As you will hopefully have noticed, the JuventiKnows crew have been busy compiling our end of season pagelle for the first team – you can read them here – and while Antonio Conte’s men are always our major focus, we try to bring you coverage of the club you cannot find elsewhere. My Youth Sector reports have taken a back seat in recent months due to a major protect I have undertaken away elsewhere (more on that at a later date) but over the next week we will be wrapping up their campaign for you.
A reduction of the upper age limit – cut from 20 to 18 – meant that many of the older, more stagnant players of the previous regime were ushered in. Those rule changes meant that the impressive Fabrizio Del Rosso, formerly in charge of the Allievi Nazionali, was without a side to lead as his players moved up to the Primavera squad. However, rather than lose him, Juventus took the decision to make him an assistant to Marco Baroni and he gladly accepted the role.
Speaking when that decision was taken, Baroni told the official club website that “Fabrizio is a great worker and will give me a big hand,” going on to add that his colleague “knows many of the players coming through to us after coaching them last year.” Having been asked to replicate Conte’s 3-5-2 formation at this level, Del Rosso’s insight would prove invaluable in selecting players in roles best suited to their abilities. Some of this was easy but others, like Hörður Magnússon, seemed to suffer because of their adaptability.
Eventually, solutions were found that suited most players and adding the coaching continuity to the talent within the current class should have meant the team was able to build upon the success of last season. Ultimately, 2012-13 was a disappointing experience for the Primavera as they lost in their Last Eight match at the Campionato Finals in Gubbio, falling to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Chievo. Having beaten Napoli in the Cup Final by a 3-2 score line – in front of large crowds at both Juventus Stadium and Stadio San Paolo – they were unable to advance further than the Viareggio Tournament’s Round of Sixteen.
That marked their earliest exit since 2008 and came at the hands of a vastly inferior Juve Stabia side. Allied to the 4-1 battering Chelsea handed Baroni’s side in the NextGen Quarter Final, it is clear the team is generally failing to deliver on its vast potential. As we break down the players individually, assessing a physically and technically gifted group which often lacks the necessary concentration, a clear pattern emerges. Take a walk with me through the 2012-13 Juventus Primavera Squad and see it for yourself, remembering that the scores account for improvements as well as actual performance.
Laurențiu Brănescu 7.5 - The undisputed first choice goalkeeper, he played just fourteen games this season for a variety of reasons. Chief among them are the fact that he has often been Juve’s third choice goalkeeper, meaning he spent much time learning from Claudio Filippi and Gigi Buffon, whilst he has also become a regular for the Romanian Under-21 side despite only turning 19 back in March. As was noted during the First Team Pagelle he can expect to either become second choice next term or head out on loan to continue his development. Kept an impressive eight clean sheets in those 14 starts.
Leonardo Citti 6.5 - Only 17, he will most likely be the regular first choice next term. Improved steadily throughout the year and that must continue as he begins to feature more. Managed just three appearances in 2012-13 but conceded just a single goal and last month made his debut for Alberigo Evani’s Italy Under-18’s side. A young goalkeeper full of promise.
Federico Gagliardini 6.0 - Often the man to step in when Brănescu was absent, he conceded nine goals in just ten appearances, pointing to some poor performances and some of the side’s worst defeats came with him in the line-up. Will move on this summer as he turns 20 in January and the team will lose one of their genuine leaders. His absence however, should allow others to thrive.
Francesco Bertinetti 8.0 - Just seventeen, he has already completed a remarkable ten seasons as part of the Juventus Youth Sector and, while it remains to be see whether his future is in central defence or at right-back, he is a genuinely talented prospect. He played just six times this season, helping to keep two clean sheets and also added two goals in the 6-0 demolition of Livorno in April. With many of those around him moving on, Bertinetti should feature more next term while progressing in the Azzurri where he has already represented Italy at Under-17 level.
Pol Garcia 8.0 - A personal favourite, we took a look at the classy young Catalan here and he seems perhaps the one defender most suited to Conte’s first team squad. Much like Mimmo Criscito he lacks the desire to bomb forward as a natural fullback and is a little undersized to play in central defence, he has evolved into a wonderful player on the left side of Baroni’s back three. As you would expect from a someone who grew up at Barcelona’s La Masia, he reads the game well, is comfortable on the ball and rarely panics.
Daniele Rugani 7.5 - Played a vital role in the team this season and looked superb in all nineteen appearances he made. Can expect to be sent out on loan next season – perhaps returning to former club Empoli where he is highly regarded. Still just eighteen, he has a bright future ahead of him if he continues to improve as he did this season.
Christian Tavanti 7.0 - Starting the season behind Untersee and others, the Italy Under-18 International had a hugely impressive season, becoming a regular starter on the right of defence. In his thirteen appearances, Juventus kept eleven clean sheets and his is a name to keep an eye on next term.
Hörður Magnússon 7.0 - Another who has thrived following the change of tactics, the Icelandic defender has developed into an accomplished player, usually deployed in the middle of the back three and asked to mimic Leo Bonucci’s style of play. His passing was always intelligent but he learned to read the game much better this year, adding much improved defending to his attacking instincts. Scored just two goals this term but one came in the Cup Final and it is hoped that his development continues next season when he will surely be sent out on loan or co-ownership in either Serie A or B.
Joel Untersee 6.5 - It is often foolhardy for people to draw comparisons between Primavera players and first team players but the best way to describe the South African born Untersee is to say he is a mini me version of Stephan Lichtsteiner. Representing Switzerland at every level from Under-15’s to his current role in the U-19’s, he plays the right wing-back position in the same way as his countryman and will look to do so next season as he progresses into the professional ranks. A severe leg injury limited him to eight appearances but he is a superb defender and it is no surprise to see Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund campaigning hard to convince him to switch allegiance back to the nation of his birth.
Filippo Penna 6.0 - A player who eschews the smart passing of those around him, Penna is first and foremost a defender. He is a ‘stopper’ and something of a throwback to a bygone era. What he does do well is understand the limits of his ability and restricts himself to doing what he is good at, which often saw him chosen ahead of more talented players in the biggest games. It is no surprise that with his presence at the heart of the defence, Juventus managed to record eleven clean sheets in the fifteen games he was part of the starting line-up. Should feature even more next term and if he can round out some of his rough edges, Juventus could well have another much sought after player on their books.
Jacob Laursen 5.5 - Twelve appearances for the Danish defender [I’d make a ‘done more than Christian Poulsen joke here but Lars deserves better] saw him lack the skill needed to play on the wing in the new system. May well improve as part of back four – the role he plays for Denmark’s U-19’s – and with a coach who preaches a more attacking version of the 3-5-2.
Niccolò Curti 5.5 - Like Alberto Masi, the former Perugia starlet arrived in a blaze of publicity, hailed as the next great Italian defender. Much like the now discarded Masi however, Curti has flattered to deceive once placed under the spotlight that a move to Juventus brings. After being loaned back to his former club, he failed to feature for their youth teams on a regular basis and returning to Turin last summer changed very little. He was given time off when it was believed he was homesick but even that failed to inspire his best form and he is perhaps the biggest disappointment of the campaign.
Andrea Schiavone 8.5 - Led the way throughout the entire campaign, he progressed not only to a number of first team call ups from Antonio Conte but also became a regular for Italy at Under-20 level. With Luigi Di Biaggio the Azzurrini coach at that level, the defensive midfielder is being guided by two men perfectly aware of what it takes to succeed in his at the highest levels. That is reflected in his vastly improved play and he is certainly good enough to carve out a career in Serie A, all that remains is to see where that begins now he is ready to take the next step.
Federico Mattiello 8.0 - Long time readers of this column will remember this particular talentino as one we brought to your attention when the site first began and it is wonderful to see him continually prove that judgement correct. He has looked superb no matter where Baroni has asked him to play with displays that belie the fact he does not turn 18 for another month. A single goal shows he has room for improvement but his invention and skill have lead to him creating countless opportunities for his team-mates. Undoubtedly the match winning performance in the Cup Final was his best moment to date and hopefully will not be his last.
Matteo Gerbaudo 7.0 - Where others have disappointed, the versatile Moncalieri native has perhaps been the revelation of the campaign, never more so than display which silenced the Stadio San Paolo in the Cup Final. Made his debut for Italy’s U-18’s in March and will look to be a key figure next season.
Vykintas Slivka 6.5 - After struggling to settle following his arrival from Lithuania, the 18 year old ended the season poorly too, making it difficult to see which version of him is the truest. Had injury concerns but, given greater playing time now Schiavone has graduated, he may well become a vital player next season .
Elvis Kabashi 6.0 - Here is a player typical of the hype surrounding players at this level. He arrived with an inflated reputation and an ego to match but, having been given a schooling in what it takes to become ‘da Juve’, Elvis improved as the year went on. His biggest problem is that he will be twenty in February and so is likely to move on this summer, needing a strict coach in order to ensure that his old habits don’t return.
Edward Ceria 6.0 - Shifted back into midfield due to the slim chance of playing in attack, Ceria improved as the campaign wore on and was another to make his Azzurrini U-18 debut this season. Steadily becoming a good player at this level, he will have another season with the Bianconeri Primavera in order to continue that improvement.
Michele Cavion 5.5 - Arrived in January from Vicenza and like Kabashi, looks like a player who needed to be ‘educated’ in the ways a Juventus player is expected to behave on and off the pitch. Often guilty of over-elaborating, his presence in midfield often disrupted the team’s play as he held on to the ball too long. ready, especially physically. However, unlike some other members of the squad, he is only 18 and has time to change his outlook and may well develop into an important cog next term.
Giuseppe Ruggiero 4.5 - If Curti is the biggest disappointment, the right midfielder had perhaps the worst season of any in the Primavera. After looking sharp on the wing last term, he made little effort to try to add a defensive side to his game when fielded as a wing-back in the 3-5-2. Ruggiero turns twenty in October and would perhaps do well to move this summer to a lower league team who better suit his attributes.
Simone Emmanuello sv - A regular during 2011-12, the 19 year old central midfielder suffered knee ligament damage which curtailed his season and limited him to just four appearances this term. Recuperating well, he could play a role in the NextGen games in order to test his fitness before moving on. A real shame for a player who had shown so much promise.
Simone Braccini sv - With one start in the demolition of Livorno and twelve substitute appearances, the former Cesena man failed to earn enough playing time for any observer to form a real opinion of him. Still just 18, he may well feature more next season and show those who watch the Youth Sector regularly why he is so highly regarded across the peninsula.
Vajebah Sakor sv - Just four appearances, usually in order for a tiring Schiavone to get some rest, we saw just glimpses of his quality. Only just 17 and a member of Norway’s Youth setup, the defensive midfielder could well step into the captain’s shoes next season.
Jacob Laursen 5.5 -Hasan Pepic sv Short on playing time he, like Braccini, will hope to find more space next season after arriving from German second division side Dynamo Dresden in January.
José Cevallos sv - Another winter arrival, he too was guilty of poor timing. Made four appearances which showcased little of his alleged talent but, as a member of Ecuador’s Under 20’s he may well search for a loan move rather than continue in the Youth Sector.
Stefano Beltrame 9.0 - Breathe deeply and don’t call him a star, but the young Beltrame was brilliant this season, bagging nine goals in sixteen league games and earning his first team debut against Genoa in January. He is certainly the most talented member of Baroni’s squad and Padovan’s staggering goal record owes as much to the play of Beltrame as it does to his own accuracy in front of goal. Matured well and became a leader of the side, often wearing the armband in games where Schiavone was absent. He will move on loan or in co-ownership this summer and Juventini should monitor his progress carefully to see if he can replicate this form elsewhere.
Stefano Padovan 8.5 - Like his strike partner, the excellent Padovan will depart this summer and look to prove he can score against professional defenders at the rate he has in Youth Sector football. His sixteen league goals in as many appearances saw him become the team’s top scorer but all Juventus can do now is watch and see if he can do more than Alberto Libertazzi has as he graduates to a club, most likely in Serie B.
Eric Lanini 6.5 - Six goals in just 760 minutes of league action show he found his niche as the ideal impact substitute whenever Baroni’s first choice duo were either misfiring or in need of a rest. He was superb at Viareggio where he netted five goals in the opening two games, he will most likely be moving on this summer and his destination is unlikely to be in the top two divisions.
Léo Bonatini 5.5 - Five goals in sixteen appearances seems like a good return but the nineteen year old Brazilian forward never seemed to realise his full potential. Who is at fault for that remains to be seen but his performances certainly never lived up to the hype which greeted his arrival from Cruzeiro.
Marco Di Benedetto sv - Suffered some terrible injuries which caused him to miss half the season, the young striker made irregular appearances as a substitute and judging him on those would be unfair to both our readers and the player himself.
Zoran Josipovic sv - Sixty minutes of action in an entire season, it was a wasted year for the 17 year old Swiss striker who suffered from the immense quality around him but what happens over the summer will tell us much about whether other factors were affecting his selection.
Marco Baroni 6.0 - Since Gigi Delneri left Juventus, the weaknesses of Baroni have been all too clear and his negative approach has cost the team dear this season. If we consider his role to be to two pronged then it is my belief he is guilty of failing on both counts, he is neither developing talent for the first team nor instilling the winning mentality so central to Juventus. With very few players kicking on and raising their performance under his guidance and the team often falling short in the biggest games, it is my opinion that the club should replace him with Del Rosso for next term and see if he can improve upon the last two seasons. With Youth Sector chief Giovanni Rossi leaving, changes are inevitable and this could well be the key move if the players are to deliver on their promise.
In bocca al lupo ragazzi!