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It is not so long ago that the idea that Juventus should bring together talent from Serie A rivals would have been seen in a negative light by most Italian football fans.
But while their dominance of Italy’s top division only really ended last season, when Inter put an end to Bianconeri’s nine-year relegation to Serie A, their current situation would lead you to believe that it was much longer since they were a challenger.
When the season resumes after this international break, Juve will go into their next match with at least 11 points from the top, down to fifth place. For years, their recruitment has been messy and misleading, with Aaron Ramsey’s fringe team status the perfect epitome of it.
But Dusan Vlahovic’s arrival shows that there is life in the old lady yet, and given the striker’s appearance, this move is also potentially massive for Serie A in general.
Fiorentina had not been pale for their desire to make money on the Serb, who turned 22 on Friday. They have been very public about how they simply could not afford to lose on a transfer fee, a situation that quickly threatened to become a real problem when his contract was due to expire in 2023.
Virtually all of Europe’s biggest clubs were linked with Vlahovic at one point in the last 12 months, and for a while most of the money would have been on him moving to England.
“Oh, another talent rushing off to chase the big bucks in the Premier League, where was that predictable,” many ‘calcio’ fans mumbled to themselves as … * checking notes * .. Arsenal and Tottenham circled.
As the story supposedly went, Vlahovic’s agent did not seriously consider these two in the end. Whether it could have been a different story for Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United or even Chelsea is unclear, but a coup remains for Juve.
Vlahovic’s influence on Italian football, especially over the last 18 months, has been significant. Some have suggested that he is Serie A’s answer to Erling Haaland – perhaps a slight exaggeration, but there is a reason why Juve are investing in a guy who in 2021, let’s not forget, only became the second player in the last 60 years to score 33 Serie A goals over a single calendar year.
Juve’s attraction to him makes absolute sense when one considers a goal as reductive – yet crucial – as a goal. After Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit last year, Bianconeri was left with a gaping stomach in terms of skills. The belief that Alvaro Morata should take off was as optimistic as it was naive as the Spaniard has five in 22 Serie A matches.
Vlahovic should in theory give them a number nine, which is dedicated to goals. As Fiorentina’s focal point during this period, he has recorded 87 shots (second most among Serie A players) and scored 15 goals without a penalty kick in all tournaments.
Some might point to the fact that these 15 strikes are a significant increase over his non-penalty xG (expected goal) of 10.2, and there is, of course, a chance that he will not prove to be completely so clinical for Juve, but it clearly shows that they are buying a player full of faith.
Similarly, being surrounded by better players in Turin could mean Vlahovic does not have to try as many low-xG shots. A quick look at his Serie A shot card this season shows a significant variation in target distances, which of course has an impact on his xG per shot, which is 0.11 (excluding penalties).
That may not mean anything in isolation, but when you compare it to Tammy Abrahams 0.18, there is quite a gap. The English striker seems to be better at getting into clear goal-scoring situations, but if Vlahovic is already proving this deadly from worse positions, then imagine what he could do if he improved.
It is worth noting that Vlahovic in no way has eyes only for goals. In fact, among ‘conventional’ Serie A strikers this season, only four – and Paulo Dybala, nominally a creator nonetheless – have had multiple involvement in shootout sequences without taking the shot (45).
It talks about Vlahovic’s link-up play and his efficiency in knitting attacks together in the final third, a skill not to every attacker’s liking. Yet he manages to fulfill this function without compromising his goal output.
At Juve, provided he connects the attack with Dybala, there may be less need for him to get so involved, and it could potentially be how he improves his record of getting into higher xG situations.
It is reasonable to assume that Juve would see that it paid off on the goal front, as he already has only an average of 2.2 touches per game. shots inside the box – it’s only a fraction more than Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo and Haaland (all 2.0) who show how he is more of an instinctive finisher than people like Mohamed Salah (3.1) and Kylian Mbappe (3.3 ), which is more about dribbling and hitting defenders.
The fact is that Vlahovic still has elements in his game that can still be improved, but he is already performing at a high level. He may be young, but Juve have signed a contract with a player who can go directly into the team, which is probably starting to build up around him.
Whether Massimiliano Allegri is the right coach for this new Juventus is another debate, but the acquisition of Vlahovic could be a game-changer.
At the very least, it is a real boost for Serie A to undoubtedly keep its finest young player in the league despite the Premier League waving its huge sums in its direction.
With Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku gone, Vlahovic is definitely ready to become Serie A’s new poster.