By Carlo Garganese
The summer is a pretty predictable period when it comes to football. Real Madrid cause widespread outrage by publicly pursuing a superstar, Bayern Munich weaken all of their Bundesliga rivals, while Juventus regularly fail in their quest to sign one of the planet's best strikers.
The upcoming transfer market is unlikely to be any different with regards to Madrid and Bayern, but the Bianconeri simply cannot allow another Sergio Aguero or Robin van Persie to slip through their fingers.
Last year's capture of Carlos Tevez from Manchester City for a cut-price €10 million was actually one of the bargains of 2013. The Argentine is enjoying an outstanding domestic season – joint top-scorer in Serie A with 18 goals as Juventus charge towards a third successive Scudetto.
But the exploits of the ex-Boca Juniors hero has merely highlighted just how short Juventus really are in attack when compared to Europe's premier clubs. Madrid boast Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and Jese among their options for a forward trident. Bayern possess staggering offensive depth in Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Mario Mandzukic, Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller and the incoming Robert Lewandowski. Paris Saint-Germain can count upon Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas.
Juventus, meanwhile, are completely reliant on a forward who, despite his undoubted brilliance, has recently turned 30 and has not scored in Europe for five years.
Fabio Quagliarella, Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco have hit three Serie A goals between them this season. Fernando Llorente has been a useful addition after arriving on a Bosman from Athletic last summer, registering 15 times in all competitions, but useful is not enough to challenge for the Champions League.
When Tevez is missing, or below par, Juve suddenly become very impotent. This was perfectly illustrated in the recent 2-0 defeat in Napoli where the suspended Tevez watched his team-mates barely create an opening all game.
Coach Antonio Conte recognised the need for more attacking quality in January by snaring Pablo Osvaldo on loan from Southampton on deadline day, with the option to make the move permanent in the summer for €20m.
"We grabbed an opportunity to sign him," the Juve boss noted.
"The player really wanted to join and actually significantly reduced his demands to secure the move. He’ll improve the quality of our attack."
PABLO OSVALDO | 2013-14 STATS
Despite a turbulent six months with Southampton, where he scored just three goals, incited a touchline brawl against Newcastle and was banned by his club for two weeks for headbutting team-mate Jose Fonte, it was a low-risk gamble worth taking.
Osvaldo had already proven himself, first in La Liga with Espanyol and then during two seasons in Serie A at Roma, as a gifted forward. A complete frontman who could combine both physical and technical elements with a proven goal-threat, Juventus held all the cards. If Osvaldo exploded as a top-class striker, they could execute their option to purchase him permanently. If he disappointed, then they could simply send him back to the south coast at no extra expense.
But with just over a month of his loan spell remaining, there is little argument that the heavily tattooed marksman has indeed disappointed. The 28-year-old has yet to score in Serie A and has struck just twice in 12 appearances overall – both rather forgettable finishes versus Trabzonspor in the Europa League. In total, he has managed just six goals and one assist in 31 games for club and country in 2013-14 - a return that does not deserve to see him called up by Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli for the World Cup in Brazil.
Statistics don't always tell the whole story – indeed, it should be noted that Osvaldo has only started seven games for Juve. Yet it is his overall performance during each of these outings that must convince the Bianconeri hierarchy not to make his transfer permanent.
The Italy international has been slow, lethargic, clumsy and shown no chemistry with his team-mates – including one of football's most adaptable players in Tevez. His lowest point arrived in last week's Europa League clash in Lyon. Voted 'Flop of the Match' by Goal readers, it was Osvaldo's much-maligned replacement Giovinco who turned the game and inspired Juve to a 1-0 victory.
If Juventus are to seriously push for Champions League glory, then they simply must sign a top-class attacker this summer. A switch to a 4-3-3 system has already been planned ahead of next season, accentuating the need for outside forwards in the mould of Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado and Torino's Alessio Cerci – both of whom are high up on Juve's shortlist.
The potential sale of Paul Pogba would undoubtedly provide a massive windfall, as well as another position to fill, but the bottom line is that to take that next step Conte and general manager Giuseppe Marotta must only consider real difference-makers.
Osvaldo has failed to prove that he can be a difference-maker. He has yet to even outshine the goal-shy Vucinic, Giovinco and Quagliarella. Worryingly, Conte and Marotta are pleased by the Italo-Argentine's contribution in Turin and would consider a permanent deal at a knock-down price.
But even at a heavily reduced sum to the quoted €20m, it will be money wasted - especially as Juve already own 50 per cent of three talented young forwards in Ciro Immobile, Manolo Gabbiadini and Domenico Berardi.
It is time to aim much higher. Time to stop being predictable. Juventus must save their Osvaldo cash this summer and put it towards funding the purchase of a real ace attacker.
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