Gianluigi Buffon

Dybala goal video
Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Juve’s beautiful blowout sees Ronaldo free kick, Dybala magic (video)

Leave a comment

Technique isn’t leaving Cristiano Ronaldo any time soon.

The Portuguese star, 35, scored his 25th league goal of the season on a day of pretty goals for Juventus, who is moving closer to yet another Serie A scudetto.

[ MORE: Sane completes Bayern move ]

Juve opens up a 7-point lead on Lazio, who holds a match-in-hand, by beating up rivals Torino 4-1 at Juventus’ Allianz Stadium.

The match also holds special significance for Gianluigi Buffon. The veteran goalkeeper broke his tie with Paulo Maldini for most appearances in Serie A history when he made his 648th.

Ronaldo’s free kick was exceptional, his 629th senior goal coming in his 841th appearance (He has 221 assists in those outings).

Ronaldo and Juan Cuadrado each had a goal and an assist while Paulo Dybala scored with a wonderful bit of dribbling to open the scoring.

Andrea Belotti scored for Torino, who also conceded an own goal to The Old Lady.

Dybala, we mean, look at this shimmy.

Breaking down the Arthur for Pjanic plus cash ‘swap’ for Barca, Juve

Pjanic to Barcelona
Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Juventus got a little younger on Monday but also made sure to keep a couple veterans around Turin.

The Old Lady completed a swap deal, sending Miralem Pjanic plus cash to Barcelona for midfielder Arthur, while also announcing new contracts for Gianluigi Buffon and Georgio Chiellini.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Barcelona says it paid $67 million for the 30-year-old Pjanic, while Juve spent about $81 million to get Arthur.

Barca could get another $11 million if Arthur hits bonuses, and there’s a good chance for that.

The Blaugranas have been a mess aside from Lionel Messi’s typical brilliance, and have been passed by Real Madrid both in the table and long-term prognosis. Board room drama has not helped anything.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Understandably, Barca is getting blasted for the swap deal and that’s an easy argument to make given Arthur’s age and status as one of the club’s more consistent performers.

But here’s a devil’s advocate take.

Pjanic a move to embrace the back end of Messi’s prime

Messi remains the best creator in the world if not flat-out best player but his window has to be closing despite his seemingly immortal skills. Consider:

  • Only Thomas Muller (21) has more league assists than the Argentine and only four have more goals.
  • Robert Lewandowski is the only player to have as many combined goals and assists as Messi, and the Polish striker’s season is over.
  • Messi been named Man of the Match in 18 of his 27 appearances which is a ton even accounting for reputation.

Arthur v. Pjanic

It’s unlikely that he’ll fall off a cliff next season, but he needs some help in shouldering the playmaking load.

Let’s get this out of the way: Arthur is a force and will bring power and 1v1 skills to a Juventus team which is long in the tooth outside of Paulo Dybala, Matthijs de Ligt, and Rodrigo Betancur.

But Pjanic can simultaneously mentor Frenkie de Jong and combine with the young Dutchman to produce a metronomic midfield and allow Barca’s creators up top to do their thing.

Barca’s also been a bit snakebit this year. No team is possessing the ball more than Quique Setien’s men, with 62.5 percent of the ball having an edge on Man City (62.0), PSG (61.8), Bayern Munich (61.5), and Bayer Leverkusen (60.1) the only clubs above 60 percent.

Don’t get me wrong: Arguing for this move paying off more for Juve than Barcelona is very easy and the Catalan side’s embarrassing off-field season — let alone years of poor personnel planning — makes the jokes even easier. Right now, Messi isn’t just carrying Barca, he’s bearing the entire weight of the club’s reputation.

The goal seems to be to get Messi another Champions League, something that could still happen this season if the defense avoids gaffes. Barca is a top ten team in shots conceded per game, better than even Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid and Julian Nagelsmann’s RB Leipzig.

Plus there will be sales of Philippe Coutinho, Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, and others to go with the $14 million left over from the swap deal.

Arthur to Juventus
(Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Why Juventus loves the move

Arthur is a beast, and can combine with Betancur to provide a complete midfield duo that is equal parts relentless, physical, and technical.

They’ll only grow under the tutelage and pressure that comes from playing with an older roster conditioned to winning.

Consider the ages of Juve’s top minutes contributors in Serie A play. Leonardo Bonucci is 33, Cristiano Ronaldo 35, and Juan Cuadrado 32. Then comes Pjanic (30), Alex Sandro (29), de Ligt (20), Blaise Matuidi (33), Dybala (26), and Betancur (23).

Arthur is yet to collect the track record of Pjanic and there will be an adjustment but even if the swap doesn’t pan out, the Old Lady will have risked $14 million on a 23-year-old with 20 Brazil caps.

What about Buffon and Chiellini and their combined 77 years on God’s green earth?

This makes sense, too.

Buffon was strong in the Italian Cup run and provides invaluable depth in experience as one of th best goalkeepers in the history of the game.

Chiellini missed most of the season with cruciate ligament injuries but even at 35 remains an adequate player and loyal servant.

The legends want to keep playing, will accept their roles, and there’s no reason to see them in another shirt.

Napoli wins Coppa Italia in penalty kicks

Napoli wins Coppa Italia
Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Napoli won the Coppa Italia in penalty kicks after a nil-nil match against Juventus on Wednesday.

The win was Napoli’s sixth and first since 2014, and gives manager Gennaro Gattuso the honor of winning it as a player and coach. He claimed the 2003 Coppa Italia with AC Milan.

Lorenzo Insigne, Matteo Politano, and Nikola Maksimovic made Napoli’s first three kicks and Arkadiusz Milik sealed the deal in a 4-2 win.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Gianluigi Buffon was the easy Man of the Match over 90 minutes but was denied another piece of silverware when Paulo Dybala and Danilo missed Juve’s first two penalties.

The 42-year-old goalkeeper looked set to write a fairytale after making an amazing save in stoppage time as part of a seven-save day.

Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t his usual self but certainly not the problem for Juve. He had one shot saved and two attempts blocked.

Transfer rumor roundup: Spurs lead race for Rakitic; Juve-Barca talk swap

Rakitic
Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday’s transfer rumor mill churns out beneficial news for a player Jose Mourinho believes is one of the very best center midfielders are on Earth (He’s not wrong).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A report out of Spain’s Mundo Deportivo says Tottenham has pulled in front of a pack of chasers in the race to sign Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona.

Rakitic, 32, has another season on his contract and Spurs are said to be best suited to land him due to Juventus preferring a younger player and Atletico less willing to give a longer contract.

The Swiss-born Croatian has 106 international caps with 15 goals and is one appearance away from making his 300th in a Barcelona shirt.

He won the Europa League with Sevilla in 2014 before claiming the Champions League with Barca one year later. Rakitic’s minutes and attacking numbers have taken a hit this season, as 11 of his 21 La Liga appearances have come off the bench.

Other unrelated reports have linked Tanguy Ndombele with a move in the other direction. Spurs would do well to act regardless of Ndombele’s destination, depending on the length of the deal for Rakitic. If he’s not a contract albatross in four years time, Spurs will have a valuable asset in their race to rejoin the UCL elite.

But would Daniel Levy be willing to sanction a higher salary for an older player? That will be key here.

Marca has two aforementioned clubs in an interesting swap deal, where Barcelona would acquire Miralem Pjanic from Juventus in exchange for Arthur.

The 30-year-old Pjanic has again been a key player for Juventus, scoring three times with two assists in 22 Serie A appearances.

Arthur, 23, has played much less at Barcelona and it would be a symptom of its sick if they cast him aside despite strong play in limited use.

The defensive midfielder has chimed in with three goals and three assists in 700 fewer minutes. He’s missed nine La Liga games with various injuries this season.

Pjanic would certainly fit the bill of a Barca quality player but Juventus would make out like a bandit here, as Arthur has barely begun an already impressive career.

In the same report, Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici said he expects very few clubs will be able to afford Paul Pogba after the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and that Gianluigi Buffalo and Giorgio Chiellini will spend another year with The Old Lady.

Buffon hails Ronaldo, Zlatan, himself after nine-save show

Gianluigi Buffon
Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gianluigi Buffon is not taking for granted his final days as a player.

The iconic 42-year-old goalkeeper had an exceptional day between the sticks for Juventus in a 1-1 draw with 10-man AC Milan.

Buffon made nine saves against an ascendant and lively Milan, keeping the Old Lady in the Coppa Italia semifinal tie despite conceding a less-than-ideal goal to Ante Rebic.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The keeper struck a defiant tone in relishing a starring role, and used the opportunity of his turning back to the clock to shower praise on Juve teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

From Football-Italia:

“I have to admit, I smile at this, because so many turned their noses up when Ibrahimovic was coming to Milan, but at the age of 38, he is making the difference. When it comes to players, you have to analyze them individually and not just as a birthdate. I am very happy for him, he is an extraordinary champion.”

On Ronaldo, Buffon said, “One of the reasons I returned to Juventus was the opportunity to play and train with Cristiano Ronaldo and every day is a revelation.”

Milan’s Daniel Maldini was an unused sub on the day, but the 18-year-old featured in Buffon’s plans.

Buffon traded jerseys with the teenager, just as he did with his father Paolo Maldini. He noted that he’s also traded jerseys with George and Timothy Weah, Lilian and Marcus Thuram,and Enrico and Federico Chiesa.

When he finally does retire, he may leave with the title of the most Interesting Footballer in the World.