Juventus were undoubtedly the best team in Serie A last year, finishing the season as undefeated Scudetto winners. Their defense and midfield were heralded as the best in the peninsula, and on par with the best defensive and midfield units of Europe.
That said, their profligacy in front of goal was well noted throughout the season. Barring the autumn form of Alessandro Matri, Juve never had a striker who could consistently score. Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Del Piero, Ale Matri, and even Marco Borriello were all given chances to stake their claim to the striker position, but no man (besides Del Piero) could consistently score.
Plenty of Juve’s strikers would have been devastating in the right situation, but in Juve’s situation they were second strikers playing without an equivalent prima punta. Matri had some success in that role, but the arrival of Borriello meant a much more reduced role for Matri, and Juve were left to improvise.
The lack of goal scoring coming from the strikers meant the entire side had to claw for every goal they scored, and so many of their wins were quite well-earned. Still, that kind of play won’t work against the big teams in Europe, so the Juventus management knew they needed to get a “top striker” during this transfer window and set about doing so.
Beppe Marotta hustled all summer trying to find his striker, and Juve were linked with some pretty big names. Many press outlets reported them as top challengers for the signing of (now ex-) Arsenal hero Robin Van Persie, alongside Manchester City and Manchester United. At one point it was even reported that Juve and RVP had agreed on the contractual details, but Juve were unable to match Arsenal’s asking price.
Juve still had a shot for Van Persie, despite the financial disagreement with Arsenal, at least until Antonio Conte received his ten month ban stemming from the Calcioscomesse proceedings. This news slammed the door on Van Persie for Juve. Marotta recently spoke about the ill-fated transfer, and stated that “€30m for a player coming towards the end of his contract, without taking into account his wages, was not possible for Juventus or any other Serie A side.”
There were other serious pursuits too, like those of Fernando Llorente and Dimitar Berbatov.
Llorente has one year left on his contract with Athletic Bilbao and has announced that he will n0t renew his contract. Bilbao were willing to sell him, but Marotta only offered half of the 36 million euros that Bilbao were asking for. There is still a chance that Llorente could arrive at Juve in January or next summer on a Bosman, but they would not have him in the group stages of the Champions League when they face Chelsea.
Berbatov was, supposedly, as close as one can be to signing with Juventus. That is until he got cold feet and decided to stay in England at his new club Fulham. Marotta and Co. did all they could to hijack the transfer from Fiorentina, only for Berbatov to pull a swerve and sign with the London outfit.
Both Llorente and Berbatov came closer to signing with Juve than a certain Serie A striker did. Despite his status as the apple of many Juventini’s eyes, Edinson Cavani seems destined to stick with Napoli until the EPL comes calling. Perhaps it was a pipe dream given the recent escalation in tensions between Juve and Napoli, but Cavani was seen by some (including this writer) as the best possible candidate for Juve’s striker position. Even without the club tension, Cavani still carried a hefty price tag that Marotta probably wasn’t willing to meet.
The search finally ended with the Danish Nicklas Bendtner, who was about to sign with Siena before Juve came calling. Arsenal have sent him out on a free loan with an option to purchase him outright next summer. One can certainly cannot complain about the price, and there’s also the possibility that Bendtner brings some of the play he has shown with the Danish national side down to the club level, something that happened only rarely with Arsenal.
Marotta has taken some heat for his failure to land a marquee striker, but it’s unfair to give him all, or even most, of the blame. A fair amount of factors affecting the hypothetical signing of a highly rated striker are out of Juve’s control. This includes the recent entrance of big money sides like Man City, or PSG into the market, as well as the overall inflation in the value of attacking players seen in the past few years.
While Juventus are now a Champions League team, they are without the winnings of a recent Champions League run to finance said transfer. This was another limiting factor for Marotta and his team. There’s also Serie A’s decline in status that has been seen recently, though this is a cyclical and not permanent change. It’s not as simple as Marotta being bad at his job, but rather Marotta did a fairly mediocre job in poor circumstances.
It’s also worth noting that Marotta made several other very intelligent moves in the market, including the signings of ex-Udinese duo Kwadwo Asamoah (who has been Juve’s best player so far through two games) and Mauricio Isla. Additionally the Giovinco transfer, though not the purchase of a prima punta, has provided them with a striker who can score loads of goals, as evidenced by his brace against Udinese this weekend.
Unless Giovinco evolves into a world beating striker within weeks (something that is possible I suppose), Juventus go into the group stages of the Champions League without their top striker. The group of Matri, Bendtner, Vucinic, Quagliarella, and Giovinco will need to take care of business for now, and perhaps they finally will be able to.