Mehdi Benatia and breaking Juventus’ Italian defensive core

Mehdi Benatia

Juventus are firmly in the media gaze currently, with the Italian champions at the core of European transfer activity over the course of the summer.

Paul Pogba’s reported world-record exit to Manchester United is looking increasingly likely to happen, while the Turin giants parted company with an astronomical fee to prize Gonzalo Higuaín from Napoli.

Couple this with Álvaro Morata’s return to Real Madrid, Dani Alves joining on a free transfer and the unheralded but inspired signing of the sublime Miralem Pjanić from Roma and Max Allegri’s men look very strong despite the risk Pogba may leave.

One of the more interesting pieces of business the Bianconeri have concluded in this window is a season-long loan deal to bring Mehdi Benatia back to Italy from Bayern Munich.

The Morocco international proved himself as an ardent enforcer during stints with Udinese and Roma, even if regular first-team football was not always assured at the Allianz Arena.

That said, at 29 years old Benatia is in his prime and is a centre-half with poise, pace and physicality – ideally suited to Juventus.

What makes the North African’s switch to Turin all the more interesting is the potential dismantling of a tried-and-tested, massively successful Juventus rearguard.

Although the Old Lady have had some excellent attacking players over their five-season period of dominance domestically and a superstar midfield, the backbone of the team’s success has been an all-Italian defensive unit.

Along with Gianluigi Buffon in goal, Italy international centre-halves Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli have made the Serie A champions almost watertight.

Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio ChielliniThe old adage says if something isn’t broke you shouldn’t fix it, but someone of Benatia’s calibre is unlikely to spend too much time on the bench.

Barzagli, as the elder statesman of the triumvirate, appears the most likely to give way.

Benatia is certainly a more-rounded option that the Italian veteran but integrating him into a unit that has been together for a number of seasons will be the main challenge for the Turin side.

For Napoli, Roma and other Italian teams looking to end Juventus’ reign of dominance, finding a weakness in the champions’ rearguard now looks even more difficult than scoring against a team that only conceded 20 goals last term.

Although Benatia’s arrival gives Allegri an extra option at centre-half, it also poses a problem in terms of developing a prodigious talent.

Daniele Rugani is being tipped as a rising star that will feature for club and country in the future, with the afore-mentioned stalwarts of the Juventus rearguard blocking his path into the starting XI last season.

However, with the Moroccan loanee added into the mix, the 21-year-old will surely be scratching his head and wondering just how much football he can expect in 2016-17 given that he started only 11 Serie A games last season.

On the whole Juventus must be commended on their transfer business throughout their period of domestic success and it shows the quality available to Allegri that the Bianconeri can lose Morata and potentially Pogba but still be overwhelming favourites to retain their Scudetto.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
Stay updated by email

Enter your email address to receive our articles by email: