Tag Archives: Juventus

Juventus 1 – 0 Bologna

20 Apr

Approaching this match, knowing that two wins in our next two league fixtures would send us to Rome needing only a draw to clinch our third straight scudetto, there was reason to be both excited and nervous. Especially after our rivals earned a valuable 0-1 away victory in Florence, reducing the gap between us back to five points.

Tevez and Vidal were named on the bench, both players still nursing slight injuries with Bonucci and Lichstiner suspended.

In place of the suspended Bonucci, Ogbonna put in another solid showing.

To the surprise of nobody, Conte lined up with our trademark 3-5-2, offering Giovinco a chance to continue his recent spurt of fine form in attack alongside Llorente. Behind him, Pirlo took up the position of fulcrum, flanked by Pogba on his right and Marchisio on the opposite side of the trident. Out wide in the wing-back areas, Asamoah matched up with Isla (who came in for the suspecneded Lichsteiner). It was Ogbonna who took up the Bonucci role, which at times can seem closer to libero than pure stopper.

We emerged from the traps at a decent pace. Immediately pushing forward and applying pressure to the Bologna blockade. Our opponent’s plan to defend in large numbers, keep 9 men behind the ball at all times and show zero interest in scoring was evident from the first whistle. Even when they were given the chance to counter, we invariably had 2-3 defenders to clean up at the back masterfully.

Pogba was looking lively. Pirlo in fine fettle. Asamoah strangely subdued, although he was faced with a wall of opponents whenever attempting to make in-roads into the final third. On the opposite flank, Isla was seeing much more of the ball, largely due to the dominating physical presence and wonderful technique of the nearby Frenchman.

Most of the first half was taken up with the same slow, deliberate build-up passing game we so often adopt against smaller teams whose prime objective is to hold firm defensively and cut off our supply routes on the wings and through the middle. Llorente found a few useful positions, as did Giovinco, but the two of them are yet to find any harmony as a pair, with both operating on different wavelengths at crucial moments when a chance could have been created and finished.

No changes were made by Conte in the interval. Clearly his thinking was that we would win the war of attrition, continue our laboured, obvious passing game, wear them down, hope for a moment of magic, or a mistake for us to capitalize upon.

Pogba – Possibly the greatest midfield talent on the planet.

It took until the 64th minute for us to finally break the dead-lock. And what a beautiful goal it was, arriving from the explosive feet of Pogba. Picking the ball up in the inner right channel from Isla, the youngster brought the ball down and smashed an unstoppable drive past the keeper from just outside the box. Just reward for an overall performance which stood out for its power, precision and skill. A true rifle-shot of a strike.

The goal caused a momentary wave of added confidence in our ranks and confusion in the Bologna rearguard yet soon enough the status quo reappeared and we reverted to the calm pressure routine whilst keeping things tidy at the back.

Padoin made a late appearance and did absolutely nothing and it was pleasing to see Vidal make a brief cameo in the dying moments. What was somewhat discouraging was the manner in which we spent the final minutes growing increasingly concerned and inviting Bologna onto us. For the first time in the whole match our opponents seemed to believe they could get something from the game and we were on the back-foot until the ref blew the final whistle. Immense relief washed through the ranks and stadium as a whole, with passionate embraces all round between manager and players symbolizing how much this victory meant to the club.

Stand out performers were few and far between since we were hardly tested defensively. And had a mountain to climb offensively due to the stifling, smothering tactics employed by Ballardini in the enemy dug-out.

Pogba was the most potent player on the field. More capable than any other of not only retaining possession when faced with an opponent, but also carving out space. Only fellow beasts can match him physically and his skill-set on the ball is slowly but surely maturing. Less fancy tricks, more successful dribbles. His shooting has never been in question, especially from long range.

At this rate, the 21 year old will soon be regarded as not only a world class talent in the making, but as one of the best midfielders in the world, such is his progress this season. There seems no major weakness to his game. Perhaps the most important transfer of the close season will be a non-transfer, keeping Paul at the club for at least another season, hopefully more.

Barzagli was average on his return to first team action, lacking match-sharpness as to be expected, but our fortunes are greatly improved by his calm presence in the first XI. The quicker he regains form the better our chances of success. Ogbonna was strong in the tackle, decisive and error-free, attempting to replicate Bonucci’s distribution responsibilities in a muted fashion.

I was interested to see Isla. He produced an assist for Pogba, worked very hard on the touchline and was noticeably more involved in the game than his counter-part on the left. The Chilean could have scored himself, after cutting in beautifully and launching the ball goalwards with his left boot. Has he done enough to warrant completing his purchase over the Summer??? For me, not in the slightest. Best to renew the co-ownership or attempt to recoup the 9m initial outlay for the 50% stake. Asmoah looks good value for the 18m we paid. To spend as much on former Udinese pal Isla would be criminal.

Up top, Llorente was useful for flick-ons and lay-offs, but rarely came close to a clear cut opening. His strike partner, Giovinco, won plenty of free-kicks, caused a steady nuisance and created a couple of good chances for other players. However, neither player impressed.

A mention should be made of Marchisio, who – as always – stuck to his task diligently, put his health on the line on a few occasions when blocking or intercepting the ball, found himself kicked, scythed, pole-axed and shoved all over the place. He is truly a great servant to the club.

Bologna were very robust in their approach to the game. Our strike force of the spaniard and imp was too weak to break through the brutal attention of Sorensen in particular, but also Antonsson, who pummelled the flimsy front men repeatedly throughout the match. This is one of the main problems with Giovinco; his complete lack of physicality. As for Llorente…I expect better of him, but it will take time to adjust fully to the sharp differences in defending between la liga and Serie A.

Freddy ‘the ice-man’ Sorensen showing off his pretty ear necklace…

It was a very encouraging performance by 22 year old Freddy Sorensen. A player I have admired since he first broke into our line-up in late 2010, merely months after joining our primavera in the Summer. His natural strength and intelligent reading of the game marked him out back then as a player of serious potential and I am glad to see him more than hold his own around far more seasoned professionals. If we are in the market for a centre-back, Conte and Beppe would be wise to consider the Dane. His contract runs until 2016 and I hope we renew the co-ownership deal in the Summer. Whilst his value continues to rise, prudence suggests we maintain the present situation.

The victory was welcome and deserved but our inability to break down a resilient opponent once again highlighted what I see as a lack of malleability or reactivity in Conte’s tactical thinking. He rarely seems to have any Plan B, nor appears particularly well prepared to take advantage of an opponent’s weaknesses. Conte’s method is to stick with the 3-5-2, pass the ball as much as possible, left, then right, then left, then right, slow paced build-up. Its all so predictable. And without the muscle, hustle and class of Tevez in the final third, and swash-buckling Vidal forcing mistakes and driving forward at every opportunity we are fairly easily contained.

Still much to learn, but at 44 years of age, Conte is already well on the road to becoming a Juve legend in the dug-out. His third scudetto in three seasons at the club will be a tremendous achievement. But what of Europe??

Conte needs to work on systems which draw such stubborn opposition out of their fortress. Laying siege works most of the time, but as we saw with Copenhagen, our lack of Plan B or C can truly be our downfall. We win by attrition in such circumstances or via a moment of magic as we saw from Pogba last night.

Instead of Padoin, why not bring on Vucinic?? Instead of Vidal, why not send Quagliarella into the fray?? Protecting a 1-0 lead at home to Bologna is understandable at this delicate stage of the campaign, though a step removed from a team confident of their superiority. Substitutions are another area in which as time wears on, I find Conte lacking.

When was the last time we saw him turn a game with a master stroke from the bench?? When was the last time he outfoxed a wily opposing manager through exploiting a weakness in a team we faced??

Its not only the playing staff which needs to improve, collectively, if we are to strive onwards and make moves to return to greatness on the European stage. It is also the management.


Lyon are banished and Benfica beckons…

11 Apr

Whilst we continued our poor and worrying form, we got through without any major hassle. We could say that about so many games since late January. We certainly have the telling trademark of a great team, as in, we keep winning when we play below full steam. More on that shortly…

For now, let’s peek at Benfica.

Any of the remaining sides would have been a far sterner test than we have faced so far in the Europa campaign. We have drawn the toughest opponent of the three, but I feel its a blessing in disguise to face Benfica over two legs rather than the final of just one match. We have Udinese away, who are safe, with nothing to play for and in generally poor to okay form. And then Bologna at home before the first tie v Benfica. Whilst Bologna are fighting for survival, they should prove a perfect warm-up; lambs to the slaughter. The second of two games we have to regain our confidence before aiming for glory against the Portuguese.

I hope that by that point we have regained momentum. Whilst Caceres has come good, after a few understandably shaky at times showings, I miss Barzagli. His poise, confidence, muscle, and brilliant reading of the game. The sooner we return to our ideal starting trio at the back the better. Its the foundation of everything we attempt and those three know each other’s games perfectly.

In between the europa ties we face Sassuolo away. Another infinitely winnable game.

Clearly, our own league schedule plays out as well as could be hoped for. No huge games. A chance to rest key players as much as finally score more than 1-2 goals per game. With Andrea back in the mix, I suspect everything else will fit into place. He has been conspicuous through his absence.

Benfica have Garay, who I have liked for many moons. Also there is Cardozo, whom we were interested in last Summer, yet his season hasn’t been amazing, in no small part due to a back injury which placed him on the sidelines for a couple of months. Lima and Rodrigo are solid options in attack, but the danger man is potentially Gaitan.

Its their league form which worries me somewhat. For their lead at the top is solid and they definitely have the winning habit. What is to be taken into the reckoning is the strength of the portuguese league. Other than Sporting and Porto, there is no real competition. Whereas Serie A seems much stronger. The top seven teams, which I would like to add Milan on top of, have some brilliant players. Whilst Italian teams have not been particularly vibrant in europe for a while, the quality is there.

We have scored 17 more goals than Benfica, having played 6 more matches, in a tougher league.

As for their european adventure…

They really should have escaped their champions league group. Despite beating PSG at home (they got mauled 3-0 in the reverse) their efforts were not enough against the weaker opponents in their group (Anderlecht and Olympiakios). So, like us, thrust into the Europa league, they exorcised their greek demons by demolishing PAOK 4-0 on aggregate, achieved an outstanding 1-3 away victory over Spurs, then found little problem in ending AZ Alkmaar’s european adventure with a comprehensive 3-0 aggregate victory.

On paper, we look like the favourites. On form, its a different matter.

My final point is regarding the managerial battle. This is where I fear we could be bettered. I am far from religious but there is something wrong about setting out to destroy Jesus. hohoho!..Joking aside, Jorge Jesus is clearly a talented, passionate manager. Not only has he returned Benfica to the top of the pile domestically, he has also endeared himself to the fans and squad, through such antics as fighting off policeman as they attempt to grab hold of a Benfica fan invading the field. He has also set records for a portuguese club’s defensive shut-out record (918+ minutes without conceding a goal at home). All the more remarkable an achievement given his penchant for attacking football.

He has won the league title with Benfica in the 09/10 season. Three domestic cup titles in the last four seasons. And taken his side to a Europa league final defeat in the 12/13 season. He knows how to reach the final, and is capable in cup competition. He also knows his squad intimately. And has their respect.

There are certain parallels to be drawn between the managers, notably in terms of passion and loyalty to the club. Although at 59, Jesus is vastly more experienced. Though it must be noted, his experience has been gained solely domestically.

My problem with Conte is his lack of malleability. When was the last time we saw first-hand or read of intelligent analysis detailing how Conte isolated an opponents weaknesses and exploited them??? His game plan seems to be tactically narrow, with the formation always the same, our game plan always the same. All that changes are personnel. Which seems blinkered.

How often do we see him change formation mid-game?? Its something he must and will learn with experience. For he must, as once the stakes become sky high, we cannot rely upon athleticism and organization, hoping for a moment of genius from Pirlo. This is what has put us in the Europe league. A lack of ingenuity.

It is instructive to read and hear comments from club and fans regarding the lack of tools at Conte’s disposal vis-a-vis trying a different formation. For he hasn’t tried (other than in friendlies). If we play 3-5-2, every single game, we are predictable. Teams know how to defuse our game.

In short, at the top level, its often tactical ingenuity which wins games. Not solely quality in the players chosen to take to the field. Look at how Martinez deployed Lukaku last weekend. How Mourinho’s substitutes against PSG worked supremely. This is an area where Conte needs to improve. And fast. If we are to have any confidence in winning the tournament.

Juventus v Livorno Preview

8 Apr

I expect Llorente will be starting given his absence from the Lyon match. As for who starts alongside him, logically it will be Giovinco or Mirko. Hopefully Seba, for I would very much like to see him given a run of games before the end of the season, and really stake a claim for his continued presence in our squad next season. For he is a player who I feel is as much at risk as Mirko and even more so, Quagliarella, when it comes to making space for attacking improvements in the Summer.

We crushed local side Ivrea 10-1 last Friday afternoon with Agnelli, Conte and Beppe Marotta all in the stands. Conte deployed an interesting 3-4-3 formation-
Caceres Bonucci Ogbonna
Lichtsteiner Padoin Marchisio Peluso
Giovinco Quagliarella Vucinic

Not sure of all the scorers, although Mirko, Quags, Giovinco and Juve fans favourite Padoin were amongst them.

It would be a surprise to see the above formation, although it makes sense to offer a break to Pirlo, Chiellini and especially Asamoah as well as giving Ogbonna and other strikers the chance to gain some much needed match fitness. Any team we place on the field should be good enough to crunch Livorno, but with the gap down to 5 points presently, I expect to see Pogba and Llorente added to the first XI (at least).

Whilst local piedmont side Ivrea are far removed from a serie A side, winning any game so handsomely breeds confidence and re-invigorates the winning mentality. So the more of that crowd that play, the better.

Any doubt whatsoever regarding the fitness of Tevez must preclude even a cameo. The enforced break for Vidal will surely do his muscles if not his head the world of rejuvenation for like others, he has appeared jaded of late.

I hope and expect that whoever we choose between the sticks enjoys a quiet evening, and with that in mind, I’d rather pick Santo Buffon. Keep the old man fresh and sharp.

The presence at the friendly match of the president and directors was surely designed to give the team a jolt.

Livorno have only won one of their last five but will be buoyed by holding Inter to a draw last week and are scrapping for survival, so expect no easy ride. However, this match is one of our easiest (on paper) of the end of season run-in and we must be expected to win and win well. Give our fans something to cheer for from their hearts, not just their throats.

Juve Back Room staff

6 Apr

Following on from my appraisal of squad depth I now turn my focus towards the staff tasked with coaching and conditioning.


Fitness coach of the year yet again, Paolo Bertelli

Bertelli was recently awarded his second  Cronometro d’Oro award (stopwatch of gold) for his sterling work as our fitness coach.  The first accolade came through his time at Roma in 2008 and he has reclaimed the crown after guiding our squad to their second scudetto in 2013.

Paolo has also worked with Fiorentina and his efforts certainly seem to bear fruit given the manner in which we have pushed on after Christmas, maintained our fitness levels when other teams around us have faltered.

Tough physical training may also offer some insight into why we rarely seem to start at full speed, but by the second half, when the opponents begin to tire, we continue at the same rhythm.

Julio Tous, our sports performance innovation specialist alongside Llorente

Julio Tous came to the club first on a part time basis and more recently in a permanent role. His sports fitness work is of the highest pedigree having worked with Rafa Nadal, Carlos Moya and Svetlana Kuznetsova in tennis, Racing Santander, Real Zaragoza and Real Sociedad in football and also various hockey and basketball teams.

The spaniard is highly qualified, and aided Roberto Sassi in developing and implementing the Training Check program which ties together the many Juve squads into an alignment of fitness coaching doctrines. All players work-loads and training regimes are recorded, and altered according to their age and first team requirements.

Tous seems particularly interested in Pogba…and he had this to say on the player in May of 2013.

“Coaching Paul Pogba is a little like coaching Carl Lewis. I don’t know what kind of career [Pogba] will go on to have, but as an athlete he is extraordinary,” 

“I’ve encouraged Pogba to concentrate on running 400 meters. We are definitely trying to push him in that direction.”

His onus is on muscular strength, aiming for power above all else, which allows athletes to run for longer and become less susceptible to injury. Need we look further than Andrea Pirlo for evidence of his effect at the club, a player whose fitness levels sky-rocketed after joining the club from a Milan side where he was far from a first team regular.

Some of Julio’s work elsewhere includes the collection and nourishment of blood platelets. The science behind which appears to be the decrease achieved in recovery from injury if a player is injected with his own blood, enriched with proteins, when suffering from injury. This subject has caused a small stir on occasion, but how much such routines are in place at Juve is impossible to tell, and the nut of the matter is that no rules have been broken and I expect that other elite clubs are making the most of science as I hope we are in turn.

The main methodology of Tous is muscle power and associated muscle resistance.

Roberto Sassi and a prime example of the results of bringing in top drawer professional fitness conditioning experts…Andrea Pirlo.

Roberto Sassi boasts an impressive CV which includes experiences with some of Europe’s finest clubs.

After beginning his career in 1978 with Varese, Sassi travelled across the continent working with Lecce, Lazio, Avellino, Torino, Verona, Salernitana, Fiorentina, Valencia, Athletico Madrid, Chelsea, Parma, Sampdoria and Dynamo Moscow.

During his spell with the Blucerchiati, Sassi focused on youth development and devised the highly successful Training Check initiative.

Sassi then brought his methods to Juventus, with the club now reaping the rewards of his innovative blueprint.’


Sassi indeed appears another venerable member of our fitness coaching staff. Highly experienced in various footballing cultures and co-founder and now manager of our Training Check program.

However, my research unearthed something interesting…

During an interview with Mourinho in late 2005 after taking control of Chelsea from Ranieri, the self annointed special one was asked, as were others at the club, of the difference in coaching methods. Sassi had been in charge of fitness matters under the italian. It was suggested that Sassi worked the players incredibly sternly, running harder and for longer than they were used to or perhaps comfortable with.

Mourinho’s words were as follows…

“Just to run you don’t need to think…sometimes you just close your eyes and you just do what they tell you to do. ‘Ten times 200 metres.’ On the seventh repetition, you are full of lactic acid, you close your eyes, but you do it. ‘They pay me for this, so I have to do it.'”


We are in 2014 not 2005 and its fair to assume that Sassi has adjusted his methods, especially after working in concert with Tous.

With the major players dealt with I will briefly mention the rest of the known coaching staff.

Constantino Coratti has been in the business of fitness coaching for twenty years. His career includes spells at Frosinone, Sora, Casertana, Potenza, Viribus, Ascoli, Spezia, Grosseto and Arezzo. Other than which, very little can be known.

Whilst listed as a first team coach, Mauro Sandreani, as all football manager fans will know, is a scout. I assume he is our head scout. Whether his job is weighted more towards scouring the globe for new talent or isolating weaknesses and strengths of our opponents, I am unsure. Someone does that job. But who???

Sandreani – First team coach or Juve spy???

Sandreani appears to my eyes and connected facets as an italian Sergie Lavrov. A man who says little, but when he speaks, he means every word. A wily figure who prefers to remain in the shadows. He strikes me as a man to set to the task of asking awkward questions without asking them. Of digging well below the topsoil and unearthing weaknesses at the root.

There is also Massimo Carrera, former Juve centreback, who is part of the first team coaching unit. We all saw him take the reigns during Conte’s ban. His passion for the club and uncompromising defensive stature are surely useful to the club at all levels.

Claudio Filippi is our goal-keeping coach. He is apparently held in high regard across the continent and has been responsible for several innovations in our coaching/ training regime which incorporate the latest technology of improving shot-stoppers. Given the wonderful form of Buffon, as well as his back-up Storari, Filippi appears a quality element of our coaching set-up.

Angelo Alessio – Conte’s Hephaestion.

Born in Capaccio di Scalo (Salerno) on 29 April 1965, Angelo Alessio is no stranger to the Bianconeri faithful, having represented Juventus 142 times, from 1987 to 1992, winning the UEFA Cup and the Coppa Italia in 1990.

Alessio hung up his boots in 1998 and immediately embarked on a coaching career. He worked as a coach with former team-mate Antonio Conte from the start of their successful adventure in Siena.


Here is clearly a man whose heart beats in time to the Conte salsa. As mentioned above, Angelo has been by his side since the Siena days and its fair to assume he is an extension of Conte’s ears and eyes in all matters Juve. What skills he brings to the table are tricky to isolate, but without any doubt he is an unwaveringly loyal ally to Antonio.

I am of the opinion that the incident involving Quagliarella muttering harsh words in response to his substitution by Alessio in a game played in late 2012, truly marked the striker’s card, not just with Angelo, but also with Conte. Such is the bond between the dynamic duo. One for all and all for one…

In conclusion, we appear to have a well balanced mixture of high quality professionals and Juve faithfuls running our coaching staff. Which should be a perfect marraige. The technical gurus meshed with the highly experienced not just in the game itself, but of the Juve DNA. A well prepared plan.

(The only men I have neglected to mention are Beppe Marotta…who we know mightily well…and his commander in chief, Fabio Paratici. As far as I can fathom, Paratici is involved solely with transfers, so I will leave his story for another outing)

Suffice to say, we are well equipped on the staffing front, and must now hope that the set-up is fertile and capable of making the best of whoever Conte, Beppe and Paratici bring into our ranks.



Juve Slump – Is fatigue the culprit???

5 Apr

Looking at our form over the past few months on paper leads to a very different impression to the perception gleamed from watching the matches. Whilst we have maintained consistency in our results, with the loss to Napoli at the weekend our first league defeat since the débâcle in Florence last October, the form of the side has been often worrisome, at times harrowing. 

After the 4-2 reverse away to Montella’s vibrant Fiorentina side, we reacted brilliantly and went on a magnificent run of victories in Serie A. This wave of fine form did not abate until the coppa italia quarter final against Roma. Which we lost. That match proved a turning point with our formerly imperious momentum stopped in its tracks. Our 13 game winning streak in the league ended with the next league fixture in Rome, in which we played well enough, but something seemed different. 

That 1-0 loss to Roma came about in no small part due to Conte’s decision to start no less than six second string players. 

The results kept coming and injuries began to play a prominent role in our output but our confidence on the field had altered. The comprehensive defeat in Napoli had been coming for many weeks. And I can only hope it serves as both inspiration to add fire to the blood of our first XI, and also, serious suggestion to Agnelli, Marotta and Conte, to improve the quality of our squad.

Transfers and Money – Its time for the three muskateers to step up our game.

An appraisal of our reserves to the first XI is tricky and lengthy…but I must begin and hope to finish.

Clearly our ideal starting team is –


Lichsteiner Barzagli Bonucci Chiellini Asamoah

Vidal Pirlo Pogba

Tevez Llorente


Buffon is no slouch. He remains a legend and continues to confirm his reputation as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Storari is a brilliant back-up option, but at 37 years of age, he is likely to be replaced in the Summer. Gianluigi is 36, but with constant selection added to his demi-god talent, I feel he has another year or two at least, at the very top level. The subject to raise in regards to Storari is…Would a young, talented, unproven keeper be a better option??? A keeper desperate to prove himself, desperate to show he is the legitimate heir to Buffon??? I think so. Which is why I expect us to bring in another portiere over the Summer. Leali looked amazing last season in Serie B. Inexperienced, but oozing with natural talent. His current season at Spezia has been solid, yet our plans are too intense to replace Marco with a keeper yet to save a shot in Serie A. Kevin Trapp of Frankfurt seems an interesting option. 


Caceres and Ogbonna are fine reserves for our ultra solid (when fit) trio at the back. Whilst I would have liked to have seen more of Caceres as a wingback in our present formation, he has performed at least competently whenever called upon to step into the breach and with a lengthy run of games, I suspect he could prove top drawer. My issue with his game is mainly positional, for whilst he is always gung-ho in the challenge, and loves to move up the field, at times, he is suspect when the ball finds its way into our rear-guard region. Our major talent in the making, recently given his debut in the Italy U21 squad, in a game in which he scored, Daniele Rugani, looks a wonderful prospect. Calm with the ball at his feet, capable in physical battles, and a useful option at set pieces. It may be too soon for the 19 year old to step up to our senior squad. If Empoli gain promotion, I suspect he will remain with them to gain valuable top flight experience next term. Which leaves me pondering that solely Ogbonna is a dependable reserve. However, I suspect we will change formation for next season. And that could lead to a back four. With Bonucci, Chiellini, Barzagli and Ogbonna battling for the two spaces available, I feel we are very well covered.


Lichsteiner – Fullback or Wingback???

Lichsteiner is a natural RB. He has done tremendously well as a marauding RWB but his natural game is as a fullback in a back four. Isla seems to be gaining familiarity with the club and match fitness, but has yet to produce even a semblance of the ultra promising form which persuaded us to invest EU9m for a 50% share of his registration in the Summer of 2012. With such a huge outlay, and taking into account his injury nightmare of last season it is understandable that the club do not yet wish to accept a major loss on the financial front, but also potentially on the playing front, for if we sell him to a rival, and then he returns to his Udinese form, we will have lost millions of EUROS for the privilege of offering a rehabilitation program. Still only 25, and a regular for the Chile national side, I suspect we will give him another season. Which would leave us a little short in the RB/ RWB area if Maurico continues to falter, yet Caceres can do a job there. Perhaps Beppe’s plan is to keep him fit, hope Chile do wonderfully in the World Cup, and watch Isla’s price tag rocket. With the remaining 50% likely to be purchased outright over the off-season later this year, rather than pay the expected EU9m, Juve may be considering inserting into the deal a number of our youngsters, with Udinese showing interest in Daniele Rugani, Simone Zaza and Luca Marrone (most likely these would be co-ownership deals).

On the opposite flank the situation is less jolly. Asamoah has produced phenomenal form since finding himelf shor-horned into the LWB role, yet I yearn to see him given more opportunities in his natural dynamic CM position. He is good enough as a LWB for Serie A, but for Europe, I am less convinced, and its Europe where we have failed this season, so it must be brought into the reckoning. Other than Asamoah, Peluso is average defensively but hugely less potent moving up the pitch. I see him as closer to a reserve for Chiellini, for which we already have the stronger and more versatile Ogbonna. I expect to see Peluso move on come the transfer window. Which leads to the opening for a new LB or LWB. A specialist in the position.


Pirlo is ageing, yet remains often incredible and the bearded wonder does not appear to be losing pace and stamina. Regardless of such pondering, we have no natural alternative to his regista role in the squad. Marchisio can play there, and produce an acceptable showing. For Pogba, it demands too big a step away from his wonderful ability to move forward and take up positions high up the field. The young frenchman is already superb at 21 years old and with the finest club sides on the world stage as his suitors, I hope he stays with us for at least next season, hopefully beyond. Vidal has enjoyed a great season. In terms of box to box midfielders, only the monstrous Yaya Toure exceeds his quality. Il Principino has stuck to his task from the shadows, and shown the same impeccable call to duty whenever called upon.


Is Asamoah wasted on the left flank???

Which for me, leaves Asamoah, who I firmly believe could step into either of the Pogba or Vidal roles. Much hinges on our ability to liberate the african from the flank over the Summer. I would be confident with Asamoah and Marchisio not just backing up, but challenging, Pogba and Vidal for a starting spot. Essentially, we desperately require another regista. Marrone has not done enough in a Sassuolo squad lacking character. Which means we must look elsewhere…Alonso would be my ideal choice, but why would he swap sides??? Then there is Verratti…but to bring him into our fold would surely mean the departure of Pogba. For me, that is too high a cost. Daniele Baselli of Atalanta has been talked about, but has yet to show the form required to warrant his purchase.


The integration into our squad of Tevez has done wonders for a front line which lacked creativity as well as top drawer penetration. We are far more threatening with Carlitos in the ranks. And he has proven the difference many times in his maiden campaign for the club, in games which last season we may have drawn or lost. Alongside him, after a slow start to adjusting not just to Serie A but regular football in general (after his odd year at Atletico), Fernando Llorente has been a relative success. His ability in the air and on the turf – especially in terms of holding up the play and bringing others into the final third – has been a useful addition to our attacking repertoire. I strongly believe that he will become even stronger next season. 

As for the others…Mirko, whilst injured until recently, was clearly on his way out in January. It must be assumed he will leave. Giovinco has shown true quality solely against weak opposition and I feel his time is up at Juve. Quagliarella has been frozen out of proceedings, and his card seemed marked many moons ago when aiming nasty words towards Alessio. He has not been given the run of games required for any striker to hit full stride, and apart from that incident, his individuality doesn’t fit into Conte’s intense focus upon players who work first and foremost for the team ethic. Out in the Summer. 

Which by my reckoning, leaves three gaps in our roster. 

Is Berardi ready for Juve???

Berardi is an option. His output has suffered as his side has struggled to confirm their adjustment from the second tier to the first, but in flashes, he has displayed incredibly promising form. My suspicion is that Sassuolo will go down, and we will find another Serie A club to continue his development. Next on the list of possible additions to our strike-force, is Ciro Immobile. 17 goals from 23 Serie A games cannot be ignored. He deserves consideration. Yet deeper analysis beckons the question…Whose place could he take?? I would be intrigued to see an Immobile/Tevez tandem, yet what would provide greater excitement would be to see his partner in the Torino attack join our ranks. 

Alessio Cerci is a player I am keen to see us purchase. Even for a discounted price involving selling off our half of Ciro. He has pace, trickery, dribbling and can shoot. He can be deployed in various positions, allowing us to add some presently absent natural width to the final third. Its Cerci I want from Torino, not Ciro. Both would be welcome.

There have been plentiful rumours of the potential acquisition of Jeremy Menez, who is available on a free in the Summer. The french international has the talent. Of that there is little doubt. Its the application of that talent which has been questionable in his career to date. He is a player who can be deployed across the front line, on the flank, driving through the middle from an advanced midfield position, capable of using both feet to sometimes dazzling effect. Breaking down well marshalled quality sides is a problem we now face since returning to the top of the pile domestically. Adding another element to our offensive phalanx who can dribble, beat players and passes beautifully makes Menez perhaps our major target of the mercato.

Recently he told the press that he admires Juventus, and would find no issue in acclimatizing to Italian football once again (after his previous stint at Roma). Promising signs, yet we are certainly not his only suitors, with Arsenal likely to challenge and Monaco another option.

At 26 he still has time to smooth out the rough edges to his game, which in his case appear mainly, if not solely, focused in his mentality. If there is one area where I feel Conte is absolutely superb, it is his man management abilities. It could be a perfect marriage.

Squad rotation and the accumulation of fatigue have been high on the agenda of Juve related discussion over the last two months. A comparison between Juve and another top club seems the best way of performing an analysis. I choose the Germans of Bayern Munich.

Does Guardiola rotate more or less than Conte???

Minutes Played (outfield players only)


  1. Pogba – 2444
  2. Vidal – 2421
  3. Bonucci – 2250
  4. Chiellini – 2234
  5. Tevez – 2226


  1. Rafinha – 2024
  2.  Lahm – 2024
  1. Alaba – 2013
  2. Dante – 1984
  3. Boateng – 1900

I could go deeper, but the above clearly demonstrates a major difference between the two squads. Five of our outfield starting XI have played at least 200 minutes more than their Bayern counterparts, with Pogba over-worked to the extreme.

Guardiola is able to use his finest talents more sparingly because the squad depth is considerably stronger. There is not the same obvious division between first XI and second string, whereas with Juve, there is. A fully fit Juve gives a tried and tested selection. The same is not true of our bavarian rivals.

A more simple method of comparison is to look at which of our players would find any minutes at all in the Bayern war machine. Outside of our first XI its fair to assume that the following players could challenge for a second string role at the Allianz stadium – Marchisio and Caceres. It could be argued that Vucinic and Ogbonna might get a sniff of action, but its a stretch.

We have made major progress under Conte. The first team has become capable of dominating Italy, yet has been far from impressive on the continental stage this term. Much of the reason for this failure is our reliance upon a core group of players, with the others not meeting the required mark.

Since I have come this far I will take the final step and suggest who I feel is dragging us down, through no fault of their own or of the club; its more a matter of money as well as the present lack of allure of Serie A. The predominant factor is spending power.

Quagliarella, Peluso, Padoin, Isla make up the first group. After which I would ear-mark Vucinic, Giovinco and Osvaldo are others potentially in need of upgrading.

The other burning question is focused on our formation. Were we to lose the 3-5-2, we could adopt a flat back four allowing greater rotation of our centre-backs. Lichsteiner would be a better player as a fullback, yet we would need to purchase a specialist LB for the opposite flank. Adding in Cerci and Menez would allow us to attack with far greater quality on the flanks, and our reliance upon a regista would be lessened. As would the need to find another Pirlo.

Admittedly our potency up top has been upgraded dramatically. Regardless we remain often one-dimensional. Opponents are well aware how to contain us – through blocking our regular channels of attack – and our ability to dominate and destroy has been reduced. Rather than improve the quality of those deployed in the 3-5-2 which has served us so well over the last three seasons, its high time we evolved tactically. A decision and responsibility which rests solely on Conte’s thick shoulders.


Antonio Conte – You have returned us to the throne of Serie A Kings, but how will you conquer Europe?


The comparison with Munchen was interesting, the results as expected. A similar contrast appears when looking at Man City, although clearly Zabaleta is a certainty to start whenever fit. As is Toure, but Yaya cannot be included in the study because he is half lion/ half devil. Fatigue is not in his blood-line.

Over at Chelsea, the situation is markedly different. With Hazard, Terry and Ivanovic all having played more than Pogba (our outfield player with the most minutes pitch-side this campaign). Which suggests that either the premiership is less energy sapping (which I would contest with vigour) or that Chelsea have acquired players with superior natural stamina or that their training methods and sports science models are more advanced than our own.

Eden Hazard has played 2700+ minutes and yet remains world class. Another freak perhaps??

Real Madrid seem similar to ourselves with a comparable range of numbers for their top five used outfield players.

Other factors are at play. Spain is an easier league for attacking players and possibly for defenders with the onus generally appearing to be more on offence than a balanced game. Premiership football is more hustle and bustle, frenzied, hectic which would sap physical energy more quickly, but perhaps leave mental energy levels less affected. Which is where the italian game, still wily, slower-paced yet intelligent, tricky, could well prove the biggest consumer. Players need to think more to break down teams in Serie A. Not just because of how your opponents are set up, but how your own side is deployed. Whilst times are slowly changing, especially with la nazionale, there remains a sense of catenaccio. Especially when teams play us!

Mourinho’s right-hand man, conditioning and fitness coach Rui Faria. Does Alessio provide the same expertise for Conte???

The issue of fatigue, I feel, is not as confirmed a reason for our slump as some commentators assert. Moreover, its the quality of our squad that is the problem. And possibly, our sports science modelling should be improved. Do any of us have any idea of the scientific elements in place vis-a-vis squad conditioning?? Its something many of the elite clubs incorporate to a high degree, with players monitored and conditioned in ways which to a manager of yesteryear would seem laughable. It would be interesting to find out who we have employed for this clearly important work.

Juventus 3-1 Chievo

17 Feb

Could Pirlo steer the troops to victory against Chievo???

Player Ratings-

Buffon – 6

His fate was tied to that of the defence in front of him, which was lacking confidence and security throughout the match. Thankfully, Bonucci put in a solid shift leaving Buffon with very few direct shots to deal with. Several of his decisions to parry and punch rather than catch the ball could of put us in danger.


We are used to so much more from our swiss nazi. His energy levels seemed fine, but the final ball was profligate and I felt that he lacked confidence in Caceres (especially after that horrible own goal!). An off day for the marauding wingback.

Caceres- 5.5

Hardly one of his best showings for the club. I am fond of the lad, for his tackling and determination, but am close to concluding he is best deployed on the flank (where he plays for his country). Needs to work on his positional awareness.


He was the rock we needed in absence of his two regular partners at the back. Cleaned up, covered brilliantly, distributed the ball carefully and made his presence felt in both boxes. Five interceptions, five clearances and two shots blocked. A mature performance from Leonardo.

Ogbonna –6.5

Still yet to persuade me that he is worth the money we spent, but in his defence its his first season and he hasn’t had many games. Perhaps a run in the side would settle him down and bring out his best form. Deserves praise for keeping things simple and the ball moving whenever he received it. He made 98 passes, but the vast majority were over 5-10 yards, which suggests his plan was to sit deep. Which is different to how King Giorgio plays, who despite his lack of technique on the ball, loves to bomb forward and try to get involved.


The most talented man on the field. Drove forward constantly, made himself available as the fulcrum of all our attacking play. Put himself about defensively. Two assists…always a danger from set pieces. He ran the Juve show from start to finish. Tremendous, but its what we have come to expect from the great man…


Never stopped running and gave great support at the back to Ogbonna and Asamoah. I was so happy to see him get on the score-sheet. Never one to complain, just gets his head down and gets on with the job. As mentioned further down, he is a definite second choice for me behind Pogba, but few teams will have such a wonderful back-up.


Dogged in the challenge, but offered little moving forward. Maybe this was partially due to an awkward outing by Lichsteiner, forcing the Chilean to hold the fort more than forage in the final third. He appeared low on steam, yet still dependable. His season has been magnificent, its to be expected to find a run of games where he is below his best form.

Asamoah -8

Probably would have been closer to a 7 but that goal was magical. We don’t see that much of his prowess in that position driving through the middle, and it was one of those moments which made me think he is somewhat wasted out wide. His defensive work was average, and with Chievo heavy in numbers in both fullback areas, he found it hard to make headway in the final third. Wonderful strike though.

Llorente- 6.5

Well marshalled by the Chievo rear-guard, chances were running at a premium for the spaniard. Took his goal well enough but his link-up play with Giovinco was non-existent, the two of them often found far too close together. I hope that Osvaldo’s arrival doesn’t affect his form negatively.


Displayed great enthusiasm but was simply out-muscled or ran into a group of players too many times. His movement was out of sync with the rest of the team, but what can we expect when he hardly plays. Ran out of tricks or into a Chievo wall whenever a good chance seemed possible. The critical reception of the crowd when he was subbed off will have done his confidence no good, which shouldn’t be happening, especially when we are winning a game at home, top of the league and unbeaten in 15 matches. He deserves more respect, yet I assume, the fans feel they deserve more from him…

Osvaldo- 6

Instantly at ease on the field, Danni was given twenty minutes to impress when Chievo were shutting up shop and fatigue was setting in for both sides. He found two chances, one of which he nearly put away, the other, rather wayward. His link-up play with Tevez was present throughout and I suspect he has a chance of starting one of next two games.


Showed eagerness to involve himself and linked up well with Osvaldo. Merely a run-out to prepare him for our tie with Trabzonspor on Thursday.

10 goals and 3 assists from 17 starts in his maiden Serie A season…


The early stages of the game saw Chievo forced back and a lot of possession at our feet, as to be expected. It became quickly clear that our opponents were making up for their deficit of quality with brute force, with several of their tackles bordering on atrocious. What pleased me was to see how we reacted to the onslaught of hacking and scything, trips and barges. It began with two brilliant fouls by Pirlo and Marchisio, which demonstrated that if they wanted a scrap, we would be happy to oblige. I like that about our team, its one of those those vital ingredients which have been gradually creeping back into our game since Conte appeared on the scene. Its grinta…

The Asamoah goal was a thing of beauty. How often would we see such incisive penetration were he deployed as one of our central midfielders?? It is a good question, which cannot be answered until/unless we employ a specialist LWB. The one-two and the finish were sublime.

Marchisio got the goal his efforts deserved, threw himself into challenges, made himself available all over the field and gave as good a performance as I have seen of him for many moons. However, it was evident for the entirety of the game that our midfield was noticeably weaker without Pogba. It was suggested, by myself as well as many others last Summer, that this season could see il principino deposed from the starting XI and its easy to see why. Claudio is a wonderful servant to the club, technically solid, intelligent, but a weaker player than Pogba, in all areas of the game other than covering and moving around un-noticed. Yet I feel that despite Pogba’s understandable inexperience and greater comfort in the offensive phase of the game, the frenchman is not far off the italian defensively, due in no small part to his physique and robustness of bone and gristle. Whereas Claudio reads the play, senses danger with more zeal, I would always rather be facing him in a challenge on the ground or especially in the air, than Pogba. As with the player I measure as the only central midfielder superior to Vidal, (Yaya Toure), when Pogba has the ball, players literally bounce off him…He is very hard to stop once driving forward. His natural advantage of height and strength allow him more time to think before passing or shooting.

Speaking of Vidal…he is suffering from a lethargy of sorts. I would have preferred to see him rested for this game. He tackled well, but was far from his usual swashbuckling presence moving forward. Part of that problem could well be down to Caceres and an off game by Lichsteiner, both of whom I did not feel played well. Its tricky at times to see how he could ever get into our starting XI, certainly as a CB. He loves to tackle, but positionally, he is often suspect, and can tend to stand off players when worried about what is behind him. Which worries me even more!

Without Pogba to create from the centre and Tevez fighting his way all over the pitch, we became, at times yet again one dimensional, with literally everything going through Pirlo. Adding in another creative force makes us a far more dangerous team.

Llorente toiled hard but often found himself in the same area as Giovinco, which didn’t help matters. Regardless, he got his goal, well taken in the air, where he will become absolutely lethal I am sure, in time. The front two were not working in tandem, which had a knock-on effect for the rest of our play. Not just Llorente, but also Tevez, both act as reference points in the final third. The Argentine is a dwarf, but he not only has superb body strength but he uses it very smartly. Asking Seba to muscle it out with uncompromising centre-backs is a waste of his talents and our tactics. There seems no room for him in our 3-5-2.

If we want to make the most of his natural abilities, we would place him in a role between midfield and attack, not ask him to fight to even receive the ball against giants. That role does not presently exist. Whilst it seems reasonable to assume he will be heading out in the Summer, his final chance at Juve finished, I do wonder how he could perform in a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2. And then there is that extremely successful stint at Parma to consider…Something along the lines of 15 goals and as many assists, when deployed often as one of a front pairing in a 3-5-2 (although equally often as an AM in a 4-2-3-1).

Pirlo seems in fine fettle and the Tevez/Osvaldo axis seemed far more dangerous a pairing in the brief time they had to shine, yet some of that was due to their freshness. I get the impression they could be rather handy together.

Defensively we were far from stable. Ogbonna was more impressive than Caceres, but the absence of Chiellini and Barzagli was palpable and at times a major concern. Let’s hope they are both ready for the Europa tie mid-week.

Overall, a 3-1 home victory, with 4 of our starting XI rested, with the only goal conceded something of a freak occurrence, is hardly worth whining about. Still, I have to admit that I felt that same unease as from last season, when we would sometimes dominate games but find it hard to turn our dominance into clear cut chances. Llorente’s goal was fortunate, given the keeper’s position, who should have cut out the cross. Marchisio’s was off a rebound, always a luck affair. One other clear chance for Osvaldo…other than which, not much to show for 64% possession.

We struggled in aerial challenges, no doubt due to the absence of Pogba in the middle, who towers above most players, and also Tevez in attack, whose ability to win the ball in the air, bring it down and play it on, is rarely mentioned but always valuable.

Essentially, we were disjointed in defence and attack. Had we started with Pogba, Tevez, Chiellini and Barzagli I suspect we would have pummelled Chievo. As it stood, we were still worthy winners, yet were scrappy and lacking ideas/ intelligent movement for much of the game.



Mbaye Diagne off the mark in Belgium

11 Feb

Towering Senegalese striker, Mbaye Diagne opened his account for new club, Lierse (of Belgium) with a goal on his debut in their impressive 2-0 victory over Anderlecht. After failing to find any action at Ravanelli’s Ajaccio before Christmas, due to issues with his registration, it seems that Mbaye is hungry for glory…as witnessed by his beautiful hatrick in the next outing; a 1-5 slaughter of bottom club Mons. Lierse sit in 9th spot in the juliper league, 8 points off european qualification.

After showing a goal-poachers instinct to fire in a rebound against Anderlecht, Mbaye was simply unplayable against Bons. The second of his hatrick was a joy to behold, making space on the edge of the 18 yard box before pummeling an unstoppable shot into the top corner. The icing on the cake was the deft chip over the oncoming keeper for his third.

The 6ft8 tall 22 year old appeared on our radar after banging in an impressive 23 goals in 29 appearances for Serie D outfit FC Bra in the 12/13 campaign. Not often do we find a player moving from semi-professional standard to the top tier of Belgian football and instantly finding his rhythm.

For such a behemoth of a striker, it is rare to see such a wonderful touch, clinical eye for goal, and intelligence to make potent runs into space. The early signs are very promising. Beppe may well have unearthed a true gem…

Joel Untersee – From South Africa to Italy to Switzerland

Moving South and a little East we find budding right back, Joel Untersee settling in nicely to his new surroundings of Fc Vaduz. The Swiss U20 regular has played every second of the Challenge League (Swiss Second Flight) leader’s last two matches. Joel moved to the ice kingdom in early January after playing consistently for our primavera squad on the right flank, most often as a fullback but also operating further up the field on occasion.

Liviero to Juve…Stabia

24 Jan

Matteo Liviero – Clawing his way back in line for greatness??

20 year old left-back, Matteo Liviero has moved to Juve Stabia on loan. The fullback who has represented Italy at every level from U17-U21 started the season at Serie B newcomers Carpi, after a solid previous campaign with Perugia in Lega Pro.

With only 3 appearances in the league and 1 in the coppa, it was decided to move him to a club where it is hoped he will find more competitive action. And with his new club Juve Stabia sitting rock bottom, surely they will give the Liviero dice a roll sooner rather than later.

I have followed the youngster since been alerted to his horrific kidney injury suffered during a game against Pisa in the 12/13 campaign. Within two months, he had not only emerged from the hospital ward but was back on the field for Perugia. Clearly he is made of stern stuff.

His last international outings came in September of last year for the Azzurrini and October with the U20 squad.

Jakub Hromada – Off to Genoa to help them climb of the bottom rung of the ladder.

Slovakian U17 captain, central midfielder Jakub Hromada has joined the Genoa Primavera squad, to gain some playing time, after failing to see much action under Zanchetta. As with Liviero, Jakub joins a struggling team rooted to the bottom of the table and so the odds look good for seeing him given a chance to impress.

With Hromada heading out, it makes sense to bring someone in, and it appears that Beppe and Paratici have managed a coup of sorts, by signing Lorenzo Granatiero on loan for the rest of the season.

Lorenzo…Mohawk by hair, terzino by nature.

The fledgling terzino is on a whirlwind of a voyage…at just 16 years of age, Lorenzo was turning out for his local side, Manfredonia in Serie D in September. Forcing his way into the team, his mature performances belied his tender adolescence and with several teams scouting him, Juve stepped in to bring him into the fold.

“It’s an indescribable feeling to have arrived at Juventus – admits the young fullback – because not everyone can play at a big club such as Juventus. I think this is a great opportunity that is giving me inspiration and I will try to commit myself to exploit it to the fullest. This dream has come true, now I have to work hard to get as high as possible in order to one day play with the great players of this club, from which you can only learn. ”

“As soon as I started the season with the Manfredonia I thought only to play for the shirt of my city – because it was a child I dreamed of doing it. Then, after a good performance, I was told that there were several important clubs interested in me, which gave me an extra boost to succeed, I started to think about my future and do better with the white shirt of my city. I thank the club for the opportunity and the trust you have placed in me since the beginning of the league and I can not wait to start this new adventure with one of the world’s best teams like Juventus. “
(Lorenzo Granatiero)

For a 16 year old to be have made 14 first team appearances in Serie D bodes very well for the future…

Yet another addition to our youth ranks comes in the form of Daniele Guglielmi. Also a terzino, not yet 16, needing special dispensation to play with the seniors, Daniele has made 3 appearances for Barletta Calcio this season which was enough to place our gold nuggets on the table and entice him to Turin. His agent is the same shrewd operator who discovered Verratti…

Daniele Guglielmi – The next Zambrotta???

Kevin Trapp

19 Jan

Whilst we continue to be rebuffed in our attempts to prise promising defender Marc-Oliver Kempf from the Eintract nursery, one of his team-mates, Kevin Trapp, appears high on our hit-list and eager to sign up for next season.

Spoken of by some as one of the best keepers in the bundesliga, Trapp is 23 years old and has represented his country at every level between the U17s and U21s.

It is thought that he will arrive in the Summer and be mentored by Buffon.

Our Primavera side was in action yesterday, away to Novara. Gerbaudo grabbed the winner, earning us the 0-1 victory with a well taken header from a corner.

Juventus (3-5-2): Vannucchi; Penna, Romagna, Garcia Tena; Mattiello (73′ Tavanti), Emmanuello (60′ Kabashi), Cevallos, Gerbaudo, Barlocco; Donis, Bnou-Marzouk (85′ Soumah).
On the bench: Citti, Marin, Di Benedetto, Ceria, Roussos, Varga, Sakor, Slivka.

Scorer: 15′ Gerbaudo.
YELLOW CARD Juve: Cevallos.

Interesting to see 19 year old Albanian/Italian attacking midfielder, Elvis Kabashi back in action, after he returned recently from a loan spell at Pescara where he played just the one game. Perhaps he went out too soon, but I retain hope that we can find him a new club before the transfer window shuts at the end of January.

Bouy back in business

18 Jan

Finally emerging from his injury nightmare…Ouasim Bouy

Former Ajax Academy star Ouasim Bouy has moved on loan to bundesliga side Hamburger SV. After impressing greatly in Holland, we snapped up the Dutch U19 international attacking midfielder in late January of 2012. Involved with the primavera for the remainder of the season, he scored several goals and impressed with his creativity and maturity. During the Summer, he found a loan move to Serie B side Brescia. The then 19 year old quickly forced his way into contention, and went on to make an impressive 17 first team appearances, assisting 5 goals and netting one for himself. And then…disaster struck when during a friendly match in early February of 2013, the dutch flair merchant ruptured his cruciate ligament (similar injury to the woe Quagliarella suffered a year before).

His season was over. A long road of rehabilitation awaited him. As the Summer of 2013 began to draw to a close, Ouasim was back on the grass, training with the first team squad. The decision was made to keep him at the club until Christmas, allow him to continue his recovery under the steely gaze of probably a better quality of medical staff than could be found back in Serie B, where it was expected he would return, once fully fit. Some fans concluded that he may even be able to earn a few outings in the league and be seen and used as a back-up as the season progressed. To me, this seemed lunatic optimism as I had concluded that far from been a part of Conte’s plans, they were simply keeping him wrapped up in cotton wool until the Winter mercato window opened. Whilst he did manage a few minutes against Avellino in the coppa italia, it was clearly a gesture of faith and respect for the player, a chance to stretch his legs briefly, get a few touches of the ball in a competitive match for the first time in many moons and taste the action in the safest possible fixture we will have all season.

Brescia were interested in bringing him back to their ranks to add to their promotion push. Novara were also eager to roll the Bouy dice…but his agent, Mino Raiola and the club had other plans. namely, a move to the German top flight, to play under his countryman Bert van Marwijk at Hamburger SV. The side currently sit in 14th spot, and will be aiming to push up the table away from relegation concerns, when their season re-opens towards the end of January with the visit of Schalke. van Marwijk is of good pedigree, having won the UEFA and domestic cups with Feyenoord, and taken the Netherlands to a World Cup Final in 2010. Commenting on the transfer, the experienced coach has this to say…
“Ouasim Bouy was a super talent back at Ajax. I have never seen him play, still I am aware of him.

“He will strengthen us in midfield. He had a bad injury but now he is back fit and is longing to play.”

11 goals in 17 for the primavera last season – Stefano Padovan

Also on the move is former primavera front-man, Stefano Padovan. Who has joined Vicenza (Lega Pro) on loan after finding minutes on the field too hard to come by at Pescara, where he made 5 appearances from the bench after his summer move. Whilst it is a shame to see him drop down to the third tier of Italian football, if he gets games, and gets goals, the transfer is certainly better for his development than rotting on the bench elsewhere. At his age, he needs matches at senior level. Let us hope that Vicenza can give him the opportunity his talents displayed last term in our primavera suggest he strongly deserves. Vicenza are currently 7th, 2 points away from the play-off zone.

We remain in contact with german defender Marc-Oliver Kempf, and after agreeing a fee with his club Eintract Frankfurt, it is now up to the player to decide. Borussia Dortmund may well have joined the chase. It seems to be the same problem we encountered when trying to grab him in the last transfer window. The lad wants to play, and is wary of moving to Italy only to be placed in the primavera. One possible outcome is for us to seal the deal, with an agreement for Kempf to move on loan to Werder Bremen, whose representatives we have met with again recently, in regard to a possible co-operation between the clubs leading to several of our youngsters heading to their ranks.

Various sources reported late this week that we have ‘helped’ our good friends at Sassuolo to finance the deal to purchase Empoli’s half of star in the making defender, Daniele Rugani. As we already own the other half, the suggestion is that we have moved to stave off  the interest of other clubs and hedge our bets in terms of giving the Italy U21 international the best chance of playing Serie A football next term. There is the suggestion that Empoli needed the money…

Romanian Goalkeeper Laurentiu Branescu is edging ever closer to a move to Lanciano, requested by former primavera manager Marco Baroni who coached the player last season. Talks are set to continue over the coming days.

Balint Vecsei – The new Puskas heading to Juve???

Rumours are surfacing regarding a bid for Hungarian attacking midfielder, Bálint Vécsei. The 20 year old already has 52 appearances at senior level in the hungarian league along with two europa league appearances for his club, Budapest Honved FC. He is also a regular for Hungary U21 side.

We are set to sign Grigoris Kastanos at the end of this month, when the player turns 16 on the 30th January. Whilst Man City and Arsenal were coveting the player, Beppe and Paratici swooped in December, with a bid thought to be around 100k, to secure the services of the Enosis Neon Paralimni FC youngster. Already part of the Cyprus U17 squad at 15 years old, Grigoris found himself in the spotlight when scoring a wonderful free-kick against Germany in November, when turning out for his country’s U16 team. Comfortable as a striker or winger, the up and coming forward is good with both feet and talked off in his homeland as one of the most promising talents ever to emerge from Cyprus.