Juventus, it appears, are in a perpetual state of pursuit. Scouring the world for available players, they have been linked to every known midfielder out there with each being heralded as the perfect man to partner, arguably this season’s most talked about arrival, Andrea Pirlo in the middle.
The team that finished in seventh place last season may have won little but they boasted one of the most effective midfields in the league and much of it is down to one man – Felipe Melo. Yet bizarrely, this solid midfield is being overhauled and has become the priority with regards to the transfer market, leaving Melo’s future in doubt.
Lost in the depths of despair after a woeful season that only worsened after the World Cup debacle, the season that just ended was one of redemption for the skilled Brazilian. Having been blessed with a Coach willing to embrace Melo’s temperament, Luigi Del Neri created a man out of a little boy weighed down by the burden of a costly price tag.
A Juve defence riddled with injuries, full of holes and without apt full-backs capable of defending their turf, Melo provided the defensive security the Old Lady so desperately craved. Tactically aware and brimming with confidence, the player chased every ball, covered every space and slotted in for every out of place defender in the back-line. Regularly caught taking up deep positions in front of the defence, opposing teams often struggled to overcome the Brazilian force.
Whilst a simple pass may have eluded him in the previous season, under the tutelage of Del Neri and alongside the accomplished Alberto Aquilani, Melo not only improved his passing ability but statistically the player boasted an 86% pass success rate making him the best passer of the ball within the team. Offensively, he proved vital as he took on the menial tasks to allow Aquilani to unleash his creativity and his skill at delivering accurate long balls were essential in releasing the hungry strikers isolated at the top. In short, the squad grew dependent on his skill.
In the match against Parma, undoubtedly the game that condemned the Bianconeri to mid-table oblivion, it was Melo’s red card and subsequent suspension that robbed the team of their balance and stability. Succumbing to heinous defeats and uninspired performances, the Coach blamed the string of bad results on the absence of the dynamic midfielder. This was not a man who only guaranteed solid displays but a player who excelled under the glare of the spotlight pulling off remarkable performances in the big matches. Whether it was closely marking Wesley Sneijder, to force him to drop deep to look for the ball or whether it was his deep lying role against Roma that destroyed their passing game, Melo proved indispensable.
Determined and tactically intelligent, it is both mystifying and disrespectful to not have confirmed the player’s position for the next season leaving the tabloids to wildly speculate on his future. Moreover the current ambiguity surrounding Melo’s future sends a bad signal to the current members of the team. If players feel that their hard work and success will not reap rewards next season then few will feel inspired to continuously perform. Revolutions must be dropped in favour of continuing a project, which entails building upon the strengths of the current team.
Yet Juve’s reluctance to put faith into the player, their abandonment of fellow midfielder Aquilani and their insistence on searching for other midfielders alludes to the fact they are enchanted by the notion of a revolution – what does that say about the project?