After a few weeks of back and forth negotiation, Stephan Lichtsteiner become an “officially official” Juventus player, signing on the dotted line to the delight of most Juventini. It seemed like a done thing- Lichtsteiner and his agent confirmed their interest in Juventus, and Lotito claiming “good relations” with Marotta, Agnelli, and the player would see his career move fulfilled. Yet it stalled for days on end, and we worried it might become a long drawn out saga.
Lichtsteiner had a rescission clause of 12 million, and while Lazio President Lotito claimed he would accommodate the Swiss full-back, he seemed like he wouldn’t accept anything below the full clause. In the end, Juventus signed the player for €10 million, and it is rumored in Italy that Lichtsteiner himself paid the €2 million difference to get the deal done. If so, this shows Krasic-like willingness to join the team, and take us to a new level.
It is impossible to understate how important Stephan Lichtsteiner’s signing is. Under the Alessio Secco era, he absolutely refused to spend any real money on defense. Perhaps it is because the one time he did spill the cash, Andrade broke his knee and ended up retiring on our dime. However, the list of cheap-or-free defenders he signed is impressive- Molinaro, Grygera, Salihamidzic, Knezevic, Mellberg, De Ceglie, Stendardo, Grosso, Caceres, etc.
Despite shelling out for Bonucci, it was a bit worrying that Marotta spent little else on defense in his first year, bringing in Rinaudo, Motta and Traore on loan in was ripping pages of out Secco’s plan book. With a few exceptions, none of these players made a significant positive impact at Juventus, and our fullback position has been absolutely the worst part of the squad ever since 2007. They have been unable to defend (Zebina, Motta), woeful in attack (Mellberg, Molinaro) or prone to downright catastrophic errors in judgement. (Knezevic, Grygera) A few have been “reliable” or have showed promise, but it’s been two massive holes on our flanks.
For the third time since Calciopoli, Juventus have splashed the cash on defense, putting a solid €10 million investment into hopefully “the right-back to solve our right-back problems.” Lichtsteiner doesn’t perhaps have a lot to live up to, as his predecessors are all a veritable bunch of clowns, but he certainly will have high expectations going into the new season.
What can we expect from Lichtsteiner? The most frequent answer is grinta and aggression. No doubt about it, Lichtsteiner is a rather angry player, and while he doesn’t have a particularly Melo-ish record of indiscipline, he certainly has a fiery temperament on the pitch. However, only mentioning his tough-as-nails approach is to seriously discount an excellent player. He may not fly forward and score golazos alla Dani Alves, but his consistent performances on the flank have probably made him one of the best 3 right-backs in Serie A over the last few years.
Lichtsteiner started his career at Grasshoppers in his home country, coincidentally winning a national title alongside another newly-signed Swiss Juventus fullback Reto Ziegler. He then moved on to Lille, and signed with Lazio back in 2008, after a very positive performance at the Euros (partially) hosted in his home country of Switzerland. At the time, Lazio fans were fairly disappointed, as he came in as a replacement for Valon Behrami, who’s stock was at an all time high. Behrami went off to West Ham, to middling success, whereas Lichtsteiner took Lazio’s right-back position and made it his. Nicknamed “Forrest Gump” for his neverending runs down the flank, he provides an offensive outlet with crossing as well as defense. While he is not as technical a player as Cassani, he is more defensive, though prone to occasional rash moments.
Having secured Lichtsteiner, we finally have a solid right back. One who can provide support to Milos Krasic, with overlapping runs and crosses lightening the offensive burden from Milos. At the same time, he provides significant support to the two central defenders. Certainly, Chiellini, Bonucci, and Barzagli’s job was massively complicated by the fact that they were constantly pulled out to the flanks to cover for the inept Marco Motta or anonymous Armand Traoré. Indeed, it was after Paolo De Ceglie’s injury in mid-November, Leonardo Bonucci’s performances took a noticeable dip.
It’s hard to get terribly excited about signing a defender, perhaps partially why Alessio Secco so rarely ever spilled out on defense, but we should be excited about Lichtsteiner. This isn’t a gamble, or a “well at worst…” kind-of-deal, like we’ve dealt with the last few years. This is a competent player with a solid history in Serie A. As far as signings go, it should be a very smooth transition for Stephan and Juventus.