The Bianconeri would have reluctantly allowed the prolific Portuguese to leave this summer but Italy’s Euro 2020 hero is considered priceless
With Euro 2020 over, and silly season just begun, we’re being once again inundated with transfer talk.
As such, it is always important to immediately separate fact from fiction.
Would Bayern Munich like to sign Federico Chiesa? Of course, who wouldn’t? The Bavarians’ new coach, Julian Nagelsmann, has already expressed his admiration of the Italy winger.
“I’ve known about him for a long time,” the new Bayern Munich boss told Bild, “and I find him exceptional because he often goes for a one-on-one, and then tries to shoot very quickly.”
But just because Nagelsmann would love to see Chiesa arrive at the Allianz Arena, it doesn’t mean that there’s any chance of it actually happening.
The same goes for Chelsea’s rumoured interest.
There have been reports of the Blues submitting a €100 million (£85m/$120m) bid for Chiesa, but they’re unfounded. According to sources close to the club, Chiesa has never been mentioned as a possible transfer target.
Their priority up front is a centre-forward. If there’s a big deal to be done this summer, that’s where the money will be going.
However, what’s most important to bear in mind is that Juventus wouldn’t even entertain a bid of €100m; as far as the Old Lady is concerned, Chiesa is priceless.
And with good cause. He proved himself a world-class talent at Euro 2020, where the knockout stage brought the very best out of him.
There were crucial strikes against Austria and Spain, in the last 16 and semi-finals respectively, while he tormented England in the tournament decider before eventually succumbing to an ankle knock.
“He will forever be the Lion of Wembley,” the Gazzetta dello Sport wrote. “The English followed him, they kicked him, but they never caught him until the injury.
“There is now a strong sensation that the season which is about to begin will be the one that puts the Juventino just behind the phenomena fighting for Ballon d’Or.
“Fede is ready to take off.”
Chiesa had long been considered a potential superstar in Italy, of course: he was one of the best players at the 2019 Under-21 Championship on home soil.
But there were doubters when he joined Juve last summer as part of a convoluted transfer from Fiorentina.
Basically, the Bianconeri agreed to take him on loan for two seasons, at a combined cost of €10m (£8.5m/$12m), but with an obligation to buy in 2023 for an additional €40m (£34m/$48m) and a potential €10m in variables.
Even though the deal had been structured in such a way to ease the strain on Juve’s already overstretched resources, Claudio Marchisio was among those who felt that his former club had overpaid.
The retired midfielder’s concern was understandable, too. Chiesa was an exciting and versatile talent but given the size and nature of Juve’s squad, there was an obvious question: where would he play?
Andrea Pirlo’s response was it doesn’t matter, as long as he plays. Whether deployed on the right or left wing, or even asked to take on more defensive responsibilities as an auxiliary wing-back, Chiesa excelled.
Cristiano Ronaldo contributed plenty of goals last season, but it was Chiesa who provided the penetration, continually carrying the attack in Juve’s most important fixtures.
Nowhere was this better illustrated than in the Champions League last-16 loss to Porto. It was Chiesa who pulled back a crucial away goal in the first leg, and Chiesa who forced extra time with two second-half strikes in Turin.
Therefore, his Euro 2020 heroics came as no surprise: this is very much a man for the big occasion.
And it’s the man around whom Juventus now need to construct their squad, even though Ronaldo is set to stay in Turin.
If this were a normal market, the Portuguese would probably already be gone.
Since arriving from Real Madrid to great fanfare in the summer of 2018, he has kept up his end of the bargain, scoring freely and boosting the Bianconeri brand.
However, Juve have let him down, failing to provide him with a team capable of challenging for the Champions League. Indeed, in that sense it was no surprise to see former sporting director Fabio Paratici leave when his contract expired this summer; someone was always going to pay for Juve’s failure in Europe.
Of course, Juve are literally counting the cost of their poor results right now and Ronaldo’s exit would alleviate the financial pressure they now find themselves under after a season without any supporters in the stadium.
However, even though the five-time Ballon d’Or winner only has one year left on his contract, finding a buyer in the current economic climate has, thus far, proven impossible.
Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Real Madrid – not one of those super-clubs is presently in a position to pay €31m in wages and a €29m transfer fee (Juve’s set price in order to avoid a capital loss on the player) for a 36-year-old forward.
Consequently, after weeks of uncertainty, Ronaldo has, according to the Gazzetta, confirmed that he will turn up for pre-season training, as scheduled, on July 25.
Ronaldo’s return, coupled with the fact that Juve are struggling to offload the likes of Merih Demiral and Aaron Ramsey, means that no major signings are expected before the close of the transfer window.
For now, the Bianconeri’s primary objective is beating Arsenal to the signature of Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli, and that is a very achievable aim for two reasons.
Firstly, the former AC Milan starlet is a Juve fan. Secondly, and far more importantly, he wants to play in the Champions League season.
So, even though Sassuolo have rejected the Old Lady’s first bid of €30m (£26m/$35m), expect the proposed deal to go through eventually, most probably with one or two Juve players acting as makeweights.
It would be a bargain buy. Locatelli, as he proved at Euro 2020, is an excellent all-round midfielder with an eye for a goal, and his arrival would provide Juve with an exciting nucleus of young players.
Dejan Kulusevski may not have settled at Juve anything like as quickly as Chiesa but the Swedish winger, as he showed at Euro 2020, has the potential to become a world-class performer, while fellow 21-year-old Matthijs de Ligt is only going to get better and better.
Whether the addition of Locatelli would be enough to transform Juve into Champions League challengers is doubtful, but the return of Massimiliano Allegri as coach will certainly help.
Remember, he took the Old Lady to two finals during his first spell in charge, in 2015 and 2017, and he appears revitalised after his two years out of the game.
His job isn’t an easy one, though. This Juve squad is frustratingly imbalanced.
Allegri is highly adaptable but there is a feeling that, as it stands, he has a group of forwards best suited to the 4-2-3-1 formation that played such a pivotal role in Juve’s run to Cardiff in 2017, but a mix of midfielders better equipped to play a 4-3-3.
Of course, with Giorgio Chiellini likely to re-sign for the club after leading Italy to Euro 2020 glory, there will obviously also be the temptation to play the three-man defence on which so much of Juve’s past success was founded.
Still, while there still be some uncertainty over how Allegri’s side will line up, and whether Ronaldo stays or goes, there is no doubt that Chiesa will be key to their hopes of success.
The Lion of Wembley is ready to become the leader of Juventus.
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