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Chiesa to Juventus: Where on earth does €50m signing fit into Pirlo's side?

17:45 BST 05/10/2020
Federico Chiesa Andrea Pirlo Roberto Baggio Fiorentina Juventus GFX
Cesare Prandelli believes the winger has the potential to become the best player in Europe but his versatility could count against him in Turin

Amid Juventus' interest in Federico Chiesa a year ago, newly appointed Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso declared in an interview with Il Sole 24 Ore, "I will not make the same mistake that was made with Roberto Baggio.

"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 (£91m/$117m)."

On Monday, Chiesa joined Juve on a two-year loan worth €10m that will become a permanent transfer for an additional €40m (£36m/$47m) if certain conditions are met.

It's not a particularly good deal for the Viola but one that probably had to be made.

Baggio was, indeed, sold "just for money" – or, to be precise, 25 billion lire (£8m/$10.3m), which was a world record at the time.

Then-Fiorentina president Flavio Pontello essentially felt that Juve had made him an offer he couldn't refuse, in spite of the fact that Baggio's sale to the club's most hated rivals sparked riots in the streets of Florence.

Baggio hadn't wanted to leave either. In his first game back at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, he refused to take a penalty against his former club – while he also infamously accepted a Viola scarf from a Fiorentina fan as he exited the field.

So, why, then, has Commisso agreed to let Chiesa join Juve?

Well, the big difference to the Baggio transfer is that the winger was more than happy to go.

Indeed, some supporters will be just as happy to see him leave, as his critics believe that Chiesa had got too big for his boots and that the constant speculation over his future had become an unwelcome distraction.

Chiesa informed Fiorentina that he would have no problem staying put if Juve's struggles to sell some of their dead wood prohibited them from submitting a bid.

At the same time, though, the 23-year-old also made it clear to the club that he had no intention of extending a contract that was set to expire in 2022, unless he was allowed to go elsewhere.

Therefore, in the current, coronavirus-crippled economic climate, a deal worth €50m in total was about as good as Fiorentina were going to get.

Of course, it's clearly better business for the Bianconeri. We're talking about a talented player that has attracted a huge amount of interest outside of Italy, too.

As Fiorentina CEO Joe Barone revealed in May, "There are clubs knocking at the door for Chiesa, some of whom speak English..."

Chiesa speaks English himself, which only intensified the links with Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, and such transfer talk made sense.

Just like Nicolo Barella at Inter, Chiesa has the kind of pace and intensity that is championed in the Premier League.

Indeed, he has been previously praised by former Italy international and Viola director Giancarlo Antognoni as boasting the same explosive athleticism as "a young Gareth Bale".

Chiesa's versatility would also have been appreciated by someone like Jurgen Klopp.

The Italy international is, ostensibly, a right-winger but already in his fledgling career, he has been deployed on the opposite flank, through the middle as a support striker and, most bizarrely of all, a wing-back.

Despite being utilised in the latter role for the opening three rounds of the new Serie A season by Beppe Iachini, Chiesa still managed to rack up an assist, in a 1-0 win over Torino, and a goal, against Inter at San Siro.

Such efficacy in a variety of roles undoubtedly played a key role in Andrea Pirlo's desire to bring Chiesa to Turin. The rookie Juve coach wants players at Juve that are capable of changing positions easily and regularly.

His is a fluid formation in which players are expected to move in and out of lines depending on whether the team is in or out of possession of the ball. Chiesa, then, should prove a most useful addition to the squad.

However, there is an undeniable concern that Chiesa, at a crucial juncture in his career, will be joining a club without a clearly defined role for him to occupy.

At this early point in this season, nobody at Juve can say with any degree of certainty how Pirlo's side will line up. Cristiano Ronaldo is, of course, a certain starter but who else plays – and where – is a mystery right now.

Indeed, not even Paulo Dybala, last season's Serie A MVP, and new signings Alvaro Morata and Dejan Kulusevski can be sure of their places.

So, there is no obvious opening for Chiesa in Pirlo's starting XI, which is problematic.

He scored a career-high 10 goals in Serie A last season but there is a undeniable feeling that Chiesa's development has stalled somewhat over the past couple of years because he has been shifted about constantly.

As former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told La Nazione earlier this year, "Chiesa must specialise in what he feels is his natural tactical position. If he does this, he will become the best player in Europe.

"But he must persevere and work in a single direction. I'm talking about [finding] a role, his role."

That will prove easier said than done at Juventus, though.

Iachini was slated by Chiesa fans for employing one of the most exciting wingers in Italian football as a wing-back but don't be in the least bit surprised if Pirlo does likewise in his fluid 3-5-2 formation.

Football is funny like that sometimes.

Commisso insisted he had no intention of making the same mistake as his predecessors in allowing Fiorentina's star player join Juventus – and yet Chiesa is now in Turin.

There will be no riots on the streets of Florence this time around and Commisso's mistake was arguably waiting too long to cash in on the club's most valuable asset.

Let's now just hope that Chiesa doesn't end up looking back on his departure from Florence with as much regret as Baggio.