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Juventus – 2013/14’s Stand-Out Players

The Boot Room

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It’s been another excellent league campaign for Juventus under Antonio Conte. They are well on their way to winning Serie A for the third straight season after being by far and away the best and most consistent side in Italian football. As in the previous two seasons, much of this has been down to hard work and a team mentality above all else. However, there have been a number of stand-out performers this season…

Andrea Pirlo

Let’s begin with everyone’s favourite Italian. Serie A’s Player of the Year for the last two seasons may have had part of his season disrupted by a knee injury but he has still contributed his world famous brand of control and style that few, if any, can come close to matching. Goals have never been a massive part of Pirlo’s game but his ability when standing over free kicks is almost unparalleled and has led him to his highest goal tally in a season for Juventus. There have been important goals as well – his free kick at Fiorentina in the Europa League undoubtedly saved a disjointed Juve from elimination. It says a lot about Pirlo’s quality and importance that, even at 34, Juventus were still keen to offer him a contract extension to keep him at the club beyond the summer. Happily for Juve fans, Pirlo will be around Turin for the next two years at least and they can expect plenty more beautiful and excellent performances from the man they call “il professore”.

Arturo Vidal

While Pirlo provides the artistry and takes the majority of plaudits, Vidal has been perhaps more important to Juve’s success this season. There can be little argument that the Chilean has impressed since his move from Bayer Leverkusen in 2011 as he has developed into the most complete the midfielder in the world without question. His work rate is incredible as he does the hard running that allows Pirlo to sit deep and dictate play in midfield. Vidal is a tenacious defender and likes to get stuck in as his disciplinary record will show (12 yellow cards already this season, considerably higher than anyone else). Most impressive about Vidal though is his attacking prowess. His constant movement makes him a danger to any side and he sits on an incredible 18 goals in all competitions this season, only one behind top scorer Carlos Tevez. He has developed goal scoring instincts better than some strikers in Serie A and became the first Juventus player since 2000 to score a hat trick in the Champions League. It is without question that Vidal has been a star man for Juventus this season. He may have missed out on a Ballon d’Or nomination at the end of 2013 but don’t be surprised to see him named Serie A Player of the Season in the coming months.

Carlos Tevez

Juventus’ biggest area of weakness over the past two seasons has been up front. There was no world class striker who would bang in 20-30 goals a season for them. Many tried – Nicolas Anelka, Mirko Vucinic, Alessandro Matri, Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco, Marco Borriello and Nicklas Bendtner have all played for the club with varying degrees of success – but none have succeeded. So, there was a conscious effort to try and improve the striker situation in the summer and one of the solutions was the much maligned Argentine Carlos Tevez. More famous in recent years for golfing mid-season, Tevez has been a man possessed as he bangs in goals left, right and centre. He currently has 19 goals in all competitions with 18 of those coming in the league alone. More importantly, Tevez has provided a striker that fans can rely on and someone they can idolise. While Vucinic, Giovinco and Quagliarella are good players, they have a tendency to be inconsistent and not provide as much as they sometimes should. Tevez has provided good performances on a regular basis and is beginning to make the £10 million fee look like one of the bargains of the summer.

Fernando Llorente

A free transfer signing during the summer, Llorente may have experienced a hangover from his controversial departure from Athletic Bilbao. However, he has proven to be an excellent foil for fellow summer recruit Tevez with his ability to hold up the ball and win it in the air. He has also contributed a good return of goals in his first season in Italy. He has 14 in Serie A and got 2 in the Champions League games against Real Madrid to take his season tally to 16, better than any of the strikers in the previous two seasons. He has quietly been racking up the goals and helped keep Juve moving forward toward their third Serie A title in a row.

Paul Pogba

The young Frenchman had a breakout season last year and has only solidified his standing as one of, if not, the best young players in the world. 2013’s Golden Boy has forced his way into the starting XI past Claudio Marchisio and has produced performances of the highest quality in the biggest games. Like Vidal, he is very much an all-round midfielder with good work rate, excellent defensive and tackling skills and brilliant attacking prowess. His goal scoring record is nothing amazing but his goals tend to veer towards the spectacular. The most impressive skill that Pogba has shown this season is his ability to control games in midfield. He is not afraid to get on the ball and, behind Pirlo, is the best playmaker Juve possess. There have been French midfielders compared to Patrick Vieira for years without success but Pogba is beginning to look more and more like Vieira with every passing game. It must hurt Manchester United fans that Sir Alex Ferguson never used him considering their midfield woes now.

Do you agree with these choices for Juventus’ stand-out players this season? If not, who would you say has stood out this season? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Champions League

Liverpool should pursue a swap deal with Emre Can for Sami Khedira

The Juventus midfielder could be tempted to the Premier League this summer.

Josh Kerr

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Khedira
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool should make Sami Khedira their primary replacement for Emre Can, who is expected to join Juventus on a free transfer at the end of the season.

The German international is coming to the end of his third season with the Serie A outfit after joining from Real Madrid on a free transfer in 2015, with just a year left on his contract.

With the Serie A outfit’s midfield options already at full strength and the likely addition of Can, this summer could lead to a few clear-outs in the middle of the park for Juventus.

This should prompt Jurgen Klopp to pursue his fellow countryman Khedira, who is said to be interested in a move to the Premier League.

Reports from The Sun suggest Liverpool have been ‘alerted’ to Khedira’s availability this summer during negotiations with Juventus over Can.

The 24-year-old midfielder’s deal expires at the end of the season and Liverpool face the serious prospect of losing him on a free.

A move for Khedira would make perfect sense for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who are needing to strengthen a midfield that has endured so many injuries throughout the current campaign.

(Photo by Javier Soriano/Getty Images)

With the addition of Naby Keita, Khedira could prove to be the established central defensive midfielder who allows the Reds midfield three to tick, similar to the role Sergio Busquets plays at Barcelona.

The World Cup-winning midfielder spoke of his fondness for the Premier League in an interview with Bild, saying: “The Premier League has always fascinated me. Winning the title there would complete my collection.”

Liverpool have been breathtaking in Europe this season and Khedira’s experience of winning four-domestic titles in his career could be the addition the Reds need to compete with the dominance of Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.

The German international, who has nine goals and seven assists this season, has one year remaining on his Juventus contract and may be allowed to leave to join the Reds if he desires, with Can likely to join as his ready-made replacement.

Massimiliano Allegri has always possessed a knack for quickly replacing players who have decided they want to leave Juventus, with Fernando Llorente, Carlos Teves, and Paul Pogba all leaving the Italian side in recent years.

Therefore, the likely arrival of Can could be a link to Khedira’s desires to pursue new challenges elsewhere. If so, Liverpool would be the perfect destination for the Juventus midfielder.

The Reds’ high-pressing, all-out, attacking style of play could appeal to the former Real Madrid star, who would undoubtedly be excited by the prospect of joining up with compatriot, Jurgen Klopp, on Merseyside.

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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.

Max Cohen

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Mario Mandzukic
Photo: Getty Images

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
Photo: Getty Images

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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