£18.2million pounds. In a transfer market littered with plenty of inflated prices for players, especially at the top level, it surely comes as a surprise that Serie A champions Juventus have managed to sign PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi for just less than £20m.
Blaise Matuidi has been with Les Parisiens since the summer of 2011 and garnered plenty of experience in France, so it was always likely that he’d look to challenge himself abroad when the right offer came in.
Now 30-years-old, he’s been heavily linked with a Premier League move in recent seasons but remained a part of PSG’s plans going forward. With a year left on his existing deal though, it was always likely that he’d opt to move elsewhere and they were evidently keen to earn as much as possible now, rather than risk him signing a pre-contract with another European rival in January.
Massimiliano Allegri’s Juve side were runners-up in last season’s UEFA Champions League. It was no easy task either, especially having effectively shut out Barcelona’s attacking trio and nullified Monaco’s highly-rated frontline on their way to Cardiff. They ultimately came up short against an inspired Real Madrid side eager to achieve a historic Duodécima – their 12th Champions League triumph.
But with Blaise Matuidi as well as other recruits in their ranks, they’ll be quietly confident that they can continue to improve and achieve one better during the new campaign.
The main weakness at Juventus is the fact that their attack-minded players regularly have to track back and provide defensive cover out of possession. It’s not necessarily an issue against weaker opposition but especially in the Champions League, against tougher sides, they can get caught out on the counter-attack or equally struggle to create many chances towards the latter stages of play because their forwards are tired and can be isolated easier as a result.
This was on display after an hour during the final against Real, where they collectively faded and were ruthlessly punished for an intensity drop as the second-half continued. It’s not the first instance either, as two of the goals they had conceded prior to the final against Lyon and Monaco were netted in the final half-hour.
The same trend follows them domestically too: with the best defence and only 27 goals conceded last term, they managed to ship 10 of those in the final 30 minutes of matches which ultimately cost them at least eight points. They won the league for the sixth successive year with a four-point margin over Roma but with rivals continuing to strengthen, it’s important they iron out their weaknesses and signing Blaise Matuidi could help them do that.
His impact on Juve’s current midfield
The same age as Sami Khedira, a year younger than Claudio Marchisio, Matuidi’s quality as a box-to-box midfielder is undisputed. With his presence in midfield, there are a number of combinations he could be involved alongside.
Khedira’s troublesome injury record doesn’t make for particularly good reading and it’s important that Juve manage to share the defensive load in a much more effective way than they have done recently. Mario Mandzukic, preferably a centre-forward, regularly plays on the flanks due to his work rate and willingness to help out defensively.
Miralem Pjanic received some criticism for failing to follow in Paul Pogba’s footsteps last season, which is harsh considering both midfielders possess different playstyles. A playmaker who is always scanning for forward options, it’s clear that he’d benefit from Matuidi’s presence alongside him – someone who is tireless both with and without possession, whilst able to constantly make tackles to intercept danger thus lessening the defensive workload.
He’s not only defensive-minded, either. He has regularly shown his attacking capability when given free roam to create havoc in the final third, as his bursting runs forward are a testament to that. Prepared to take calculated risks, his brace against Metz in April – capped off by a stoppage-time winner – perfectly highlighted the problems he can cause when given an opportunity to advance into areas you wouldn’t usually find him.
Only Caen’s Julien Féret (23) has scored more Ligue 1 goals than Matuidi of all midfielders in the last six seasons, whilst former Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons (865) is the only player to have made more tackles than Matuidi’s 721 in Ligue 1 since August 2009.
Both are impressive statistics and highlight why he’s such a balanced midfielder, one who continues to assert his world-class ability when offered the chance. He can fill both responsibilities well and having made 295 PSG appearances during his six-year spell, it’s evident that he’s a reliable figure too. At 30, he’s reaching the peak years of his career. For Juventus to avoid regression after such highs last season, they need to continue making acquisitions like these.
Stats’ source: WhoScored