Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Alex Sandro is not Pogba - he is irreplaceable

Alex Sandro is not Pogba - he is irreplaceable for selling club Juventus
Losing a player they will not be able to properly replace, albeit for a huge fee, proves the Bianconeri know they cannot compete with Europe's elite

"We have no intention of selling anyone," Beppe Marotta declared last week. "But if a player decides to leave, as has happened in previous years, then he has to go, because we don't keep anyone against their will."
It was a staggering admission from the Juventus general director.
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In the same summer in which Southampton, a mid-table Premier League outfit, forced Liverpool into a humiliating apology over their pursuit of the want-away Virgil van Dijk, the champions of Italy admitted that any member of their squad could leave if he so desired.
No club or coach wants to retain the services of a player who no longer wants to be there, but that Marotta openly admitted Juve would not stand in the way of any unsettled party could not be construed as anything other than a public concession of weakness.
Beppe Marotta Juventus PS
As a result, the Bianconeri are now set to lose their first-choice full-backs in the same transfer window, with both Dani Alves and Alex Sandro bound for the Premier League. And this, after reaching a second Champions League final in three seasons.
While Alves' departure is more understandable, the imminent departure of Alex Sandro is far more damaging as it validates the belief that Juve are a selling club.
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A year after they lost Paul Pogba to Manchester United, they are set to allow one of their best players to join Chelsea. There is a big difference between the two deals, though.
In the case of Pogba, Juve were resigned to losing the Mino Raiola-managed Frenchman, anyway, and were enthused by the record-breaking fee of €105 million.
Alex Sandro Paul Pogba Juventus
More importantly, Juve felt that Pogba was replaceable. By contrast, they know that Alex Sandro is not.
Indeed, there is no other left-sided player on the market anywhere near as good as the former Porto ace. Matteo Darmian has been identified as a cut-price alternative but he is not on the same level as Alex Sandro.
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Only Marcelo compares. The Real Madrid full-back registered more assists than his compatriot last season (10 to four) but Alex Sandro created more chances (50 to 44), completed more dribbles (49 to 43), made more interceptions (57 to 40), and won more duels (207 to 122) and aerials (41 to 8) – despite playing three less league games.
Those stats illustrate just how rounded a player Alex Sandro has become since arriving in Turin two years ago, and why he is just as capable of playing in any position on the left flank.
Alex Sandro Marcelo Stats PS
We're not only talking about a wonderfully talented footballer, one who made his name in an exciting Santos side alongside Neymar and Felipe Anderson, but also an incredibly determined individual who spent his first year in Turin learning as much as possible from the more defensively minded Patrice Evra.
"He helped me understand what the coach wanted from a full-back," Alex Sandro revealed.
"The Italian league is very tactical, the teams are extremely compact. You have very little time to think with the ball at your feet. I wasn't expecting that but it's helped me improve so much."
Alex Sandro's mentality has also changed over the past two years.
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This is character that now hates losing so much that he stopped playing football games online with Real Madrid duo Danilo and Casemiro because he was ending up on the wrong end of too many beatings.
"I used to get too annoyed!" he admitted to Tuttosport last year.
This insatiable will to win was cultivated at Juve. It was in Turin that Alex Sandro learned that a true professional approaches every game and treats every opponent with the exact same level of professionalism, and that, at elite clubs, winning isn't an option but an obligation.
"Frosinone, Napoli, Bayern Munich - it doesn't make a difference," he explained.
"The Juve mentality is simple and I like it: you must only follow the straight line that leads to victory."
Antonio Conte Juventus PS
Thus, the Bianconeri are loath to lose a player who had so enthusiastically embraced the club culture and offered him a contract extension until 2022 that would have seen him earn a net salary of €5 million per annum.
Crucially, though, Chelsea offered more. A lot more. Alex Sandro is now set to see his wage packet go from €2.5m a year to €9m.
For all the remarkable ground that they have made in recent years from an economic perspective, Juve still cannot afford to pay the kind of astronomical wages on offer in England.
They cannot compete and, as Marotta effectively admitted, they know it.
More importantly, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte knows it too. It was he, after all, who pointed out during his time in charge in Turin that, "You cannot expect to eat in a €100 restaurant with just €10 in your pocket."
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It was those financial constraints that ultimately prompted Conte to part company with Juve, after a dispute with Marotta over transfer targets in the summer of 2014.
Until Serie A becomes a financial force again - which is wholly dependent upon further overseas investment - Juve, and every other Italian outfit, will continue to earn only a fraction of the TV money currently being distributed in England, which is why Southampton can take a hard-line stance in the transfer market and the Bianconeri cannot.
It is why Paul Pogba departed last summer, Alex Sandro will leave this summer, and Paulo Dybala will probably move on next summer.
Juve may be one of the best-run clubs in Europe and boast one of its strongest sides but while they have deservedly reclaimed their seat at Europe's top table, their pockets are still nowhere near as deep as those sitting alongside them.
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