argentine go in January.
There is also little chance of Dejan Kulusevski arriving in Turin, either in January or during the summer.
The Swedish sensation has taken Serie A by storm during his loan stay at Parma this season but the Atalanta-owned midfielder looks set to join Inter at the end of the season for approximately €35m (£30m/$39m).
Elsewhere, Sarri would welcome a reunion with Emerson Palmieri, with whom he worked at Chelsea, but the Blues would be more open to offloading fellow left-back Marcos Alonso during the winter window.
Like many other clubs in Europe, Juve were interested in RB Salzburg striking sensation Erling Haaland but the 19-year-old opted to join Borussia Dortmund, a team that can offer him a good deal of first-team starts in the short-term – something that the Bianconeri could not guarantee.
The decision to offload Mandzukic, who has joined Qatar’s Al-Duhail, in such unceremonious fashion has upset many Juve fans, given the forward had been such a loyal servent, but the furore is of little concern to Juve.
The only thing that matters as far as the Italian champions are concerned is that they have removed the tenth highest-paid player in Serie A (€6m per annum after tax) from their wage bill – and for a reported fee of €7m (£6m/$7.8m).
Happily for Juve fans, Can should also be gone soon too.
The Bianconeri are renowned for their inspired free transfers but the €5m-a-year contract they gave the German midfielder when he parted company with Liverpool always looked like a waste of money – and so it has proved.
Can has started just two games in all competitions this season and has been looking to leave ever since Sarri left him out of his Champions League squad.
Despite fanciful talk of a return to England to link up with Manchester United as part of a deal to bring Paul Pogba back to Juventus, PSG does look the most likely destination for the 25-year-old.
The Bianconeri would rather Can stay until June, when they would have a better chance of persuading PSG to part with Paredes, but it would not be a surprise to see the unhappy Germany international force through a January transfer.
Marko Pjaca, meanwhile, is expected to end up at Genoa.
The Croatia international was considered one of the most exciting young attackers in the world when he joined Juve from Dinamo Zagreb in 2016, but his time in Turin has been blighted by misfortune – he has suffered injuries to both knees – and endured unsuccessful loan spells at Schalke and Fiorentina.
Despite rumours of Pjaca being used as a makeweight in a late bid to hijack Inter’s deal for Kulusevski, the winger is now set to spend the second half of the season at the Luigi Ferraris, where he should be joined by Mattia Perin.
The Italy goalkeeper saw his hopes of a summer switch to Benfica scuppered by a shoulder problem but he has made a full recovery and a return to Genoa is a real possibility.
Defensive duo Merih Demiral and Daniele Rugani have featured just four and three times, respectively, this season and Juventus would certainly be willing to listen to offers for the latter.
Click Here: liverpool mens jersey
However, despite interest from AC Milan and others in Demiral, the Turkey international will stay at Juve to provide cover for a backline still shorn of the services of the injured Giorgio Chiellini.
De Sciglio, though, could be allowed to move to Napoli if Aurelio De Laurentiis agrees to let Elseid Hysaj – a Sarri favourite from his time at the San Paolo – move in the other direction.
HOW THEY COULD LINE UP
With no major signings anticipated during the January window, Juve are likely to continue with their current shape and line-up.
Sarri’s preferred formation is obviously 4-3-3 but the former Chelsea boss has now embraced a 4-3-1-2 as Dybala has shown this season that he can thrive in the No.10 role, while Higuain is proving a more than capable foil for Ronaldo.
Pjanic is the one certain starter in midfield, given Aaron Ramsey’s unsurprising injury issues and Adrien Rabiot’s underwhelming form.
Juve are still struggling to replace Joao Cancelo at right-back but Matthijs de Ligt has recovered from an understandably shaky start to form a decent centre-half pairing with Leonardo Bonucci.
Sarri’s side have shown signs of gelling but Lazio have brutally exposed their limitations twice in the past month and doubts remain over whether the Bianconeri are really good enough to end their agonising wait for a first Champions League title since 1996.
If this season ends in further European disappointment, expect some major moves in the summer.