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Benvenuto Alla Juventus: MAURICIO ISLA – From Bianconero to Bianconero

The player had done his medical in Turin a few weeks ago. Earlier today, the move was finally made official. In a statement published on their official website, Juventus Football Club S.p.A. announced the following agreement to have been finalized with Udinese Calcio S.p.A.:

• Definitive acquisition of the registration rights of the player Mauricio Anibal Isla for a consideration of € 18.8 million to be paid in 3 years. At the same time, Juventus and Udinese signed a co-ownership agreement (ex art. 102 bis N.O.I.F.) related to the same player for a consideration of € 9.4 million to be paid by Udinese in 3 years;

The purchase and co-ownership of Kwadwo Asamoah was also made official.

 

★ ★ ★

 

Mauricio Isla represents more evidence of the tremendous Udinese system. Scouted at a young age following a positive performance in the FIFA U-17 World Cup for Chile, the Friuliani picked Isla up on a permanent basis immediately despite him never having played professionally in Chile, and integrated him into their formation and starting XI over the years. Having arrived at the club as a young unproven 19 year-old, he leaves as a great, potentially world-class player.

In signing Isla, Juventus have picked up one of the Serie A’s best. Recently turned 24 years of age, the Chilean arrives with immense experience both at the club (over 100 appearances in the Italian top-flight) and national team levels. Like Cáceres, he is also extremely versatile: capable of filling in at any position on the flank (full-back, wing-back, winger) on either side of the pitch, and even play central midfield depending on the formation.

It’s no secret that Inter has been after Isla for years, and for good reason. Beyond his experience or versatility, Mauricio is a fantastic element: he has pace, aggression, stamina, all perfect characteristics for Conte’s system of possession & pressing. This description makes Isla seem like a Simone Pepe workman-style player, but this characterization would be rather off.

Isla has energy and explosiveness on the flank, coupled with a great deal of technical skills to complement his movement. At Udinese, operating primarily as a right wing-back, he’s shown great vision, touch, and dribbling skills to beat his opponent while charging down the flanks. As the Friulian club generally plays Di Natale as the front striker, they rarely cross, and Isla’s crossing stats confirm this tactic as he typically provides less than 1 accurate cross per game.

This probably won’t be an issue at Juventus. While not as cross-averse as Udinese, Conte’s side does not generally aim to whip in balls from the wings as a primary tactic. It is indeed this lack of wide play that excluded Eljero Elia and Milos Krasic from being part of Conte’s plans. Rather, the wide players look for through balls, passes into the box, or even a shot on target themselves. They play more centrally, which perfectly suits the Chilean midfielder.

 

★ ★ ★

 

 

★ ★ ★

 

There are two major questions regarding Isla’s signing, which otherwise is a fantastic capture.

The first one is simple, and relates to the player’s health level. Coming off a rather significant knee injury (he tore his cruciate ligaments in a clash with Massimo Ambrosini), the Juve medical staff will have to ensure that Isla’s ligament tear has fully healed and is unlikely to suffer a relapse.

The second regards the state of our right flank. For the first time in years (perhaps since the days of Thuram-Zambrotta) Juventus have not one, but two tremendous options at RB or RWB. Over the last year, Marotta signed Swiss full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner and prodigal son Martin Cáceres, who have both proven to be excellent additions to the squad, be it playing in a 4-man backline or a 5-man midfield.

Able to play as a winger or a central midfielder, Isla is generally a more offensive option than the aforementioned duo, yet his primary position over the last few years has been that of a right wing-back in Udinese’s 3-5-2 system. Being spoiled with great choices is a fantastic problem to have for Antonio Conte (compared to the times where Juve had to decide between Zebina and Grygera), but it’s still somewhat of a problem to have, and the manager will have to reassure both Lichtsteiner and Cáceres of his continued faith in them.

Both Asamoah and Isla are young, energetic, talented, and highly-experienced both in Serie A and for their national team. Arguably two of the two most proven, talented up-and-comers in Italy at the moment, signing both represents a massive coup for Juventus which continues the club’s project of heavily investing into young players. The Scudetto was a warning sign that Juventus is back. The signings of players like Asamoah & Isla and potentially names like Pogba and Verratti is a signal that Juventus has no intention of giving up their current dominance.

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