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Juventus

Can Arek Milik replace Juventus-bound Gonzalo Higuain at Napoli?

Jake Jackman

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With Gonzalo Higuain joining rivals Juventus for an eye-watering £79 million, Napoli face the difficult task of bringing in players to try and challenge for the title this season. The market is going to be difficult for them now, as selling clubs know that Napoli have a huge amount of money available in their reserves. This will inflate the fees for their own targets, as can be seen the De Telegraaf’s report that Arek Milik is closing in on a €35 million move to Naples.

Ajax had wanted to keep the striker, but Napoli have made an offer that was too good to refuse for a player they bought just 12 months ago for €2.85 million. The Amsterdam club have a great record of selling players on for big fees, with Luis Suarez, Wesley Sneijder and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar notable examples.

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The huge profit made on Milik after a year shows that Ajax did great business just a 12 months ago, ago and it will allow them to make moves of their own in the coming weeks. The Dutch league is not flushed with money and with one or two quality additions, Ajax could regain the Eredivisie title from PSV Eindhoven.

For Napoli, they needed to move quickly to replace Higuain; who scored a record 36 league goals last season, and they will be hoping Milik can help take some of the burden. They may still yet move for another forward to help the Polish international, as he is almost certainly not going to score as many as Higuain has for Napoli over the last few years.

At the European Championships, it was clear that Milik was still raw and he was wasteful in front of goal. For Ajax, finishing was one of his strong attributes, but he struggled to adapt to having less time in the final third at the Euros.

During his two seasons at Ajax; the first of which was as a loanee, Milik scored 32 league goals, a very good return considering his minutes on the pitch. He averaged a goal every 116.9 minutes and contributed 11 assists across the two seasons as well.

The move to the Netherlands certainly helped his game to progress and the improvements were evident at the Euros. He was influencing matches for Poland and arguably outshone Robert Lewandowski, especially in terms of movement and linking up play.

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The 22-year-old likes to drop deep and get on the ball, which is why Napoli may look to bring in another forward to fill the role on the shoulder of the last defender. He played a withdrawn role with Poland, allowing Lewandowski to lead the line and this could be where his long term future is. In those deeper areas, he excels, as he is very good at playing through balls, while he is a threat when he shoots from range.

As would be expected, Milik’s passing game developed a great deal at Ajax, with the Dutch club famous for playing an entertaining brand of football. He will bring that to Napoli and the Italians could be an exciting outfit to watch this season.

Issues remain with Milik and there have been a lot of regular watchers of the Eredivisie shocked by the fee. The Polish striker is talented and is likely to continue growing over the next few years, but he was only the third best striker in the league last season. Both Vincent Janssen and Luuk de Jong were better in terms of goals and their all-around games.

If this deal is completed, he will become the most expensive player in the history of the Eredivisie, overtaking the fee paid by Manchester United for Memphis Depay.

There is no doubting that Milik is an excellent prospect and his performances at the European Championships highlighted that. He was not playing at the top of his game in France, but he was influencing games and a major threat throughout the tournament. A move to a bigger league was required for him to continue developing at a quick rate, as he had already emerged as one of the best players in the Eredivisie.

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The fee is too high for what he has achieved, but the explanation for that could be that Napoli wanted the deal done quickly, in order to get him bedded into the squad before the season begins. It is likely that Milik was always on their list of targets for the summer and the departure of Higuain simply accelerated the deal. He alone cannot replace the goals that Higuain brought to the team, but he will certainly help.


Featured Image: All rights reserved by djemeinema

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Crystal Palace

Could Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic be the perfect man for Crystal Palace?

The Croatian striker scored twice in Juventus’ Champions League win over Real Madrid.

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Mario Mandzukic
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31-year-old Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic turned back the clock on Wednesday night with a remarkable two-goal display against defending European champions Real Madrid.

If Crystal Palace maintain their Premier League status, then Mandzukic could prove the perfect man to solve their striker problems.

In the days leading up to the match, reports in Italian outlet Tuttosport, as referenced by Football Italia and Goal in Germanyhad linked the Croatian striker with a transfer to the Chinese Super League, claiming that Juventus were prepared to let him leave in the summer.

Yet the experienced striker has shown he still possesses the quality to perform at the highest level, evidenced by his dominating quarterfinal display. Two first-half towering headers revealed the forward’s predatory instincts, ability to latch on to crosses, and knack for powerful finishes.

A move to China, in essence still a glorified amateur league, would represent a dramatic step down for Mandzukic far too soon in his career. Only in his early 30s, the striker still has a number of productive seasons left in the tank and can adapt his game to accommodate his age.

Mario Mandzukic

His arrival at Selhurst Park would fill the gap that the Eagles have had at centre-forward for a number of years. The misfiring Christian Benteke has failed to impress this term, passing up many a golden opportunity.

Mandzukic would add a lethal touch to the multitude of crosses Roy Hodgson’s side tend to swing in, benefiting from Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha’s wicked deliveries.

Although the transfer may appear ridiculous, to begin with, Palace have a proud recent history of signing players from Europe’s top clubs. Yohan Cabaye joined from Paris Saint Germain, Mamadou Sakho and Benteke joined from Liverpool, and Jairo Riedewald was brought in from Ajax.

The acquisition of Mandzukic would be a brilliant coup for the Eagles and propel them to the upper half of the table next season.

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Champions League

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Juventus: Three talking points from Wembley

Tottenham bowed out of Europe against an experienced Juventus side.

Rob Meech

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Tottenham
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Tottenham Hotspur crashed out of the Champions League after Juventus produced an inspired fightback to progress to the quarter-finals. The in-form Son Heung-min had put Spurs 3-2 ahead on aggregate shortly before the interval, but two goals in three second-half minutes changed the complexion of the tie.

First, Gonzalo Higuain stabbed home the equaliser before Paulo Dybala completed the comeback with a delicate finish. Harry Kane hit the post in the dying moments, but Spurs’ exit at the hands of last season’s runners-up was confirmed as they failed to score a second goal. Here are three talking points from Wembley Stadium..

Max Allegri outfoxes his Tottenham counterpart

So poor were Juventus in the first half that they were fortunate to be only one goal behind on the night and still in the tie. There was no indication of what was to come, as Max Allegri’s side transformed the match in the second period. At the final whistle, the Juve boss headed straight down the tunnel instead of venturing on to the pitch to celebrate with his players. But it was his tactical switch that paved the way for their victory.

With an hour on the clock, on came Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who injected much-needed pace and guile. The visitors changed formation and suddenly they were getting in between the lines, with Dybala becoming much more effective. Within minutes, Juve were 2-1 ahead and in their element. Once in front, they managed the game brilliantly and didn’t look like conceding. Mauricio Pochettino, who could only stand and watch it all unfold, had been outwitted by the master.

Future looks bright despite heartbreaking exit

Disappointment may be the overriding emotion for all involved at Tottenham right now, but once the dust has settled they should look back at their Champions League adventure with pride. For this was the season they arrived as a major force on the European stage. Victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a group they topped were huge fillips and evidence of their continued progress under Pochettino.

Spurs were unlucky to be drawn against a club of Juventus’ pedigree in the last 16 and it was the Italians’ knowhow that paid dividends in the heat of the battle. The hosts looked a little naive, but the experience will benefit them in the future. Tottenham are odds-on to finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the Champions League again next season. Should Pochettino be given the funds to invest in his squad this summer, the club’s fans can look forward to more nights under the spotlight.

In-form Son strikes again for Spurs

The South Korean, who was given the nod ahead of Erik Lamela in the starting line-up, vindicated his selection with the opening goal at Wembley. Son had already gone close to breaking the deadlock and was causing Andrea Barzagli all sorts of problems with his marauding runs. There was more than a touch of fortune about the goal, which rebounded off his left leg and wrong-footed veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon, but it was no less than the Spurs forward deserved.

Son came close to levelling the tie in the latter stages but, ultimately, it was to be neither his nor Tottenham’s night. With 16 goals in all competitions this season, the 25-year-old is making a big impression. He was the home side’s most potent attacking force, upstaging both Kane and Dele Alli at Wembley. Son has finally established himself in the starting XI and Spurs fans will hope he can continue to ease the goalscoring burden on Kane.

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Chelsea

Juventus eye up Chelsea’s Gary Cahill as a replacement for Leonardo Bonucci – Should they let him go?

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Cahill

In a surprising news item, The Sun claim that Juventus could look to Chelsea to replace Leonardo Bonucci after the Italian’s move to AC Milan and may target Gary Cahill as a replacement.

The Chelsea captain is currently serving a three game suspension after his red card on the opening day, but the Italian club may be hoping that he has played his last game for the Blues. They are reportedly prepared to spend as much as £16.5 million to bring him to the Juventus Stadium.

That could be tempting for Chelsea given that Cahill is 31-years-old and undoubtedly past his best. With a number of young defenders coming through, including the likes of Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen, it could be tempting to cash in on Cahill and give more opportunities for them to develop.

His rash challenge against Burnley also left his team in the lurch and critics have claimed that it was symbolic of how out of depth the former Bolton man is as captain of the Premier League champions. With mounting pressure, he will need to be up to scratch when under scrutiny more than anyone.

However, Cahill was only recently appointed captain and it would send out entirely the wrong message if he was to be sold now. After a disastrous transfer window so far, it would not only be a psychological blow to lose the club captain, but would also leave Antonio Conte with less than a week to replace him.

His experience is also invaluable. Whilst the likes of Christensen may be knocking on the door of the starting line-up, he will need experienced heads like Cahill’s in and around him to help his development to reach his full potential as a Chelsea player in the years to come.

It could be tempting for Chelsea to allow Cahill to move on, and had this move have happened in June, it may well stand a chance of happening. Now with the season under way and only a matter of days away from the transfer window closing, it would be an incomprehensible decision if Chelsea do sell their captain.

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