Welcome back, amici!
Juve’s mercato officially kicked into high gear last week with the signing of Carlos Tevez. What would have been a pretty high-profile signing in its own right became an international sensation, as the Argentine received the talismanic No. 10 jersey and Juventus spun his signing to mean nothing less than the full resurrection of Juventus as a European Giant.
While that happy outcome remains to be seen, what we do know from the reaction of the adoring crowds following him around Turin (as well as from the very passionate comments in our last post) is that a large contingent of Juventini are excited about Tevez’s prospects in black-and-white.
Now this week brings another arrival: the long-awaited unveiling of Fernando Llorente, he who was betrothed to the Old Lady way, way back in January.
And there’s even more work to be done. Unfortunately, as I feared, Marotta and Paratici are seemingly content with Tevez and Llorente for the attack, and Marotta has hinted that they will not seek out another relatively big signing up front (see below), despite the need to keep the Bianconeri competitive next season across all three competitions. While this stance is probably a media tactic to draw out our Viola friends on Jovetic, Marotta nevertheless seems prepared to live with it if need be.
So presently, in case we missed the point last week (and it was difficult to): There but for the grace of Tevez go Juve. Dangerous, but I guess one never knows.
Exciting times, indeed. And we’ve got it all covered right here.
In a modern football culture marked by ever-shifting club loyalties, an incoming player’s first crucial performance is perhaps not on Matchday 1, but rather at his first press conference.
Last week, we saw Carlos Tevez ably soak up the pressure of being Juve’s new No. 10, promising to play nice with Antonio Conte, his teammates and the rest of Serie A. Now it’s Fernando Llorente’s turn.
The long-awaited-to-the-point-of-almost-forgetting arrival of the Spanish prima punta began on Monday with airport adulation, jersey assignments, and Andrea Agnelli introductions.
Yesterday saw the official press conference — and the humble, well-mannered Llorente pretty much hit it out of the park. Below are some of the highlights.
Fernando started by explaining his number selection—turns out he just likes it:
I like the number 14 and I think that I can play very well with this number.
Fair enough! As for choosing Juve, he was very straightforward:
I chose Juventus because they are a great club and it’s a dream for me to be playing here. Juventus is the team that was most interested in me and pushed hardest to sign me. I preferred Serie A to the Premier League because it is a beautiful League and it has Juventus.
The live video translation of the above passage differed from our source (Football Italia), providing a simpler (and more accurate) description of Llorente’s esteem for the Bianconeri. Fernando actually said that Juve was the “greatest” or “biggest” club (“piu grande”) that was interested in him, whereas FI is emphasizing Juve’s “push” to sign him. Translation and its shadowy, seemingly arbitrary motives… but I digress.
Llorente thanked the tifosi for their welcome and acknowledged the challenges of playing in Italy:
It was incredible, spectacular and very surprising to be greeted by so many fans. I thank all of them and want to say I’m very happy to be here, to be able to wear such a prestigious jersey as the one of Juventus.
I do like the nickname Re Leone – Lion King – and I’m happy the fans in Italy call me that. I know Italian football is difficult, but I think I can do very well here. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the year.
Hopefully, the PA will not play “The Circle of Life” when he scores — but I’ll put up with it if he scores enough.
Before discussing his hopes for his Juve career, Fernando was keen to tell his side of the story regarding his painful separation from his hometown club, Athletic Bilbao:
Unfortunately talks did not go well and the Press contributed to creating a negative image, which consequently turned the fans against me, too. It wasn’t the way I wanted it to go and I’ll always be grateful to Atleti. At this moment I am living the dream of growing as a player and have come to the best club to achieve that.
It was a complicated season for me with the situation at Athletic Bilbao, as I was unable to play or contribute to my team. Unfortunately that also made it impossible for me to play for my country, so I hope Juventus can help me get back into the Spain squad.
Fernando revealed that he has spoken to Antonio Conte in the past six months, presumably to discuss his tactical role for this season and beyond:
I was able to talk to Conte a few times. He seemed nice and I am very happy to be able to work with him. They deserved to win the title last season and hopefully we can do it again together.
I am not worried about the number of goals I’ll score, as the important thing is to help the team win and contribute to a third consecutive Scudetto. That is something Juventus haven’t managed since 1935, so it would be wonderful to break that drought.
Nice bit of trivia memorization! Of course, Fernando’s not just here to win in Italy, but he’s preaching patience with regards to the Champions League:
It is a very difficult tournament, so we have to take it one step at a time. Many top teams play in this competition and we mustn’t feel too much pressure. We need to relax and approach it slowly.
Next, Fernando answered the expected Tevez-compatibility question, and deftly deflected it:
It’s not just two of us in the team, as there are six strikers and all of us can do well. Who starts is down to Antonio Conte. I think that I can play alongside any of the strikers who are in the squad. They are all great players and I am very happy to be working with them.
It will be interesting to have an actual aerial threat this year; Juventus score very rarely on headers. Llorente is ready to change that, but not at the expense of his other skills:
Juventus are already set up to help me score many goals with headers. I believe that I can help Juve in every way. I hope to gain my confidence and do better every time. Spanish players can do very well in Italy and I have to prove that this season.
Finally, Llorente tackled an issue which may be of concern for some of us: Is he ready to play after basically taking six months off from official matches?
I am in great shape, as I worked for two years with Marcelo Bielsa, who is a very tough Coach in training. I also trained during the summer vacation to be ready for this experience.
Fernando said much, much more, including his desire to improve from playing with Pirlo, his admiration of past Juventini such as Baggio and Del Piero, and a slightly baffled but diplomatic answer to that stupid Ibrahimovic question (“I like him… and I’ve seen him play a few times.”). The press conference, including English translation, can be seen in its entirety here.
Benvenuto a Juve, Fernando! Here’s hoping for a prolific scoring career for our new prima punta.
And in case no one told you explicitly: Aim for Trezeguet, not Amauri!
Transfer Updates: No Jo-Jo, Waiting for Ogbonna
Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici continue to test the mercato waters, but as mentioned above, they will probably not make as big a splash as they did by signing Tevez.
Up until yesterday, Stevan Jovetic was seemingly not yet lost; in fact, his reported preference for Juve seemed to be single-handedly keeping the deal alive (we know Fiorentina weren’t doing us any favors).
Now, in what is either a statement of fact or a media bluff, Marotta claims that Fiorentina’s stubbornness has all but killed the deal, and that Juve are satisfied with their attacking acquisitions thus far:
With the arrival of Llorente and Carlos Tevez we have brought in two fantastic players and feel that we do not need more reinforcements in attack. Fernando is a player of total football, so he can only do better in Antonio Conte’s tactics. With his arrival the total quality of the side has gone up.
Jovetic? He was an option we went after during the summer, but due to difficult relations with Fiorentina I think at this point we are fine as we are. We’re satisfied with our signings. Could we open up talks again? Anything could happen from now until August 31, as in the transfer market things change from one day to the next. Who knows, maybe by the end of August Fiorentina will be offering him to us for a free loan…
Wouldn’t that be just like our Beppe to try and get him for free? Maybe that was his crazy-like-a-fox (or crazy-like-a-fox-with-limited-funds) plan all along. But as you can see by the implied sarcasm, Marotta’s not losing sleep over it.
The whole business is further complicated by the Viola’s desperate attempt to get Mario Gomez to come to Florence. If Juve are ever interested again, they have two potential aces in the hole, according to some in the Italian media.
If Gomez signs, Fiorentina will immediately have to sell Jovetic, maybe even at a discount, to make their money back and continue to wheel and deal in the mercato. Real Madrid have apparently low-balled them already, and we all know that we’re currently the low-ball masters. Should Gomez refuse, and with Jovetic almost certain to leave, then Fiorentina now need a striker. It turns out we have two for them to choose from: Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri. So, as Marotta says, the window is still technically open.
But honestly, with the other side of the deal being Fiorentina, who would rather lose everything than give us anything, I wouldn’t hold out hope for this ever happening, even considering Jovetic’s desire to be here. Which is too bad. Despite the risks involved (he’s not fully formed, he’s apparently made of glass), it would have been interesting to see him play in the rumored 4-3-3, or for him to form a rapport with fellow Montenegrin Mirko Vucinic (should he remain in Turin).
Meanwhile, you may have read that an announcement would be made on Monday for Angelo Ogbonna’s official city crossing. Monday came and went, and now the word is that Torino and Juve are still working on details, although a signing is relatively imminent. Marotta isn’t jinxing it, though he acknowledges the work in progress:
There is no point denying that Ogbonna is a Juventus target. We’re trying to bring him in and will see how it goes.
What’s the holdup? It could involve Ciro Immobile, whom Torino had earmarked for their attack this coming season. There were rumors of a possible crosstown co-ownership, but the problem is that Immobile is still part-owned by Genoa. Said Genoa president Enrico Preziosi to La Gazzetta:
Torino have showed an interest in Immobile, but I don’t think there are any offers. Juventus cannot include him in any negotiations without us, seeing as we have the sporting rights to the player. Therefore if Juventus want to use Immobile, they have to pay us €4m. Otherwise, Immobile will stay here.
That’s Preziosi — driving a hard bargain, which is his right. Still, Juve could easily buy the other half of the contract, so perhaps the hesitation betrays an increased interest in Ciro’s future, and whether he might have one at Juve. As I’ve said before, the kid has scored prolifically at all levels—until he ran out of playing time and good ball service at Genoa. Either send him to Torino, where he will likely play much more than in Genoa, or (and this would be less beneficial right now) take a chance and make a third or fourth striker behind Tevez, Llorente and Vucinic.
There’s no point in treating Quagliarella and Matri as second-class for another season—despite their inconsistent form, they could start in most other places. Why not get some money for them, then treat Ciro Immobile or Manolo Gabbiadini as second-class, since at this point in their careers, they actually are second-class?
I’d rather work my way out of the second class by playing in the first class, rather than being first-class for a second-class team. That’s the classiest way to do it, no?
Super Buffon Helps Italy Finish 3RD in Confederations Cup
The Azzurri managed to somewhat right the balance in a see-saw Confederations Cup that saw Italia underwhelm and win in the first two group games, fight hard only to get a raw deal vs. Brazil, then ultimately both outplay and lose to Spain.
Staggering exhausted and disappointed into a completely unwanted consolation match against Uruguay, it looked as though ItalJuve would have to settle for moral victories this summer, not actual ones.
But thanks to a fantastic performance from Gigi Buffon, including a very un-Gigi-like three saves in a penalty shootout, the Azzurri took home the bronze from Brazil.
Here’s the captain of club and country himself:
Great pride from everyone, because today it was truly tough. It would’ve been even tougher if we didn’t have this character. We struggled during the game, but fought to the end and seeing as against Spain I couldn’t give my teammates joy, I did it today—albeit a bit late.
It would’ve been disappointing not to win, as playing after two days in this heat it was so hard, but we had the right spirit and once again honored the jersey in the best possible way. Today was difficult to judge, as the fact we walked on to the pitch rather than crawled was a miracle in itself. Managing to win shows just what our potential really is.
Meanwhile, Gigi’s performance in such adverse conditions has led his agent, Silvano Martina, to make some bold — and maybe even plausible — claims:
Gigi can reach 40 quietly and without a fuss. He can make the World Cup in 2018. Gigi is an absolute champion and is still the strongest goalkeeper of them all.
The penalty shoot-out against Spain [in the semi-final of the tournament] was unlucky – those penalties were unstoppable. A goalkeeper can’t really be judged by a shoot-out – he has less to lose than the attacker. But the Confederations Cup was an event which prepared the team well for next year. Italian football has got back to its optimum level, amongst the top five in the world.
We’ve heard Gigi state that he figures he can last three more seasons at Juve—and that included last season. But by his agent’s rationale, if he’s good enough to be keeping goal for Italy in 2018, it would be a shame if he wasn’t doing it also on behalf of Juventus, no?
Whatever happens in reality, Sunday’s display affords us even more time to pretend this will go on forever. Grazie, Capitano!
- Roberto Mancini claims that Carlos Tevez won’t be a problem for Antonio Conte, and that their tumultuous rift in the middle of last season was a “momentary outburst.” In related news, “momentary outburst” now means “a dispute which exiles a player from his club for several months.” I know — it makes perfect sense now.
- For his part, Tevez promises to behave while at Juve. He probably will—I imagine that the same shit you can pull on Mancini and get away with in the end will get you immediately eaten by Antonio Conte. I think I mean that literally.
- Juve are reportedly asking €18 million from Zenit St. Petersburg for Mirko Vucinic, but would be willing to negotiate down to about €15 million. I won’t lie: Part of me will actually miss the occasional spells of laziness, the interminable time on the ball that led to turnovers—is this the calcio equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome?
- A €10 million price tag has “put off” Juve for Manchester United winger Nani. For that price, we can find any number of players who could potentially disappoint us. What makes you so uniquely average, Nani?
- Alessandro Diamante scored a goal (and a half) for Italy vs. Uruguay, which according to the press means that he is automatically once again a Juve transfer target. Giorgio Chiellini even slyly predicted to journalists: “He will make an appearance at Vinovo later this month.” I’m assuming we can trust someone with half-dreads to make the right decision here?
- According to the Mothership (or the official Mothership store), 95% of jersey sales are for Tevez’s No. 10. In related news, our STTBS Commerce Bureau has confirmed that the lone official Bendtner jersey sold by Juve’s store was indeed purchased by one of his family members, and therefore “still doesn’t count.”
- Juve are battling Galatasaray for the signature of Manchester City full-back Aleksandar Kolarov. Marotta has reportedly tabled a bid of €1.5 million for a one-season loan, with a €5.5 million option to buy. A confused Kolarov was quoted as saying, “Which club is Felipe Melo currently on? I’ll take the opposite.”
- Juve’s Primavera goalkeeper Laurentiu Branescu has been loaned to Serie B side Juve Stabia for one year with an option to extend for another year. To use a soda analogy, I imagine that’s like playing for Coke Zero, but hey, it’s a start!
- Emanuele Giaccherini says that this is the best moment of his career. I’ll say—not everyone is a major protagonist for Italy while struggling for playing time at Juventus. I’d be pretty satisfied too if I shattered logic itself.
- On behalf of all Azzurri fans, a big thanks to Martin Caceres for missing that weak penalty kick. You’re a true Juventino through and through. Someone extend his contract!
- Everyone see that fierce staring contest between Luis Suarez and Chiellini? I couldn’t read his lips, but I’m hoping Giorgio said, “Whatcha gonna do, Luis? Bite me?”
If you thought Juve’s myriad efforts to market the club over the past few seasons constituted a “hard sell,” then get ready for an all-new, state-of-the-market onslaught this year.
From the official website:
A record 2012/13 season for Juventus Member saw as many as 100,000 supporters purchase subscriptions to the official Bianconeri community, which has now undergone several new improvements aimed at satisfying all of the fans’ various needs.
In order to accommodate the inevitable influx of new members, the project has expanded to include the new J1897 package, which gives subscribers the opportunity to enjoy a dedicated and exclusive meeting with top management staff.
While the fan experience has now been enhanced via the recent introduction of the J1897 package, there are also a number of new surprises in store for subscribers to the Premium Member and Premium Member International schemes.
The 2013/14 season is about to begin and we wanted to provide supporters with advance warning that this exciting year promises to provide the most enthralling member experience yet!
Here is a list of the perks at the J1897 level:
- Meeting with top management: The exclusive chance to speak and interact with the company’s decision-makers.
- Juventus Premium Club waiting list: Move to the front of the queue by registering with J1897 Membership! Signing up allows you to put your name on the official waiting list for access to the VIP seating areas of Juventus Stadium.
- VIP Hospitality Experience: J1897 Membership offers you the chance to explore the all new glamorous Juventus Stadium hospitality section and enjoy the fan experience like never before.
- Working with Juventus partners: Services, events, previews and a wide range of other J1897 activities that you can find out about during the year.
- Special account via call center: An allocated phone number which allows you to obtain information and make bookings for the various J1897 activities during the year.
- and much, much more…such as priority ticketing rights for all home games, discounts on official merchandise and J-Museum admission.
To be clear, the International and Premium Memberships seem to have the most benefits, while also being strangely more affordable. I’m guessing the upside of the J1897 is mainly the chance to meet with Juventus management, and, as the official site claims, “suggest ideas for the future and voice your opinion about matters concerning the team by directly interacting with the managers.”
It may or may not be for you, but there’s no denying that the club are offering enough platforms to make it all but pointless to pass up a membership. And, if past accounts of special treatment in Turin are anything to go by, it was already more than worthwhile.
I shudder to think what Inter would offer you…
Buon Compleanno, Cochi!
Finally, we at STTBS would like to wish a very happy 93rd birthday to Lucidio “Cochi” Sentimenti IV, who is currently the oldest living Bianconeri legend.
In addition to being an excellent goalkeeper who appeared in 188 Juve matches and received nine Nazionale call-ups, Lucidio holds an extremely rare distinction: He is the only Juventus goalkeeper to ever score a goal.
Five, to be exact: Sentimenti converted five penalties during his Bianconeri career.
It seems fitting, following Sunday’s heroics by San Gigi Buffon, to draw a line through the past and celebrate the life and achievements of another great Juve shot-stopper. Same as it ever was.
Tanti auguri, sir!
That’s all for now.
But before we go, a very big JuventiKnows congratulations to Mirko Vucinic and his new wife Stefania Scoditti, who recently married. The man scores when it counts!
Stay tuned for more updates as the summer mercato continues. See you next time!
[STTBS]: Juventus News is a daily feature where the JuventiKnows editorial team discusses the JuveNews stories you need to read, without the “Messi signs for Juve on loan thanks to Nike” kind of nonsense. What does [STTBS] mean? You’ll have to guess that for yourself. We wouldn’t tell you even under pain of torture… (though we do take bribes)