Juventus, comfortably Italy’s most successful club, are developing a reputation that isn’t exactly flattering.
In recent transfer windows, the Bianconeri have lost key personnel, players instrumental in the club’s latter-day successes, to fellow domestic and continental heavyweights: Arturo Vidal to Bayern Munich (2015), Paul Pogba to Manchester United (2016), Dani Alves to Paris Saint-Germain and Leonardo Bonucci to AC Milan (both in 2017).
Summer of 2018 follows the trend, even though the off-season only just kicked in and would pass slower than usual due to the upcoming Fifa World Cup. The biggest blow unarguably is the freshly announced exit of Gianluigi Buffon, Juve’s first-choice goalkeeper for the best part of two decades. It’s a loss that would require that Juve draft a succession plan for the one position they haven’t had to worry about for a while if they don’t have one in place already.
But there is another man packing up for life outside the Allianz Stadium whose departure could leave Juve in a worse position than any of the aforementioned players’: utility man Kwadwo Asamoah. The Ghanaian said his goodbyes to the club and its fans last week, not long after a sixth consecutive league crown and a fourth Coppa Italia in his time in Turin were sealed, with speculation rife that he’d be moving to Lombardy where a future with Juve’s fiercest rivals, Inter Milan, awaits him.
Now, Asamoah may not be the first name on Massimiliano Allegri’s team sheet, but it’s easy to devalue him if you’re measuring his worth solely based on how many starts and minutes he’s racked up in recent seasons. A regular in his first few years at the club, Asamoah suffered an injury-ravaged spell that saw him return to a squad that had seemingly outgrown him.
Asamoah’s attitude and class eventually shone through, however, and Allegri handed him more opportunities in the just-ended campaign, often even parading him for the big games. With Juve challenging for silverware on multiple fronts and Alex Sandro — Allegri’s preferred option at left-back on many a matchday — somewhat unsettled by a missed transfer to English giants Chelsea last year, Allegri needed to shuffle his cards, to Asamoah’s benefit.
The former Udinese man didn’t disappoint, and Juve’s hierarchy took notice, rewarding Asamoah’s resurgence and return to relevance with the offer of a contract extension — the loudest expression of desire a club could send a player’s way, no doubt. Asamoah, though, resisted those advances, his heart set on a move from Corso Gaetano Scirea that he first pondered this time in 2017. It isn’t a decision Juve have moaned an awful lot about, but that veneer of indifference wouldn’t deceive anyone who knows just how valuable Asamoah is to the club.
He’s only been there six years — Buffon would laugh at that, surely – and no longer is the undisputed starter Bonucci or Pogba were when they left. But Asamoah has grown as much into Juve as the club has into him in his time there, rendering himself an asset to keep. A stabilising influence in the dressing room and a reliable performer on the pitch, Juve wouldn’t be too pleased Asamoah has to leave, even if ultimately the decision was wholly his to make.
You see, one reason why Asamoah is so firmly a part of Juve’s fabric is that the club has helped build him up to such heights of importance. Asamoah was little more than a decent, promising midfielder when acquired by Juve from Udinese back in 2012. He’s much more now, though: a protean player capable of playing in a number of positions (three this season). With Sandro still hovering around the exit — a good Russia 2018 would make the Brazilian even harder to retain — Juve would almost certainly have to reinforce on the left side of the pitch. The impact would have been cushioned were Juve receiving anything for Asamoah — he leaves on a free transfer — and the cash for any replacements would thus have to come from elsewhere.
And, really, INTER?
Losing players to PSG, Bayern and United didn’t hurt much — none of those is a direct rival and their paths rarely ever cross Juve’s, anyway — while Milan, traditionally big as they are, can’t hold a candle to Juve these days, even with defensive stalwart Bonucci central to their set-up. Inter, though, are a stronger threat, back in the Uefa Champions League after six seasons and undertaking a project that could rock Juve’s world, potentially loosening the latter’s grip on Italian football. The Nerazzurri even had their hands in the mix for the 2017/18 Serie A crown until their challenge faded toward the end, leaving Juve to fight off only Napoli for Scudetto No.34. It’s a cause Asamoah would only bolster with experience and a winning mentality almost wholly acquired in his time at Juve.
Put simply, this will hurt, even if Juve wouldn’t admit it. Oh, it will, especially when Asamoah makes that big contribution which hands Inter all the spoils in the next Derby d’Italia or even the next league title — and then we’ll see just how quickly the proud Old Lady’s straight face creases.