By: Pablo Giles, Ayan Bhattacharjee

4 July, 2012

Intro to the Madness

Defenders have been discussed, and it is now time for the midfield.

Fortunately for Juventus, but a little less for us, Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla have already been officially signed. Why less for us? Because it subtracts a portion of what might have been speculated. So, for those of you who read the first part, again, with the spilt milk… But worry not, fair lasses and lads: Awaits our humble comparisons of the former Udine players so that we may get a proper look at how our new signings look in comparison to and in conjunction with potential future arrivals. The ratings and the overall market analysis and squad needs for midfielders are still in order.

To kick-start, here’s a brief something on our two latest signings according to the latest buzz:

The two were signed on co-ownership deals where we paid 18.4m for both halves combined. If there were two players Marotta could have brought tthat could not only fit in into our system but actually shine in it, they are Asamoah and Isla. Big Poppa Beppe has not only swooped on two superb players for Juve, they could well even bench any of one of the most solid midfields in Europe, should Marchisio or Vidal not keep up at times.

The likelihood key remains almost the same with an added change as follows:

* – Tough
** – Could happen
*** – Yup, I think
**** – Unofficially Official
OFFICIAL – Well, officially official, no way back, signed with blood, done deal.

The Fortunate Few 

Ergo, without further ado, here are the candidates for our hyper-critiquing:

Mauricio Isla, Udinese Juventus
Age: 24
Main Position (Alternate): CM, RWB (RB, RM)
EU Status (Passport): Non-EU (Chile)
Market Value14m   
Signed Value: 18.8m
Others Interested: Inter (Ha!), Liverpool, Real
Likelihood: OFFICIAL

Thundering midfielder who can be deployed in the middle of the pitch or out wide. Very high work rate. Careful in attack and gritty when defending. Conte will surely appreciate him.

Kwadwo Asamoah, Udinese Juventus
Age: 23
Main Position (Alternate): CM (DM, AM)
EU Status (Passport): Non-EU (Ghana)
Market Value14m
Signed Value: 18m
Others Interested: Man Utd, Roma
Likelihood: OFFICIAL

One of the most promising holding midfielders in Serie A or any other league. A pitbull in the middle of the pitch who even has good qualities when going forward.

Gastón Ramírez, Bologna 
Age: 21
Main Position (Alternate): AM (LW, RW, CM)
EU Status (Passport): Non-EU (Chile)
Market Value13.5m
Asking Price: 20m
Others Interested: W. Bremen, Wolfsburg, Barca, City, Bayern
Likelihood: *
Not purely a central or wide midfielder, nor a pure attacker. Ramírez is an attacking midfielder who may play on both flanks but is more comfortable from the left. He is also capable as a central midfielder. Pacy, dangerous and with very good ball control attributes.

Marco Verratti, Pescara
Age: 19
Main Position (Alternate): CM (DM, AM)
EU Status (Passport): EU National (Italy)
Market Value10m
Asking Price: 12m
Others Interested: Napoli, Inter, PSG, Milan, Roma
Likelihood: *

Nicknamed “The New Pirlo”, this young player has great vision and superb passing abilities. Coveted by many top clubs in Italy and abroad, he is sure to have the spotlight on him in this his first Serie A campaign.

Paul Pogba, Man Utd
Age: 19
Main Position (Alternate): CM (DM)
EU Status (Passport): EU National (France, Guine)
Market Value3.5m
Asking Price: Doesn’t matter – Free Agent
Others Interested: Man Utd (LOL), City
Likelihood: ****

Imposing, distance shooter, assister, tackler, dribbler. Paul Pogba is surely a wonderkid. He has been the center of a tug of war between Juventus and Manchester United. Apparently favoring the Turin side, Pogba is widely expected to officially join Juventus soon.

Valon Behrami, Fioreneina
Age: 27

Main Position (Alternate): RM (RWB, LM, CM, RB)
EU Status (Passport): Non-EU (Switzerland)
Market Value8m
Asking Price: 11m
Others Interested: Napoli
Likelihood: *

Close to joining Juventus during the past transfer window, he has been a strong central midfielder for Fiorentina demonstrating tons of aggression, and he is not afraid to use them. Tends to play a very active part in his matches.

Omar El Kaddouri, Brescia

Age: 21
Main Position (Alternate): AM (RW, 2nd ST)
EU Status (Passport): Non-EU (Belgium, Morocco)
Market Value4m
Asking Price: 5m
Others Interested: Parma
Likelihood: **

Even though he can play more centrally, El Kaddouri enjoys flanking down the right wing. He is speedy, he’s tricky, and he has no fear in making attempts on goal.

Radja Nainggolan, Cagliari

Age: 24
Main Position (Alternate): CM (DM)
EU Status (Passport): EU (Belgium)
Market Value13m
Asking Price: 16m 
Others Interested: Napoli, Zenit, Anzhi, City
Likelihood: *

The Indonesian descent was one of the best central midfielders in the first half of the 2011/2012 season. Blessed with high levels of aggression and stamina and good tackling abilities, this combative midfielder also has decent ball attributes.

(All market values in this section are from 

Those Boring Numbers

The statistics shown below only contain data from the players’ respective domestic leagues in the 2011/2012 season. They are all per-game averages. Stats other than the number of appearances, goals, and assists were hard to find and are not included for Verratti and El Kaddouri since they played in Serie B. Stats highlighted in green are the best in that category. (As mentioned in the Calciomercato: Defenders edition, these numbers cannot be taken verbatim. These statistics are not guesswork, but the overall rating is a subjective measure for example, and the success of a pass also depends on teammates. The stats are provided – and are very useful – as a reference point and framework only.)

A midfielder has to do the job on both ends of the field, helping with possession of the ball, defense, and attack. First, let’s examine the overall ratings and the passing attributes of the potential bianconeri:

Stats from
Asamoah and Nainggolan both have average ratings over 7.00. Isla was one of the key men in Udinese’s midfield and saw a lot of the ball, but he needs to be more accurate with his passes if he’s to be a protagonist in Conte’s possession-based midfield. Ditto for and more so with Ramirez. Bare in mind that Pogba featured in only three English Premier League games and all as substitutes. His passing stats are likely to be skewed and portray a better image than actual.  Ramirez, Asamoah, and Nainggolan caused the most turnovers while the rest are below 1.0.

Here’s how the pass success rates of the midfield candidates compare with Marchisio’s, who is our mean successful passer in the starting MVP (Marchisio-Vidal-Pirlo):

The following table contains the defensive and attacking stats:

Stats from
Behrami has the most impressive defensive stats, and Nainggolan’s digits aren’t too shabby either. As expected, Ramirez owns the attacking stats with Verratti having the most assists by far.

Below, you can view the number of assists-to-games ratio. Verratti provided an assist in roughly every three games, Ramirez in every seven, and El Kaddouri in every nine Serie B games. Behrami clearly has been much more of a defensive player than the rest as his assists-to-games ratio and other offensive attributes do not mimic his defensive qualities:

In lieu of missing stats for Pogba and Verratti, here are a couple of videos of the two:

Pogba in France’s U19 Euro match against Serbia yesterday:

Some of Verratti’s best moments of the 2011/2012 season:

Our Iron Amateur Verdicts

Mr. Giles’ Qualitative Rant:

    Except Pablo isn’t Cuban, but he’s still cool

Of course, one has to consider two things first. The club’s budget, and Italy’s economics. This is surely not a good financial moment for Italy, let alone Europe. Clubs are being careful, and as they say in my country -counting chiles-. An added variable is, clearly, that if one invests heavily on attack, it might be difficult to do the the same on other areas, and of course, vice versa. Unless somewhere there is petrol to be considered, but that is another story, and not a bed time one. 

First I will answer if I consider another purchase to be necessary. Yes, I consider another purchase to be necessary. Beppe has already made two moves, which as much as they remain precise and intelligent, they also might be a tad expensive. Therefore, I feel it rather complicated for Juventus to make another big-money purchase, considering a striker and defenders are yet to be signed.

Behrami may be surplus to our current requirements, as we already have what he possesses, and even more so with the fresh Udine arrivals. So no. Plus, his attitude does not help. El Kaddouri is of course a cost-effective, tempting possibility, but may not be the time to go for him, as those few millions might come in handy when the deal gets real. Maybe later.

As for the youngsters, they signify the possibility of what in my opinion might make this a good transfer campaign into a -Steven Seagal Muhammad “I’m Hard” Bruce Lee- transfer campaign. Why? Well because by getting our hands on them we would not only be having already active first class youngsters, we would well be securing years to come of midfield magnificence. Next Vieira and Next Pirlo? I’ll have some of that with peas on the side!

Pogba is a must, and I’m doing my best to remain calm and believe that he will come possibly even this week. As eager as I may be of seeing him on action, if he stays or goes on loan is a decision which concerns Conte and Conte alone, and one by which he should not be judged. Signing him is what matters now. Verratti is not moving from Pescara for at least another year. Fine by be. Great stuff, he gets experience, playing time and down to Earth comprehension of concepts such as Serie A and Juventus. All is well…as long as we are still there! Since buying him outright is pretty much a current impossibility, Marotta should attend to his very own home-made stuff -that co-ownership cheekiness-. Sealing half of his card would entitle us to rightfully attempt redemption at season-end, and it would also keep the hounds at bay. I understand it is a far-fetched, complicated option, but it may well be crucial to avoid war later on. Let’s just hope Sebastiani doesn’t go all Santos president like he does on Neymar…headache.

Finally, Gastón. Pure quality and class. Likely not to be used in any central midfield role, but would be my perfect player for the right side of the 4-3-3 attack. The problem comes with his hefty price-tag. I understand if the money is being saved for a big name upfront, but if the possibility of getting him exists, without heavily decreasing the budget, he should definitely be signed.

A bomber, being flanked by a healthy rotation of Vucinic/Giovinco/Gastón with an added Pepe-super-sub would make us an attacking force to be feared from Italy and Europe, all the way to Pandora, or whatever the hell that Avatar big-tree planet was called.  

PICKS, looking at it on the bright side, level eye-burn…

POGBA, then loan, perhaps. 
GASTÓN, if the pockets are deep enough.
VERRATTI, co-ownership and stay at Pescara.

Ayan’s Quantitative Blabber:

  “They don’t call me Brown Dynamite for nothing”

On Isla and Asamoah:

Udinese players are known to fail or to not live up to their hype or potential once they leave Udinese like in the cases of Appiah, Muntari, and D’Agostino. The half share, though, does reduce the risk in case one or both of them don’t quite pan out in Juve. We signed Isla and Asamoah, but none of them can replace Pirlo on the field. We only needed one of them and then a Pirlo replacement. Also, Pozzo, as usual, overpriced his players. That’s why I preferred acquiring just one of Isla and Asamoah on a half share. Add to that, Marrone showed some promise last season, and Pogba is unofficially official. While I don’t care for Padoin and Pazienza – and hopefully we’ll be able to get them off our books – talented youth should be given a chance.

On Isla vs. Asamoah, notwithstanding Isla’s fantasies of Real:

In my opinion, Isla’s would be a good and a necessary deal if Pepe is sold. Don’t get me wrong, Pepe is a good utility player. But the technically superior Isla is also versatile in the same positions, and we don’t need a 40-men squad next season. Stats-wise, Asamoah edges Isla. Asamoah would also be the perfect backup for Vidal, something else we lacked last season in midfield besides a vice-Pirlo. And Isla’s versatility on the right isn’t needed either with Lichtsteiner and Caceres on board. Pepe, too, can wingback in the 3-5-2 unless he’s sold. But alas, they both have already signed with blood.

On Verratti and the necessity of a Pirlo-backup:

I hope that Verratti is as good as some say, but we’ll only find out for sure once he faces Serie A opponents. Signing him is still a possibility in my opinion as Verratti has always wanted the move to Juve happen. Perhaps Pescara’s president is playing hardball after being disgruntled following Verratti’s exempt from the 23-men Itajuve squad for the Euro. According to him, Verratti’s call to the prior Azzurri training still deserves a price hike. I doubt Verratti is ready to play too many minutes just yet as he only started in 26 games in Serie B (unless it was due to an injury), but he clearly has potential. Verratti may be the closest player to Pirlo in terms of style and technique, and Pirlo will be the perfect man to groom him. A Pirlo outlet is also needed. The amount of games Andrea played this past season at 32 and 33 years of age is astonishing, and that can’t continue if we don’t want a burn-out. Verratti should at least get some minutes against the lower table opponents and in Coppa Italia.

On Ramirez:
Ramirez would be great to have to take over from Pepe – who very much played the role of a midfielder than a forward – in a 4-3-3 or substitute in for Marchisio in either formation if we’re in need of a goal. But that is a luxury we can only examine towards the end of the mercato as, looking at our finances, risking a potentially large squad, and assuming we’d sign a top-quality first striker, we may need to sell an additional player or two to begin negotiating with Bologna’s 20m asking price. Furthermore, his passing accuracy is far from decent, and we’re a possession-oriented team. I, personally, believe that Ramirez is a bit overrated and that there are better players out there for that sum of money.

An irate Sir Alex admitted that Pogba is Juve-bound. So, that’s great news. I’d send him out on loan along with Marrone to get regular playing time. El Kaddouri may have some potential. He should be bought on a half-share and gain experience from another Serie A outfit. I’ll pass on Behrami and Nainggolan.

So, in summary, sign:  Pogba, Verratti, El Kaddouri

Midfield for next season:  MVP, Asamoah, Isla, Verratti, Giaccherini


And herein ends our voyage of this Calciomercato edition. So far, we’ve speculated on and rated the defenders and midfielders. Next up, of course, is attack, the prospect of which is bound to make you salivate with names like Cavani, van Persie, Suarez and more in queue. Yeah, it’s gonna be bad, it’s gonna be mean, it’ll be all that and more.

But  prior to that and soon to follow, we also have a mini-update for you on the Defenders edition with Lucio featured! 

Meanwhile, let us know your verdicts. Stay tuned and ciao till next time.

Fino alla fine, Forza Juve!
– Pablo and Ayan