Arsenal’s Stephy Mavididi joined Juventus in a surprise €2m deal last week with the move dividing opinion among supporters and neutrals alike. Mavididi, 20, is another talented Englishman who has opted to challenge himself abroad and it doesn’t get more difficult than the Serie A champions.
Given his current ability and potential to develop further with more senior experience in future, €2m could turn into a real steal from Juventus’ perspective and the possibilities are endless. Should he initially impress in their under-23 side, it’s possible that he could earn a senior breakthrough under Massimilano Allegri in future. With ageing forwards Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo on the books, it’s likely that Stephy might feature alongside highly-rated Moise Kean in the club’s long-term plans.
He is now the 16th player, 21 or younger, still eligible to represent the Three Lions playing elsewhere in one of Europe’s top leagues. Both Torino defender Charlie Rowan and Sampdoria midfielder Ronaldo Vieira have also joined Italy’s top flight this summer, while Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho (18) is widely regarded as the best player outside England.
Being surpassed by a younger option and having to respond
Edward Nketiah, twelve months younger than Stephy, appeared to overshadow him within Arsenal’s youth ranks after recording an impressive goalscoring tally of 38 goals in 46 matches across both under-18 and under-23 levels over the past two seasons. Whether he can translate that at the top level remains to be seen, though he enjoyed a competitive debut to remember – scoring twice against Norwich to seal the Gunners’ passage through the Carabao Cup last October.
Meanwhile, injury severely hampered Mavididi’s chances of enjoying similar success at senior level after loan spells elsewhere in England were ultimately unsuccessful. He suffered a ruptured hamstring injury just a month into his first spell with Charlton early last year, though his encouraging experience pre-injury there was enough to justify a reunion during the second-half of last season in League One. That came after a frustrating six-month spell with Championship side Preston, where he played less than 400 minutes and was rarely given an opportunity to showcase his ability.
Why is the deal so surprising?
Mavididi, despite his critics, is an unselfish striker that was struck by injury at precisely the wrong time in terms of his development. There’s never an ideal time to face a lengthy spell on the sidelines but in his case, it ruined his opportunity to earn some valuable first-team minutes under Arsene Wenger before the Frenchman’s departure.
The major criticism is that he failed to set both leagues alight with red-hot goalscoring form – like Tammy Abraham’s rapid ascent with Bristol City. However, he didn’t have time nor patience to replicate similar results under different circumstances. If granted this, he would find himself out on-loan at a top Championship or lower-tier Premier League side, as he is capable of flourishing there.
An immediate problem which faces him at Juventus is the fierce competition for places. Coaching staff appear intent on signing the best possible prospects to add as part of their own academy set-up and in truth, Mavididi would benefit more from playing at a lesser Serie A side and actually earning consistent minutes there.
From within England’s various youth sides, Everton midfielder Tom Davies and Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon are the only bonafide Premier League players yet to make their senior international debuts. The majority are contracted to a top side but find themselves constantly loaned out every year, so why not follow in the footsteps of Sancho and Vieira by moving abroad while proving your adaptability?
Mavididi’s strengths, potential for the future
He was excellent for the club’s under-23s, but it was clear a long while ago that he was already good enough to warrant competitive football instead. Importantly, his game is not solely based upon scoring goals. Having watched him often in recent years, you can see he’s developed his playing style in the final third as a more refined number nine – one who creates chances for teammates as much as he’s eager to finish his own.
With physical attributes aplenty, it’s not a surprise that he has been played in various attack-minded positions, from either flank to the number ten role. As he has matured though, his preference to play centre-forward is clear. Juventus agreed terms on a four-year deal for an ambitious youngster, but one who only had a year left on his existing deal in north London. Yes, it’s a surprise, but one that Stephy will be looking to act upon and hone his craft in Turin.