By Kris Voakes
Juventus’ summer finally gained some definition yesterday. With the rumour mill having been in overdrive, linking them with more than half a century of potential targets, the announcement that parent company Exor have released funds for the club to work with brings a new focus with two months to go before the Serie A season kicks off.
With a €120 million injection due to arrive in December, the club’s owners will provide an interim loan to allow the €50m set aside for squad strengthening to be used this summer, but that doesn’t mean that some toing and froing doesn’t need to take place at Vinovo over the next nine weeks. With number one target Sergio Aguero being valued by Atletico Madrid at around €45m, there will still have to be some clever dealing done by general director Giuseppe Marotta and sporting director Fabio Paratici.
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Changes also need to be made from a footballing point of view. Two successive seventh place finishes have dropped well short of expectations in Turin, and new coach Antonio Conte will be looking for a fresh approach in 2011-12. The introductions of Andrea Pirlo, Reto Ziegler and Michele Pazienza for less than a lira have added solidity to the squad, but what now needs to be injected is increased quality.
Aguero is the clear favourite for the fourth spot up front alongside Alessandro Del Piero, Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella, but Giuseppe Rossi will be pursued should they miss out on Aguero. Whichever they end up bringing in - Roma's Mirko Vucinic is a likely third option if neither Spanish-based player arrives - there is no future at the club for either Amauri or Vincenzo Iaquinta, and Luca Toni will likely not be wearing black and white much longer either.
Although those exits are unlikely to yield much more than pocket change, money could be made from a sale of midfielder Felipe Melo. Having cost the club €25m two years ago, the Brazilian hasn’t reached the top of his form at the Olimpico, so a bid of anything more than €15m may see the Bianconeri cut their losses. That could open the door for a bid for Lyon’s Michel Bastos, who has been a long-time target, while Real Madrid’s Lassana Diarra could be just what they’re after alongside Pirlo in the centre of the park.
Lazio full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner is seemingly hours away from putting pen to paper on a move costing up to €10m, which will account for a chunk more of Juve’s new money, meaning the club will be lucky to land all of their proposed targets without selling somebody of note. While departures for the likes of Fabio Grosso, Zdenek Grygera and Mohamed Sissoko would make space in the squad, only the latter’s exit would create much of an income. In total, adding in the departures of Amauri, Iaquinta and Melo, Juve could be looking at €30m in sales at a stretch this summer.
|"Bringing in all four of Aguero, Diarra, Bastos and Lichtsteiner would leave Juve with no room for manoeuvre in January, which has proven a vital window for the club in the past."
If that is achieved then the Old Lady will have just about enough cash in hand to purchase all of their main targets – Aguero, Diarra, Bastos and Lichtsteiner – though that would leave them with no room for manoeuvre in January, which has proven a vital window for the club in the past (think Matri’s introduction for the injured Quagliarella earlier this year). So while the signing of Aguero would be a huge boost, it may well be prudent to instead aim for the less expensive Rossi in order to give them a modicum of financial freedom in the winter without having to make a major offload.
What is for certain, though, is that Juventus are ready to make their move, making for a fascinating period ahead. With a new stadium ready for them to christen, they’ll be looking to move in with a successful squad, and – Aguero or no Aguero – there promises to be exciting times to come in Turin even before the new season begins.