Juventus Primavera Latest: Welcome to Paul POGBA, Nicola LEALI, and Alberto MASI!

Ciao ragazzi! It has been quite some time since the last Youth Sector round-up, but events this week meant it was time to bring another installment to you. With the acquisitions of Nicola Leali from Brescia, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, and Pro Vercelli defender Alberto Masi, Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici have continued their policy of strengthening the youth sector with a trio of solid signings. The latter two are virtual unknowns to us here at JuventiKnows so, as we have in the past, we asked people far better placed than us for insight. In the line of our “If You Don’t Know, You’d Better Ask Somebody” series, we deliver information to you from the best possible sources!

Our thanks to both Doron and Chris for their interventions. Follow them on Twitter.



It’s finally over. In what has to be one of the all-time most tiresome transfers, the former Le Havre teenager has, at long last, left one northern industrial town for another. In moving to Turin, Pogba has drawn much criticism from Sir Alex Ferguson who says the France U-19 star failed to ‘show any respect’ for the Old Trafford club. With competition for places in midfield as tough as at any time in Bianconeri history, the player may have jumped from one ill-fitting situation to another after failing to make any real impression at Manchester United.

We asked long-time supporter – and writer for StretfordEnd.comDoron Salomon, a regular watcher of the club’s Youth and Reserve teams, for his opinion. Here’s what he told us…

What kind of midfielder is Paul Pogba?

He’s a bit of an all-rounder – capable of being effective at both ends of the pitch. The lazy comparison many have thrown up is Patrick Vieira because of Pogba’s physique, position and background. It’s probably not far off being accurate but Pogba’s considerably more attack-focused than Vieira was; and certainly not as good defensively. I actually think Abou Diaby’s not a bad player in terms of style to compare him to.

What are his best qualities?

There are probably three striking things about him:

1) From distance, with a bit of space, he hits a lethal shot. For goalkeepers it must be a nightmare – they’re hit with pace and tend to swerve about. Yet, in a dead ball situation, he’s capable of curl and precision too.

2) He always wants the ball. It doesn’t matter where on the pitch he is, he demands it off his teammates. Once in possession he can do anything – keep it simple, run with it, produce some skill.

3) He’s creative. He has what a lot of young midfielders don’t: exceptional vision and understanding of where other players move. Paul’s not afraid of trying a low percentage pass – the kind that you appreciate even if it doesn’t come off. He has that ability to be the kind of player who can pick open a defence – not quite as subtly as someone like Pirlo but he can learn. For example, away to Arsenal last year, he played an unbelievable pass, cutting out defenders, for Mame Diouf to score. The only downside is that there are times he probably tries these kind of passes when it’s better to keep it simple.

What weaknesses does he need to work on?

To balance out the positives, I’ll give you three:

1) Defensively he’s improved, but there’s still work to be done. When he gets back he can be an effective defender and is good at winning the ball back, his problem is usually his starting position when his team don’t have possession. It’s something the coaching staff worked on during pre-season last year with him. Warren Joyce could often be heard shouting at him, telling him to get back and be aware of where the opposition players were. I’m not sure if he doesn’t see it, or is just lazy.

2) For someone who’s so strong, I think he could use his physique better. There are instances where he does make it count and certainly when defending set pieces he’s very useful; but, I feel he should be more of a presence.

3) The final thing is just a consistency issue. He’s started to become quite erratic and the less influential performances now outweigh the good ones. Too often last season you wouldn’t notice he was playing and yet, because of where he plays and the kind of player he is, this really shouldn’t be the case. When things aren’t going well he needs to mope around less and take it upon himself to drive his team in the right direction.

Would he, in your opinion, fit Antonio Conte’s demanding, possession-based, high-pressing style?

This is surely one of the more confusing aspects of the deal. It’s impossible to see him fitting in anywhere at the moment. Quite simply, Juve’s midfield is so stacked with quality that he won’t get a look in. Fergie said he’d get playing time at United but in truth he was never truly ready for much of last season, and there’s no way he’ll get any more at Juventus. The move itself is therefore surely about money and I’m not sure how much I blame Pogba – no doubt Raiola has been in his ear a lot!

Certainly the style in which Conte likes Juventus to play would completely suit him, I’ve no doubt about that. Although, he may have to get accustomed to Udinese’s style first – it’s been suggested he’ll move to them either on loan or as part of a co-ownership deal in order for him to have more of a chance of competitive Serie A minutes.


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Having been linked to Juventus since January, the Italy U-19 goalkeeper was already profiled in an earlier edition of this series.

Read all about it in Juventus Primavera Latest: A Profile of NICOLA LEALI as Regular Season Comes to an End.


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Even less known, but with (thankfully) far less media attention, Pro Vercelli’s Alberto Masi has also arrived in Turin on a co-ownership deal. The 19 year-old will join the Bianconeri for a large portion of the pre-season before returning to the newly-promoted Serie B side for the forthcoming season. He is a smooth looking defender in the Alessandro Nesta/Paolo Maldini mould but one we have seen little or nothing of.

We spoke to Chris King, a huge fan of the grand old club and creator of the wonderful ParlaCalcio blog, to tell us more about the boy following in the footsteps of Massimo Carrera in playing for both clubs.

What kind of defender is Alberto Masi, and what sort of defence is he best suited to?

Masi plays on the left hand-side of two center-backs, in a flat back-four. He is tall and athletic – though not as muscular as say, Giorgio Chiellini. He prefers to play off his man, guiding and shepherding the ball rather than rashly diving in, though he did receive a harsh red card for doing exactly that this season. He has been compared to Alessandro Nesta in the round-ups since the deal was struck, and you can kind of see what they mean as – like Nesta – he uses his hips and body to ease a player away from danger, only going for the ball when sure and absolutely necessary. He is one of those defenders that doesn’t necessarily feel as though he has to win the ball every time. It’s rare to see him launch himself over attackers to win a header outside of the box, just because it is there to head.

What are his best qualities?

How comfortable he is with and without the ball. When he played for the Lega Pro National Side (in both England and Dubai), a comment was made by an English blogger that when Masi gets the ball, he plays it out to others rather than just straight up. He uses the defenders and low-lying midfielders around him rather than simply give it air and hope someone will pick it up. He’s always looking to get the ball in to a position where it will go forward – which is different from always hitting it forward.

Without the ball, it is how he manages the space around him. He is not the quickest defender so he is very good at following the direction of a ball, and then deciding if he should drop back or close the space down in front of him. Apart from when in a crowded penalty area (see below).

What weaknesses does he need to work on?

For a tall defender, he does sometimes get caught under the action at dead-ball situations. That might as much be down to the frenzy of Lega Pro games where you can have 15+ players in a penalty area at one time, but if you watch footage, you often see him in a space on his own as the ball goes over or past him. He needs to dominate more and increase his vocal presence – but as a 19 year-old you expect this from only his first professional season. He would also need to give himself a yard against a really quick defender – which does sometimes leave him as the last man back.

Would he, in your opinion, fit Antonio Conte’s demanding, possession-based, high-pressing style?

Yes. He plays a high line with Pro Vercelli, and his teammates are midfielders and full-backs that like the ball to their feet. But I think he needs a brute beside him, someone that attacks the ball whilst he does the cultured stuff around them. And he needs a good left-back to help with his development: someone who can cover him, as he will cover them – and allow him to make the odd mistake by being there for him.

This year will be key to his development. He’ll be 20 soon after the new season starts. Given a good start in Serie B, there’s the hope of a National U-21 call-up. My only concern is that should Pro Vercelli get caught out in the higher level, how exposed he may be pushing that high line?


In bocca al lupo ragazzi!


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