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14th Jul 2019

Juventus continue to prove that they are masters of the transfer window

Wayne Farry

No one plays the transfer game better than Juventus

One of the most important aspects of football is minimising risk. Teams try to do this at all times and in all areas of their operations. On the pitch, managers such as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp seek to minimise risk by instructing their players to press the opposition as soon as possession is lost.

Off the pitch, inside the boardrooms of these clubs which have now grown into multinational businesses, minimising risk is even more important, and with their signings in the transfer window it is something that Juventus have turned into a science.

Large outlays in recent years – Cristiano Ronaldo and Matthijs De Ligt – are as close to guaranteed successes as you’ll ever find.

Ronaldo, given his age, is not worth the money they paid for him, but such is his commercial pull that this aspect alone will likely repay the fee, and that’s not to mention the guaranteed 25+ goals he’ll give them during his time at the club.

De Ligt, at 19 years old and already one of the best central defenders in the world, is – barring injury – destined to enjoy a stellar career for the next 15 years. He also fills a gap left by the departed and underrated Andrea Barzagli.

A born leader who was named Ajax captain despite his age, De Ligt has shown a quite frankly ludicrous level of resoluteness during his nascent career, most notably emerging from a fucking howler of a debut for the Netherlands – in which his errors handed Bulgaria a shock 2-0 win in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup – and not dwelling on it.

It was the stuff of genuine nightmares – it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see De Ligt peer down and realise he’s not wearing any pants – as the youngest Dutch international since 1931 showed every bit of his then 17 years. But he moved on, got better and left it in the past.

One of his most impressive qualities is the strength of his character, and that is what Juventus are getting for their (reported) €82 million: a player that will guide them through the next decade with confidence.

De Ligt opted for Juventus over the likes of Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain, presumably because he believes in the project, and because he can see the Old Lady as a club of stability and continuity. De Ligt is not a risk for Juventus, and Juventus are not a risk for De Ligt.

This continuity and the feeling that Juve are always ticking along nicely, taking care of business and strengthening their team in the necessary areas, comes from the other aspect of their transfer dealings: the now famous free transfers.

Just look at some of the names that Juventus have secured without a transfer fee over the last decade: Fabio Cannavaro, Dani Alves, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Sami Khedira, Emre Can, Kingsley Coman, Fernando Llorente.

This summer already they have signed Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey on frees, as well as bringing the club legend Gianluigi Buffon back from his late gap year in Paris. Most of these deals have been successes, but the beauty of their strategy is that even those don’t work out end up benefiting the club in the long term.

Coman is perhaps the best example of this in recent years. After running down his contract with PSG, the Frenchman moved to Turin in 2014, winning the league and cup in his first season. He struggled to break into a team full of bonafide stars though, and went on loan to Bayern Munich before joining permanently.

Loan and permanent fee combined made Juventus a sweet €28 million. Not a bad return for a player that made fewer than 20 appearances for them.

The case of Paul Pogba is an example of how Juve’s strategy works at his best. We all know the story now: signed on a free from Manchester United, developed into one of the best attacking midfielders around, won three league titles with Juve, and was then sold back to United for a profit of roughly €100 million.

The beauty of the Pogba deal – as it is for most of Juve’s dealings – is that it was low risk with the maximum reward.

Players too now recognise Juventus as the destination for free transfers. Wind your contract down, head to Turin, get a lovely signing on fee and a bumper contract. If it works, you’re a starter in one of the best teams in Europe, if it doesn’t then there are likely going to be plenty of clubs queuing up to take you off their hands.

By minimising risk across almost all areas of their player acquisitions, Juventus have become an example of how a well-run football club operates.

In a time when exorbitant transfer fees are increasingly spent on players not worth half that amount, their policy of low risk moves is glaring in how sensible it is.

By striking a balance between players that are commercial behemoths and those that are good additions to their team, Juventus have figured out the transfer market and are reaping the rewards. Other clubs should take note.