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Vlahovic's shock €75m transfer a potential season-changer for Juventus

10:00 AM EST 1/28/22
Dusan Vlahovic Fiorentina 2021-22
The Bianconeri have boldly decided to buy the striker now in order to beat off competition from Premier League rivals - and boost their top-four bid

As with every previous transfer between Fiorentina and Juventus, the insults began before the deal had even been done.

Not long after GOAL's Romeo Agresti revealed on Monday that the Bianconeri were ready to submit an official offer for Dusan Vlahovic, banners were hung outside the Stadio Artemio Franchi attacking the Viola striker.

In most, he was referred to as a 'gobbo' ('hunchback'), a derogatory term for Juventini related to superstitious belief that hunchbacks benefit from good fortune. The obvious implication is that the Bianconeri have long benefitted from favourable officiating.

Some furious Fiorentina fans went far further, though. 

In some instances, depressingly predictable racial insults were combined with thinly-veiled death threats. 

"Your guards won't save your life," one banner read. "Gypsy, for you, it's over."

It was typical grandstanding from attention-hungry ultras – of which there are many in Italy – but it also provided an insight into the intensity of the rivalry between Fiorentina and Juve. 

There were, for example, riots on the streets of Florence in 1990 when the club decided to sell Roberto Baggio to their most hated rivals against the player's will. 

A young Matteo Renzi, the former Italian Prime Minister, was even part of the famous protest in Piazza Savonarola and this week he admitted Tuesday was "like a day of mourning in Florence".

“We’re on live television, so I must try not to swear,” he told La7. "But I'm absolutely furious.

"Why do Fiorentina always have to sell everyone to Juventus? At least send some to different clubs.”

Newly-appointed Viola president Rocco Commisso even referenced the Baggio deal in 2019, when Juve emerged as one of a number of clubs interested in signing Federico Chiesa.

"I will not make the same mistake that was made with Roby," the American told Il Sole 24 Ore. "Roby was the greatest player ever and they sold him just for money...

"As far as I am concerned, Chiesa is our champion and I won’t sell him even for €100 million (£84m/$113m)."

Commisso, though, sold Chiesa in 2020 for approximately half that figure as part of deal that was structured in a very favourable way for Juve: an initial €3m (£2.5m/$3.4m) loan for the first season, €7m (£5.9m/$7.9m) loan for the second, with a conditional obligation to buy in 2022 for €40m (£33.5m/$45m), plus €10m (£8.4m/$11.3m) in variables.

Commisso later claimed Juve "stole" Chiesa by giving him "a lot more money", pointing out that in modern football "money counts".

In that sense, his decision to also flog Vlahovic to the Old Lady for €75m (£63m/$85m) is unsurprising, even if it means sixth-placed Fiorentina will now have to try to qualify for European competition next season without Serie A's current top scorer.

After all, the Viola were desperate to cash in on a player who made it repeatedly clear through his agent that he had no intention of extending a contract that was set to expire in 2023.

They knew that they were going to lose him eventually anyway, and wanted to do a deal before his value dropped at the end of the season.

So, when the interest of a number of Premier League clubs failed to yield a concrete bid, Fiorentina had no issue letting Vlahovic leave for Juve, given the Old Lady offered even more than the €70m (£58.5m/$79m) asking price.

There is also the fact that Vlahovic has long had his heart set on a move to Turin. His desire to join the Bianconeri was never any secret. 

As far as he and his agent were concerned, the much-touted move to Arsenal was never an option. So, Vlahovic joining Juve is no surprise; what is shocking is that it's happened now.

The Serbia star has long been viewed as the ideal solution to their striking problem – Massimiliano Allegri's side have scored just 34 goals in 23 Serie A outings this season.

However, even as recently as last week, it was felt unlikely that the Old Lady's Vlahovic dream could become reality. He was considered far too costly for a club hit so hard by the financial crisis caused by Covid-19. 

So, questions are now obviously being asked as to how Juve – who posted a record-breaking loss of €210m (£175m/$237m) for 2020-21 – have pulled off the seemingly impossible?

Well, a €400m (£335m/$450m) capital increase courtesy of EXOR, which owns 63.8 per cent of the club, has certainly helped. 

The biggest cash injection in Italian football history was always envisaged to be "completed by the end of 2021", and while it was arranged primarily in order to address Juve's pandemic-related liquidity issues, money was also to be set aside for "maintaining sporting competitiveness".

According to Calcio e Finanza, that meant approximately €80m (£67m/$90m) could be invested in the transfer market and it's worth remembering that Juve won't be paying the full Vlahovic fee up front, but rather in instalments.

Cristiano Ronaldo's shock move to Manchester United just before the close of the summer transfer window has also played a part here, as he was costing Juve about €87m (£75m/$103m) on an annual basis in wages, taxes and amortisation. The Vlahovic deal simply would not have happened were Ronaldo still in Turin.

However, it is also highly likely that the 22-year-old's arrival will result in at least a couple of departures, as the Bianconeri look to trim their squad and reduce their wage bill.

Juve never had any intention of taking up their option to buy Alvaro Morata on a permanent basis, meaning the Spain international will most likely join Barcelona, with the permission of parent club Atletico Madrid.

The Old Lady is still trying to push the unwanted Aaron Ramsey to join a Premier League club this month, while Arthur could yet end up at Arsenal if a low-cost replacement can be found (perhaps Nahitan Nandez of Cagliari), given the Gunners are willing to pay the Brazilian's wages for the duration of a proposed six-month loan stay at the Emirates Stadium. 

Juve would still rather Arthur leave on an 18-month loan but they are open to letting Dejan Kulusevski join another club, probably Tottenham, until the end of the current campaign and they would certainly let Rodrigo Bentancur move to Aston Villa on a permanent basis if the price is right.

It will also be worth keeping an eye on Paulo Dybala and his representatives between now and the close of the transfer window. 

A €10m extension that was essentially agreed last year remains unsigned because of Juve's doubts over the Argentine's ever-increasing injury issues. 

All of those involved in these protracted negotiations are set to meet again in February, but the Vlahovic deal has cast them in an entirely new light. 

Juve now have the No.9 they wanted to build their new attack around. Their need to meet Dybala's wage demands has only decreased further.

Any offer from elsewhere for Dybala, who could leave at the end of the season for nothing, would now be seriously considered. Certainly, Juve's bargaining position has just been significantly strengthened. 

If Dybala decides against taking a pay cut, he will just leave on a free transfer, with Inter and a couple of top English clubs reportedly interested, but his exit would no longer be the end of the world for Juve, as they would essentially be removing one of their highest earners (€13.5m gross) from their wage bill.

They also believe that in Vlahovic they have one of the leading lights of a new generation of goalscorers, alongside Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe. 

Cynics will understandably point to the fact that he remains untested in the Champions League, but Vlahovic could end up securing Juve's qualification for next season's competition, which is obviously a major factor in this deal.

By moving now rather than at the end of the season, the Bianconeri have got the jump on all over their rivals for his signature, while at the same time significantly boosting their hopes of securing a top-four finish – and the financial boost that comes with it.

There was no better striker in Serie A in 2021, and only one more prolific across all of Europe's Big Five leagues: Robert Lewandowski.

For a side lacking a killer in front of goal, Vlahovic should prove a godsend. 

Of course, he will not solve Juve's offensive issues on his own. Allegri's painfully pragmatic tactics remain a major cause for concern. There will not be much point in having a lethal finisher up front if you cannot get him the ball.

As former Italy international Daniele Adani told the Gazzetta dello Sport, "If Juventus don't improve their idea of football, it might not be enough."

However, there is a reason why Vlahovic's signing has provoked as much anticipation in Turin as it has fury in Florence.

This isn't a game-changer for both Juventus and Fiorentina; it's a potential season-changer.