Time For Juventus’ Magician To Move On
More often than not, a Fabio Quagliarella goal is a thing of beauty.
He can drill them in from distance, as that thunderbolt from the blue against Inter last season showed. He can loft delicate chips that confound defenders and goalkeepers alike, as in Italy’s World Cup 2010 defeat to Slovakia. He even produced a glorious bicycle kick in Juventus’ destruction of Pescara last season.
Often players are described as having feet like wands, but the sense of wonder that can come from watching Quagliarella dip into his bag of tricks can leave you goggle-eyed – not entirely sure what you’ve seen – even when in the stands or watching on television.
Juventus play their home games almost in the shadow of Antonelli’s Mole, a gigantic tower that dominates the Turin skyline. Inside the building is the National Cinema Museum, dedicated to the very early days of European film. Walking through the halls full of clips from the turn of the 20th century, you get a very real sense of what it felt like back then to see something never seen before – something that (even today) can leave you goggle-eyed with wonder.
With that in mind, it is fitting that one of the few footballers who has been able to regularly have that affect on the public not only started his career in Turin, with Torino, but reached his peak in the city during his current spell with Juventus.
He has been, throughout his whole career, a player whose football can bring crowds to their feet. As such, his place in the squad of the back-to-back Serie A Champions Juventus should be assured. Furthermore, since moving back to Turin, his repertoire has increased; the spectacular strikes haven’t faded, but he has begun to augment them with more ‘routine’ strikes from nearer the goal.
That said, his rolled finish into the bottom right corner against Chelsea in the Champions League last season may have been from close range, but it was another time-stood-still moment as it crept over the goal-line. Something about Quagliarella’s technique means that goals that might look run-of-the-mill from other players look spectacular coming from him.
As such, he has demonstrated, as all top players should, an ability to rise to the challenge and has improved his game when he needed to do so most. It has stood him in good stead over three seasons, but this summer his club have brought in two blue ribbon strikers in the shape of Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez. Now Quagliarella finds himself cast as the odd man out.
It seems his time with the Bianconeri is up, no longer does Antonio Conte want to call upon the services of his magician; the possibility of gazing open-mouthed at wonder goals has been replaced by the necessity to put away as many chances as possible.
Indeed, the only question that remains is whether that magician will be able to secure a position at one of Europe’s ‘big’ clubs, or whether this is the last we see of the spectacular goalscorer among the elite.
At 30-years-old, the next move for the Italian international will shape the rest of his career. The Vecchia Signora are known to be trying to reduce their wage bill by getting their higher earners off the salary sheet, so it stands to reason that the veteran striker will be taking a pay-cut wherever he goes.
As well as that, moving on from Juventus often means a move away from the elite, particularly if Quagliarella has any intention of staying in his homeland, though it is difficult to imagine where he might be in demand within Italy’s top clubs.
Aside from Juventus, most of Italy’s strongest teams are set up with a three-man attack, which would mean operating as the tip of a forward line, where most of the Castellammare di Stabia native’s best work comes from sitting just behind that position. Additionally, most of the big clubs have done their big transfer dealing already, and fitting Quagliarella into their squads would be difficult.
Sitting as we do, a little under a fortnight before the season begins, teams have been in pre-season camps for a month. To introduce a first-choice player to a top-level team at this stage would be to undo a lot of the work undertaken during that month, even if he was a player as talented as Fabio Quagliarella.
With that in mind, perhaps, the potential suitors favoured by the media have been abroad, including recently free-spending Norwich City and Paolo di Canio’s Sunderland, neither of whom feature at the top end of English football.
Both would represent a new, different, challenge and the new TV deal negotiated by the Premier League may well mean that Quagliarella wouldn’t see his pocket hit as hard as it may otherwise be by the step down. Whatever comes to pass, this most flamboyant of marksmen is unlikely to be plying his trade in Serie A by September. Moving to either Norwich or Sunderland would mean a departure from the Champions League he once described as ‘a dream’ and, very possibly, relinquishing his chance of further recognition for the Azzurri.
Norwich is not the most obvious of places for Cesare Prandelli to watch his strikers, a problem magnified for Quagliarella by the proliferation of young attacking talent that is pushing its way into his place in the Italy squad. Despite being surplus to requirements at Juventus, and peripheral during most of his time there, the former Udinese man’s form has shown no permanent dip; if anything, he has improved his production throughout his time with the Bianconeri.
Looking purely statistically, it is possible to suggest that because of the nature of a lot of his goals, the frequency of Quagliarella’s strikes still remains a little under appreciated. Over the last four seasons – since he left Udinese – the Italian international has scored thirty-three goals in a hundred and one games, which is an acceptable figure, if not quite top-scorer level.
However, in that time, he has played in only 101 matches, meaning he has missed a little over fifty (more than a full season of) league games. Most of those missed games have come while he has been with Juventus, through either injury, or because he has never quite been first choice for the Vecchia Signora.
Equally importantly, his goals have been complemented by 11 assists. He may not be a fantasista in the truest sense of the word but the vision that allows him to score so spectacularly allows him to set up team-mates with ease, too.
Numbers like those should be of interest to clubs at a higher level than the bottom half of the English Premier League, which only serves to suggest that questions are being raised about Quagliarella in boardrooms that are not answerable by his performances on the field.
It is possible that looking at his injury record, and seeing a player missing a large part of 2010/11 with a cruciate ligament injury, teams would be reluctant to shell out Juventus’ €10 million asking price, a price that the Bianconeri seem unwilling to lower.
However, Quagliarella came back to full fitness and by the end of 2012/13 was performing at a level that was arguably his best. Antonio Conte’s reluctance to allow him to play a complete game was noticeable; only once in 27 appearances did he manage the full 90 minutes, and that was the final league game, a defeat against his old club Sampdoria with the Scudetto already clinched.
With his career at a crossroads, it is almost certain that Fabio Quagliarella may end up having to make a choice that sees him move away from Italy. The figure for which Juventus are asking has possibly served to price him out of the domestic market, meaning a move to another country is the only likely option, though it remains to be seen where that will be.
One can assume that the worst case scenario for both parties is for Quagliarella to still be on Juventus’ books on September 1. Another four months (at least) of top-level wage payments for a player who is unlikely to be used by Antonio Conte is the last thing the Bianconeri would want while they’re trying to reduce their outgoings.
Meanwhile, Quagliarella himself has no interest in staying at the Juventus Stadium beyond the end of the transfer window. He is very unlikely to feature in any squads while Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente are taking up the striking spots, with Mirko Vucinic backing up, as well as (currently) Alessandro Matri meaning he will spend his time in the second string or, as he did once last season, in the Primavera side.
This summer, time is running out for Quagliarella. It seems unlikely he will be able to engineer a move to a top club and with Juventus holding out for €10 million, perhaps his best bet is to take a step down to a lesser club that is willing to pay that figure for his services. From there, he can set his stall out to get a move back to the top table as early as next summer. He can point to statistics that allow him back himself to deliver the goods wherever he ends up going.
The leading light of the period covered by Turin’s National Cinema Museum was undoubtedly the Frenchman George Melies. Starting as an illusionist before moving into cinema and perhaps most famous for his Voyage dans la Lune, the French director made around 500 movies, leading the way in special effects and opening the eyes of the world as to what was possible on the silver screen. Despite popularity and influence around the turn of the 20th century, his career waned with the coming of longer, more complex movies pictures, as audiences wanted to marvel at new ‘tricks’.
Some time later, when the new cinema had established itself, the works of Melies were re-evaluated. His work had stood the test of time, and was heralded anew as the visionary he evidently was, eventually given a gala he described as one of the most brilliant moments of his life and awarded the French Legion d’honneur in 1931.
The time has come for Fabio Quagliarella to pack his rabbit into his top hat and take his bag of tricks away from Juventus. He hasn’t lost any of his imagination, or any of his ability, so there’s no reason he can’t be a success wherever he goes.
He has reached the point where, as George Melies found, his magic has grown old for the people who see it often.
A period performing on a different stage will only make Italian fans appreciate him more, and a season casting spells on a new audience will create fresh demand for his services next summer. While he could still offer much to Juventus, moving Quagliarella on, and quickly, is the best thing for both parties.