[dropcap]D[/dropcap]espite the pre-season departure of massively successful coach Antonio Conte, Juventus’ dominance over Italian football has continued almost seamlessly under his replacement Massimiliano Allegri this term.
The Bianconeri’s transfer spend has been relatively modest in recent years, with the significant fees shelled out to capture the likes of Álvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez the exception rather than the norm.
However, the Turin giants have been very clever in the management of their three-times Scudetto winning squad, with signs suggesting that they are in line to make it four consecutive triumphs by the end of 2014-15.
With rumblings that some of their top players could be tempted away from the Juventus Stadium by the significant allure of English and Spanish suitors, the powers that be at the club have moved quickly to keep their successful squad together.
In 2014 the side’s most-important players penned contract extensions to keep them at the club; Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Pirlo all committing to the Bianconeri with improved deals.
Despite plenty of rumours linking the Serie A champions with new players this January, Juventus’ most shrewd piece of 2015 business comes in the form of Stephan Lichtsteiner’s new contract, signed and sealed this week.
The Switzerland international’s previous deal was due to expire this summer and with understandable interest from other teams reported in the press, the 31-year-old has agreed a two-year extension with the club.
The only surprise is that Juve let the defender’s contract get so close to conclusion before renewing it.
Although not as big a name as the afore-mentioned quintet of stars to put pen-to-paper last year, Lichtsteiner’s influence in the Bianconeri’s continued progression cannot be understated.
Seemingly an automatic selection in the starting XI, the former Lille and Lazio man’s versatility has been essential in a recent tactical change.
Under Conte Juventus played with three at the back and Lichtsteiner offered an attacking threat as a right wing-back, as well as a tireless work-rate up the flank.
With Allegri switching to a back four to accommodate the side’s quartet of star midfielders Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio and Vidal, the Swiss defender has transitioned to a full-back’s role with ease.
Given that the midfield lacks width and all four components are more comfortable featuring centrally, Lichtsteiner again has been a key man in helping the Turin side to stretch opponents and offered an attacking outlet from wide.
The defender has started 17 of Juve’s 18 league games this term and has played his part in the side only conceding a paltry nine Serie A goals to date.
At the other end of the pitch Lichtsteiner continues to excel, with two goals and more importantly four assists for the table-topping outfit; AC Milan’s Ignazio Abate is the only defender to create more goals in Serie A this season.
As such the Switzerland international, who played well with his nation at the World Cup in the summer, must be recognised as one of the most dynamic and rounded players in his position in Europe.
His calibre is certainly in no doubt and although others may gain mass acclaim for Juventus’ continued success, the importance of Lichtsteiner’s renewal should not be overlooked in the team’s search for a fourth consecutive Serie A triumph.
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