The season is done, the sun is sweltering, and the Confederations Cup is, well, the Confederations Cup. Indeed that means that despite the fact that the transfer market still technically does not open until next week, transfers are on the front of any self-respecting soccer fan’s mind. A slew of preliminary moves conducted all around Europe, with big-money machines like Monaco and Barcelona leading the pack, have certainly done nothing to temper this. Juventini, meanwhile, are chomping at the bit for some transfer movement on the striker front. While all reports indicate that Marotta, Paratici, & co. have flown to London in order to close a deal for Carlos Tevez, the far quieter rumor percolating is the one which could place Angelo Ogbonna on the good side of Torino as soon as immediately.
To be clear, this rumor sounds fairly quiet today, on this 25th of June. There has been a lot of chatter about this move, mostly negative, on Twitter and elsewhere since the whispers first began around a month ago. I’ve previously made the case for Ogbonna but notwithstanding that, let’s take a look at what a potential move for the Toro defender means presently.
Most of the naysayers of the move make the argument out of fear that a move for Ogbonna would siphon sorely needed funds away from a landing a top striker. If true this is a very valid complaint (though completely ignoring Fernando Llorente’s imminent arrival), though my impression is that it is not. First, consider the fact that before Antonio Conte agreed to commit his future to Juventus, he made sure to meet with the Juventus brass in order to, among other things, ensure that his transfer strategy would be satisfied this offseason and beyond. Conte has a desire for more attacking options, as evidenced by the leaked reports as well as his own comments after the Champions League quarterfinals, in which he lamented the lack of personnel to employ a 4-3-3. In spite of this, Conte clearly has eyes for Ogbonna. Surely il Mister would not be directing efforts towards signing the young Italo-Nigerian if such a move must be mutually exclusive to those of attacking options.
But beyond that, let’s look at what the signing of Ogbonna means for the Juventus team. Consider the role he would occupy, in the back-line. Yes Juventus already boast the best defensive record in Italy, but infallible they are not. In fact, if Bayern taught us anything, it’s how much pace the first-choice center backs lack. Should Conte stick with a back-3, Ogbonna instantly becomes the fastest member of the lot. Furthermore, while many are always quick to sing the praises of Andrea Barzagli, who reinvented his career the past two years, he’s arguably the most lead-footed of the bunch and now 32 years old. I’m not for a moment downplaying Barzagli’s value or capabilities, but he isn’t getting any younger. Ogbonna adds depth and badly needed speed to that mix.
Of course Ogbonna as our paciest available centerback assumes that Martin Caceres, who has exceptional speed, is indeed not counted among them. This further illustrates why a move for Ogbonna makes sense, as I’ve often argued that Martin is best suited as a fullback in a back-four, more so than as center back or even a wingback in a 3-5-2. With a 4-3-3 looking more likely to be utilized (even if not as a permanent solution), depth in the center will not be as needed, and Ogbonna can on his own make up the numbers. Caceres could thus move out wide, covering at right back for Stephan Lichtsteiner, and may even be considered a first-choice left back — a spot he occupies quite frequently for reigning Coppa America Champions and World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay. With Federico Peluso and Paolo De Ceglie still on the books (albeit with the latter looking a likely departure) all this talk about the need for a left back seems more superfluous than Ogbonna’s signature. This is especially true considering one that the name most prominently mentioned for left back is Camilo Zuniga, himself a natural right-footer. Oh, and by the way, that is not even considering that the pacey, naturally left-footed Ogbonna can play there to good result if need be himself.
Yet perhaps the most significant of what a move for Ogbonna means is the impact it will have on Luca Marrone. Over the past year everyone has fallen in love with young Luca, with his heroic yet abbreviated U-21 European Championship for the Azzurrini only solidifying the love affair. I certainly was not immune. Yet his in-flux role for club versus country perhaps suggests that Ogbonna’s arrival makes all the more sense. While Luke Brown has been compared to Claudio Marchisio in the past, and has even been surmised to possess glimpses of Andrea Pirlo-like playmaking ability, he has justifiably been unable to find space in the vaunted M-V-P midfield trio. The emergence of Paul Pogba as a vice-any-of-the-above only further complicates things for Luca. Add to that, the heavy need for numbers at center back that a 3-5-2 requires made Conte improvise with the young midfielder as a ball-playing stopper, the vice-Bonnucci role. The results were good, but Marrone’s continued minutes as a midfielder for the national set-up suggest that he’s perhaps best suited to spending his formative years in one role where he has the most potential for upside, in midfield. The combination of a rotating formation and insertion of Ogbonna, as well as Juventus’ apparent change of heart on Andrea Poli (likely en route to Milan), could make this a likely option. That is unless the purchase of Ogbonna renders Marrone excess.
Among the names Juventus have been keen on this summer, Stevan Jovetic is among the hottest. The Montenegrin second-striker has long been a transfer target of Juventus, and Fiorentina have been insistent on selling only for his 30 million Euros buyout clause. Juventus, meanwhile, have been reluctant to splash that much cash. Some unconfirmed reports suggest that Juve were willing to table such an offer a summer ago. As the story goes however, Jovetic reluctantly agreed to stay one more year, as Fiorentina brass convinced them to help la Viola qualify for European competition once again. This year a new crop of injuries — a troubling recurring theme in Stevan’s still young career — may have changed decreased the Old Lady’s appetite a bit. With that, reports are that Juventus remain steadfast in their hope that a cash plus player exchange will be enough to seal the deal, a Carlos Tevez move notwithstanding. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Tevez means no Jovetic, and with the former looking increasingly likely the skeptic in me would seem to agree. But if reports are to be believed, and if a move to Juventus is truly at the top of his list — as can be inferred from his recent comments — perhaps a Christmas miracle can happen in July. If that is to be the case, the young midfielder fits the profile of a Vincenzo Montella player. Not coincidentally, reports now suggest a willingness from Juventus to include him in a potential deal for deal. While it would kill me to part with the Juventus youth product, you have to give something to get something, as they say.
So yes, Juventus signing Angelo Ogbonna does make sense after all. The transfer market has a rubix cube effect on a squad, and Ogbonna’s arrival could be but the first twist of the colors. Whatever the final outcome of the chain reaction, this move undoubtedly makes Juventus better.