By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
Juventus return to Serie A action on Sunday boasting a huge cushion at the top of Serie A, but there has been no resting on laurels at Vinovo over the winter break. With Giorgio Chiellini’s thigh injury ruling him out for up to three months and Kwadwo Asamoah set to spend up to six weeks away with Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Bianconeri have moved quickly to fill the gap in their squad with the recruitment of Italy international Federico Peluso.
On the face of it, the fundamentals of the deal are firm enough. The Atalanta defender comes in on an initial loan deal until the end of the season, allowing the Old Lady to cover for their absentees with a utility player who can fill either role, while also delaying a decision on their longer-term needs until June.
The €1.5 million cost of Peluso’s loan is a small price to pay for a multi-functioning left-footer at a time when two more are unavailable, and even the €3.5m agreed fee for a possible permanent deal come the summer appears something of a steal by current standards.
But does Peluso, who turns 29 later this month, have what Juve really need beyond the basic attributes? With Chiellini set to miss at least the first-leg of the Champions League last 16 clash with Celtic, the reigning Serie A champions need quality as well as quantity for the challenges ahead, with the lack of conviction of Martin Caceres in the left-sided centre-half slot having exposed the Turin side in the past.
FEDERICO PELUSO | ALL-TIME ATALANTA STATS
One factor is that Peluso has spent the majority of this season in his more regular position of left-back, the same slot in which Cesare Prandelli used him when he was called up to the Italy national side recently. With Atalanta having Thomas Manfredini, Guglielmo Stendardo and Stefano Lucchini to choose from at centre-back, the former Pro Vercelli, Ternana and Albinoleffe man has rarely been required as one of the two central pillars. And while that has suited coach Stefano Colantuono to a large degree, a quick observation of Peluso’s strengths and weaknesses suggests that Juve will be better served using their new man in the back three rather than in Asamoah’s wider position.
Despite having started 11 of his 13 games this season as a left-back, Peluso’s demeanour is very much that of a misplaced centre-half. He often fails to make the right runs down the flank at the right times when the Orobici are on the ball, with his instinct being more suited to defensive phases than attacking ones and his relative lack of pace means he may not make the most effective of wide players. Juve thrive on energy and attacking intuition, but that is not the greatest attribute in Peluso’s repertoire.
His displays over the last couple of years point to a style which is more at home in the centre of defence. His ability in the air, capable left foot and ample strength make him a sturdy back-up to have among the pool of defenders Conte can use in his back three. The next five months will give the Juve coach more than enough time to judge whether he has what it takes to become a Juventus quality player over a longer period, and is a luxury spell the club failed to afford themselves when taking the plunge on Peluso’s former Atalanta team-mate Simone Padoin last January.
The move for Peluso is a low-risk one given its structure, and if he can step into Chiellini’s boots to decent effect then he could well prove to be something of a diamond in the rough. But if he is to become a success, it is likely Conte will have to be quicker to spot the player’s best attributes than Colantuono has been.Follow Kris Voakes on