Juventus Transfers: 7 Attacking Midfielders Who Could Be Juve's Final Piece
Serie A title-holders Juventus have one of the deepest squads in Europe, but if there's one position the club should look to improve, it's trequartista.
Per Football Italia, Juve have recently been linked with Chelsea's Oscar, Borussia Dortmund's Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Palermo's Franco Vasquez, all of whom could aptly fill the void behind Carlos Tevez and company.
In this slideshow, we'll take a look at the three aforementioned footballers—as well as a few other attacking midfielders across world football—and analyze what each proposed transfer target would bring to the Bianconeri.
Do Juve Really Need Another Midfielder?
Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal are all elite midfielders, though none of them are at their best behind the centre-forwards.
Per WhoScored.com, Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri has predominately used the 3-5-2 and the 4-4-2 this season.
When Allegri picks Marchisio, Pogba and Vidal in the 3-5-2, the three central midfielders will interchange throughout the match, with each player seeing time as the most advanced midfielder.
In the diamond midfield of the 4-4-2, where a nominal attacking midfielder is fielded, there is less positional flux, and the No. 10 will largely roam in the hole behind the strikers, looking for a passing lane through which to thread the killer pass.
Allegri has rotated Vidal and Udinese-owned Roberto Pererya in that attacking midfield role, with Vidal's six appearances edging out his South American compatriot's five.
There is no question that Vidal can do the job—he was class in that position for Bayer Leverkusen earlier in his career—but it's hard to say that Allegri will strictly deploy him there, especially with the exit rumors surrounding Pogba.
Retaining the French superstar will be item one on the summer agenda, but in the event a Godfather offer comes in, Vidal would presumably return to his post alongside Andrea Pirlo.
Pereyra is still on the books at Udinese—we'll analyze a permanent transfer in the coming slides—and is set to return to the Friuli upon the culmination of the 2014-15 campaign.
Youngsters like Stefano Sturaro and Domenico Berardi represent internal options, but both have been groomed to play other positions—central midfield and winger, respectively.
This are a lot of if's, but come next season, if Pogba is sold, if Vidal moves to a deeper position and if Pereyra returns to Udinese, Juve's trequartista depth would be decimated.
Really the only position in need of improvement this summer, the Bianconeri board should strongly consider adding a top quality attacking midfielder.
Now, let's take a look at some footballers who should be on Beppe Marotta's shortlist.
Roberto Pereyra, Udinese
The Argentinean international has appeared in 20 of Juve's 23 Serie A matches this season, scoring once and assisting on another two goals.
Those aren't great numbers, and while he has brought energy and creativity to the Bianconeri, he's far from the best option out there.
The 24-year-old is valued at €13 million by Transfermarkt.com, and while a more club-friendly deal could likely be agreed following his loan, he hasn't yet shown that he can be a difference maker in European competition.
Juve have figured out Serie A, so the next objective should be the Champions League, and that window is closing by the day.
For all of Juventus' quality, Allegri manages an older squad and signing a trequartista who can put them over the top will help the Bianconeri inch closer to European supremacy.
Pereyra is a fine player, but he doesn't seem to be that impact No. 10 who would move the needle for this Juventus side.
If Marotta can get Pereyra's price down, he'd be a nice addition who'd provide quality depth, but stopping at Pereyra may be a bit short-sighted.
Oscar, the 23-year-old Brazilian international, has been omnipresent under Jose Mourinho after embracing the defensive onus placed on him by the Portuguese tactician.
He's started 80 percent of Chelsea's Premier League matches this season, scoring six goals and assisting on another seven, forming one of Europe's best attacking midfield triumvirates alongside wingers Eden Hazard and Willian.
Juventini will remember him for the wonder goal he hit past a diving Gianluigi Buffon in the Champions League, and it's been that willingness to have a go that's taken his game to the next level.
Oscar is averaging three shots per contest, a top-10 mark in the English top flight on par with other shot-happy Premier League midfielders like Yaya Toure and Angel Di Maria.
He's also crucially upped his assist numbers from the surprisingly low two helpers he dished out in league play all of last season, to an impressive seven this term.
Pereyra has done a fine job behind the centre-forwards, but Oscar is on another level in terms of what he'd add to the Juve attack.
It must be said that this transfer rumor is a bit of a pipe dream—Chelsea don't need the money Oscar's sale would generate, and there is no reason why Mourinho would sell one of the first names on his teamsheet.
Nabil Fekir, Lyon
Atop the Ligue 1 table ahead of perennial favorites Paris Saint-Germain sit Lyon, a famous French outfit renowned for cultivating some of the country's best talent, including Karim Benzema and Hugo Lloris.
This season, les Gones' title charge has been led by two young forwards, Alexandre Lacazette—who is having arguably the best season of any player in Europe—and Nabil Fekir.
We'll be focusing on the latter, a 21-year-old French youth international who has split time between striker and attacking midfielder this season.
Through 21 domestic matches this season, Fekir has contributed to 14 goals—eight goals and six assists—while displaying a complete offensive skill set.
While he offers very little defensively, Fekir is a willing, and dangerous, shooter who is averaging the third-most dribbles in Ligue 1, behind only PSG's Lucas Moura and Marseille's midfield engine Giannelli Imbula.
He's leading the French top flight in fouls drawn, a testament to his superb skill, and a really useful wrinkle in his game.
And he's done this all in just his second season as a pro.
His €6.5 million valuation, via Transfermarkt.com, makes him a steal and the perfect player to add to Juve's French contingent, which already features starlets like Kingsley Coman and the incomparable Paul Pogba.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund haven't been right all season and those struggles extend to their Armenian midfielder.
Through 16 matches this season, 11 of which came as starts, Mkhitaryan's efforts have failed to lead to a goal.
A goal-less and assist-less trequartista isn't quite what Juve, a club looking for that final piece, need.
However, it's hard not to call Mkhitaryan's dip in form an anomaly.
The 26-year-old was a revelation for the Westfalenstadion outfit last season, netting nine times and providing 10 assists through 31 matches, showing that his previous domination of the Ukrainian Premier League during his time with Shakhtar Donetsk wasn't merely a product of lesser competition.
Jurgen Klopp has deployed Mkhitaryan in a number of different positions this season, and that positional flexibility will serve him well under Max Allegri, who is notorious for deploying players in a number of roles.
Quoted at €21 million by Transfermarkt, Mkhitaryan may be available after his tumultuous term, but there may be better options at that price point.
Franco Vazquez, Palermo
While Palermo seem resigned to losing star striker Paulo Dybala over the summer, the Aquile have made it known that they wish to keep hold of Argentinean playmaker Franco Vazquez, according to Football Italia.
This hasn't stopped Juve from expressing their interest in the Palermo man, but the €25 million figure he's been slapped with seems high for a player who's only lived up to that fee for half a season.
To Vazquez's credit, however, it's been a hell of a half-season.
On the books at the Renzo Barbera outfit since 2012, Vazquez has been the best trequartista in Italy this term, scoring seven times and assisting on another nine goals through 22 league matches.
He explodes forward with the ball at his feet, tied with Genoa's Diego Perotti at the top of the Serie A charts with 3.4 dribbles per game, ahead of players like Gervinho, Felipe Anderson and possible team-mate Paul Pogba.
Like Firmino, his high-risk, high-reward passing knock his pass completion percentage down to under 80 percent, a mark that would be the lowest of all Juve midfielders.
Nevertheless, Vazquez has really come into his own this season, but it's difficult to rationalize spending what Palermo are demanding for a player with that small of a top-flight sample size.
Juan Mata, Manchester United
With Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao dominating the playing time at the three attacking positions in Louis van Gaal's formations, Juan Mata has been left to mind the centre of the park.
Mata is a fantastic playmaker and expecting him to help shield United's uninspiring centre-backs is a bit of misutilization of the Spanish international.
He won Chelsea Player of the Year in consecutive seasons and earned a PFA Team of the Year berth before leaving the Bridge, but he's endured a similar situation to Shinji Kagawa since moving to Old Trafford.
Forced to play out of position with Wayne Rooney dominating the minutes behind the centre-forwards, Mata may be open to a move, and he has been linked with the Italian champions in the past.
And he's a totally different player when fielded as a No. 10—in the seven matches Van Gaal has deployed the former Valencia man as an attacking midfielder, he's responded with three goals and two assists.
In the 10 matches the 26-year-old has played in a deeper role, he's compiled just a goal and an assist.
He won't be supplanting Wayne Rooney any time soon, and it may be time to test United's resolve. Van Gaal has made it known that he wishes to pursue a central midfielder this summer, but presumably one of a defensive mold, a style to which Mata does not ascribe.
Mata's contract runs through the 2017-18 season and Transfermarkt's €34 million valuation makes him our list's second-most expensive player, behind just Oscar staggering €40 million tag.
Juve should look to use Mata's dip in form to get that price down, because if he's available for the same fee as some other players on this list, it's tough not to make the former Valencia man—who was arguably the best player in the English Premier League two seasons ago—their top summer target.
Roberto Firmino, Hoffenheim
Roberto Firmino has been Hoffenheim's most valuable player for the past few seasons and is primed to make a big-money move.
Through 21 matches this season, the versatile midfielder has registered six goals and six assists, posting top-10 marks in shots and key passes per game, as well the third-best dribbles per game average in the Bundesliga.
Last season he was even better, scoring 16 times and providing 11 assists in 33 matches, earning him honors as the Bundesliga Breakthrough Player of the Year.
Firmino exhibits a strong defensive work-rate, racking up way more tackles than you'd expect from an attacking player, though he can be a bit reckless in the challenge.
Aside from his occasionally wayward tackling, the lone knock on Firmino is that his adventurous passing has caused his pass-completion percentage to hover around the 75 percent mark.
With the amount of chances he creates, Allegri could live with the occasional turnover, though he will expect the Brazilian to embrace the possession-based style the Italian tactician favors.
He's a complete midfielder who can play left, right or center, in a more withdrawn or a more attacking role, and he's even deputized as a centre-forward a bit, but he has world-class potential as a No. 10.
He may be growing a bit weary of plugging away for a mid-table Bundesliga side—his delayed international debut elucidates his under-the-radar reputation—and Juve could be the perfect landing spot.
Signed through the 2016-17 season, Firmino won't be had on the cheap—Transfermarkt place his transfer value at €25 million.
Dollar for dollar—or euro for euro in this case—he'd be my top attacking midfield target this summer.