Add Blaise Matuidi to the growing list of footballers who have tested positive for coronavirus.
Juventus announced the news on Tuesday, six days after teammate Daniele Rugani tested positive for COVID-19. Matuidi entered isolation on the same day, March 11.
[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]
According to Juve, Matuidi “has been in voluntary home isolation. He will continue to be monitored and will follow the same regimen. He is well and is asymptomatic.”
Juve has a one-point lead on Lazio in a bid to win its ninth-straight and 36th-total scudetto.
Matuidi has played in 31 matches with a goal and two assists this season, his third with Juve. He won the World Cup with France and has 84 caps.
More coronavirus connections to soccer:
Jeez, you might as well rename Manchester as Turin at this point…
Amid reports of Manchester United and Juventus agreeing a mega-swap deal for Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku, another report out of Italy suggests either Mario Mandzukic or Blaise Matuidi could also be heading to Old Trafford too.
Sport Mediaset in Italy says that one of Matuidi or Mandzukic have been discussed as a potential makeweight in any deal.
Which player do United need more?
With the attacking talents they already possess and their philosophy to only have pure pace in the forward areas, surely that rules out a move for Mandzukic. The Croatian striker has been a huge success for many years across Europe with Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and at Juve, but at 33 he is coming towards the end of his career and pace is not one of his top attributes.
Matuidi seems like a better fit for this current United squad, especially if Paul Pogba leaves in the final week of the window.
The French international, 32, has quality on the ball but his energy and defensive capabilities would be ideal in replacing Ander Herrera in the engine room. He also formed a great partnership with Pogba during France’s 2018 World Cup success last summer and he may be key in getting Pogba to remain at United this summer. The jury is still out on Nemanja Matic and Fred as central midfield options, while Scott McTominay has had a very good preseason but is still young. Adding Matuidi as a sweetner in this Dybala-Lukaku swap deal would be very decent for United.
But maybe this is all part of the plan for Juventus to buy Pogba in the next few days, as they send Matuidi and plenty of cash the other way.
Dybala and Matuidi for Pogba and Lukaku doesn’t seem like the best deal for United, but if Juventus chuck in say $70-75 million too, then that would be a deal that is too good to turn down.
A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…
[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]
Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.
Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.
Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.
Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.
Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.
Leonardo Bonucci has been roundly criticized for comments he made after teammate Moise Kean was subjected to racist abuse during Juventus’ 2-0 victory over Cagliari on Tuesday.
[ MORE: Allegri asks for lifetime bans after Kean racially abused ]
Whereas Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri called for the fans hurling racist abuse at Juve and Italy’s 19-year-old rising star to be banned for life, Bonucci said, “I think the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn’t have [celebrated like that] and the [fans] should not have reacted that way.”
A number of the game’s most prominent black stars, including Raheem Sterling and Memphis Depay, hit back directly at Bonucci for all to see, while the likes of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Mario Balotelli, among others, have posted full-throated support of Kean on social media.
(Google Translate: As captain of Juventus I am disappointed in your reaction, the boy can rejoice as he wants. His role is essential for his team and he plays with great pride for his country Italy. He must be respected for this.)
Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini’s comments on the matter were equally un-empathetic and slanted — quotes from the Guardian:
“I don’t want people to start being self-righteous about it, because I heard that already, whereas Juventus players came to me afterwards and confessed Kean was wrong to celebrate that way.
“We cannot go around calling the entire Cagliari crowd offensive things. If there were racist jeers, then our fans got it wrong, but it happened because of the celebration and would’ve happened even if the goalscorer had a different color of skin.”
At 31 years old, Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira seems to be caught in a never-ending battle with his own fitness, and losing.
The Italian club confirmed early Saturday that Khedira suffered a sprained ankle during a Saturday morning training session and is unlikely to face SPAL next weekend. The German had only just returned last weekend from a six-week absence, playing the final 16 minutes in Juventus’s win over AC Milan.
Khedira joined Juventus in the summer of 2015 on a free transfer from Real Madrid, and has actually maintained a relatively clean bill of health the last two campaigns after just 20 league appearances his first season in Turin. However, this season has been a different story, with just five Serie A appearances and eight overall.
Multiple reports now say he’s a doubt to play against SPAL next weekend, a critical match as Juventus looks to hold its six-point lead at the top of the table. Inter and Napoli behind them play 19th placed Frosinone and 20th placed Chievo Verona respectively, so a win is critical for the Old Lady.
Coming up for Juventus after the SPAL game is a Champions League meeting with Valencia in Spain, followed by league matches against Fiorentina and Inter all by December 7. Ankle sprains can linger depending on the severity, so a spell on the sidelines for Khedira that encompasses those matches is not unfathomable.
Argentine midfielder Rodrigo Betancur has been the most direct beneficiary of Khedira’s absence, without a start through four matches until Kherida’s knee injury, at which point he received seven starts over the next eight Serie A games. Emre Can would be in the mix but he has missed the last three Serie A matches after having thyroid surgery. These absences have forced Miralem Pjanic into a deeper role with Blaise Matuidi alongside him.