By Carlo Garganese
An official offer has still yet to arrive from Manchester United for Arturo Vidal, but if it does, it is simply too late for Juventus to sell their star man and recover from the blow.
Bianconeri CEO Giuseppe Marotta has set an unofficial deadline of August 15 after which the midfielder has been told he will not be allowed to leave the club. Yet even if an offer as high as €60 million is tabled before Friday’s cut-off date, Juventus will not be able to bring in an adequate replacement.
What top players are there in the transfer market who Juventus can realistically buy? The answer is none.
Angel Di Maria’s transfer fee would be higher than Vidal’s and he is demanding a big increase to his €3.5m a season after-tax salary at Real Madrid. Fiorentina will only sell €40m-rated Juan Cuadrado abroad and Juventus simply cannot compete in an auction with a Manchester United or Barcelona.
Mehdi Benatia could potentially leave Roma for a fee upwards of €35m, but there is no chance he would depart to a Scudetto rival. Another marquee name who could be available, Radamel Falcao of Monaco, is way out of Juve’s financial league – and is not needed anyway.
Thus, any replacements for Vidal – direct or otherwise – will be a significant downgrade on the Chilean. Juve may be able to aim higher than current fallback options Adrien Rabiot of PSG and Javier Hernandez of Man Utd (Juve are already working on signing a defender, with Olympiakos' Kostas Manolas the preferred option), but not too much higher because most of the other eligible targets have already been snapped up.
"Vidal has proven himself to be almost irreplaceable," former Juventus midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi recently told Goal.
"He is the true leader on the field, with the ability to construct the play but also destroy it through his dynamism, strength and physical explosiveness.
"Today he has no equal.”
Were Juventus going to sell Vidal, the decision should have been made at the beginning of the summer. Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez was available for €30m at the end of last season on a salary lower than Vidal’s current €4.5m a year pay-packet, but his price skyrocketed after the World Cup when Premier League sides such as eventual buyers Arsenal entered the fray.
Sanchez would have been the perfect antidote to Vidal’s bane. Not only would he have allowed Juve to switch to their desired 4-3-3 formation, and possibly prevented former coach Antonio Conte from resigning, Juve would have still had a significant amount of money left over to spend on other targets. And with the best part of three months to do so.
Now, if Juventus lose Vidal they will have to settle for disposable or developing, lower-level targets who are only going to take the club backwards. What is more, the price of these players will be inflated because selling teams know that Juventus have all of Vidal’s money to spend.
This led to Tottenham being over-quoted on numerous arrivals last summer following the €100m sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. And with just 18 days of the window remaining to complete any deals, Juventus’ negotiation position is even weaker than that which Spurs found themselves in as they at least were prepared for the Welshman leaving.
All in all, and the role of the club’s holding company Exor in cutting investment must also be acknowledged, Marotta has been very naive strategically. He has put himself in a position where, if Vidal declares his intention to force a move and an official transfer bid is received, he has no room for manoeuvre in terms of repairing the damage.
As things stand, Marotta may just get away with it. There has been no bid from Manchester United and, while a transfer could still happen even after Friday's 'deadline', with every passing day the chances decrease.
But never should the former Sampdoria chief have allowed himself to get into such a precarious situation. At the start of 2014, Juventus’ summer plans were simple; they would invest heavily in a top-class winger - Sanchez or Cuadrado being first choices - and then work from there. Instead, Marotta has merely loaded the squad with good to very good players – Patrice Evra, Romulo, Roberto Pereyra, Kingsley Coman, Alvaro Morata - who will not improve the first XI even with Vidal present. Somehow the ship has steered horribly off course from the original destination.
Replacing arguably the most complete centre midfielder in the world will always be difficult. But doing so in just over a fortnight when virtually no top players are attainable – in the same summer you have lost your inspirational coach - will be impossible.
Follow Carlo Garganese on