Sign him up! Juventus flop Dusan Vlahovic can catch fire again away from Massimiliano Allegri

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Dusan Vlahovic Juventus 2022-23 HIC 16:9
The striker has scored just 17 goals in 42 Serie A games for the Bianconeri but is being linked with PSG and Bayern Munich for a reason...

Dusan Vlahovic was still only 16 years of age when he told senior team-mates at Partizan Belgrade that he was the new Zlatan Ibrahimovic and destined to emulate his idol by joining Juventus. That childhood dream came true on the day he turned 22.

There had been interest in his services from several other clubs, most notably Arsenal, but as far as Vlahovic was concerned, "the choice was easy because Juve and I have a similar DNA: we fight and suffer when required. I fit in here."

Not anymore, though. Vlahovic is still a Juventus player. He was among the players present for the start of pre-season last week. But his time in Turin is drawing to a close - just 18 months after his joyous arrival from Florence.

Juve have not publicly stated that their €70 million (£61m/$75m) signing is up for sale but the cat is now very much out of the bag. The Bianconeri aren't just willing to cash in on Vlahovic, their most valuable asset by some margin, they're also looking to replace him with Romelu Lukaku, which has inevitably caused all sorts of controversy, given the latter has spent three of the past four seasons playing for bitter rivals Inter.

Indeed, much of the media attention has focused on the Belgian's betrayal, with the enraged Nerazzurri having ended their interest in signing Lukaku on a permanent transfer from Chelsea this summer after learning of his secret negotiations with Juve. Inter fans are also furious with a player that has repeatedly professed his love for the club.

But it's not as if recent developments have gone over well with their Juve counterparts. Indeed, some supporters gathered outside the club's medical centre on Monday chanted "We don't want Lukaku!" - which was hardly surprising. As former Juve midfielder Massimo Mauro told the Gazzetta dello Sport: "I may be old-fashioned, but I wouldn't take players like Lukaku, who said publicly that he would never wear the black-and-white shirt."

  1. Why Lukaku for Vlahovic?!

    Why Lukaku for Vlahovic?!

    However, for Mauro and many others connected to the club, the current debate over this whole affair is more a question of quality than character. They cannot understand why Juve are willing to offload a striker with his best years still ahead of him for one that has just turned 30.

    Obviously, money is a major factor. Juve missed out on a top-four finish in Serie A last season because of their points deduction for capital gains violations - and are expected to imminently accept a season-long ban from UEFA competition for financial irregularities, meaning they will have no European football to look forward to in 2023-24. The net result is that Juve will have to save about €100 million (£86m/$112m) in transfer fees and salaries this summer. In that context, replacing Vlahovic with Lukaku makes sense, as it should result in a capital gain of between €30m and €35m.

    There is an acknowledgement that a fully fit Lukaku could score plenty of goals for Juve but, still, not everyone is convinced by the merits of this proposed manoeuvre.

    "Given Vlahovic's age, if I were at Juve, I'd keep Dusan, who can also represent the future in addition to the present," Luca Toni told the Gazzetta. Aldo Serena added: "Vlahovic has the potential to be a really top striker. I struggle to see better players of the same age on the market right now."

    Nicolo Amoroso, meanwhile, still believes that the Serbian will end up staying but he tellingly admitted that, "like all centre-forwards, Dusan needs a style of play suited to him."

    He's just not going to get that at Juve - or, to put it more accurately - at Massimiliano Allegri's Juve. And one could easily argue that he was never likely to.

  2. Destined to fail?

    Destined to fail?

    Vlahovic may have been convinced that he was made for Juve but former Italy international Daniele Adani was sceptical from the start, wondering whether the forward would really flourish unless "Juventus changed their idea of football".

    That was never going to happen under such a renowned - and successful - practitioner of pragmatism. "Juventus will not change with Allegri, neither next year nor in ten years," Antonio Cassano told BoboTV while arguing that Vlahovic had got his choice of club "sensationally wrong".

    And, for all his faults, the former Italy international was right about that.

    Vlahovic was a phenomenon for Fiorentina. Only Robert Lewandowski scored more league goals in 2021 - and yet he has struck just 17 times in 42 Serie A appearances since joining Juve.

    There has been the suggestion that the No.7 jersey he took over from Cristiano Ronaldo has weighed heavily on his shoulders, while a persistent groin problem undeniably held him back last season.

    But Darko Kovacevic made a valid point when he asked during an interview with the Gazzetta: "If PSG, Bayern Munich and some big teams in Spain are interested in Dusan, there must be a reason why, no?"

    And there is: his potential remains obvious. It's been well hidden at Juve, where he's looked painfully isolated and been forced to play far deeper than he would like.

    As even the Bianconeri's official website acknowledged when he signed, Vlahovic is a "penalty-box predator", with 93 percent of his Serie A goals up until that point having come from inside the area, and yet, as has been noted by one former Fiorentina coach after another, he plays so far from the goal at Juve that it's become difficult to watch.

  3. Vlahovic not Allegri's only victim
    Getty Images

    Vlahovic not Allegri's only victim

    It's not as if Vlahovic is an isolated case either. He's not the only player to have suffered because of Allegri's dreadfully defensive approach to the game.

    Federico Chiesa has been a shadow of the player that illuminated Euro 2020 and is reportedly so disillusioned with Juve's negative tactics that he is also considering quitting Juve this summer, while Angel Di Maria, another critic of the coach, has already left.

    It's worth stressing that there is no rift between Vlahovic and Allegri. The 23-year-old has expressed his dissatisfaction with being replaced during so many games but he has a decent working relationship with his boss. They have even shared some light-hearted moments together.

    But the fact of the matter is that his development has been severely stunted by the 18 months he has spent working under Allegri. At one point last season, he went 11 Serie A games without a goal - the worst drought of his career and a simply staggering statistic for a talented No.9 at a supposedly top team.

    The coach has been patient with him, at least in public. He has advised him to stop being so hard on himself, that goals are not everything and that he needs to play with a cooler head, to calm down, to relax - and that if he does, he will start scoring freely again. Just not at Juve.

    Allegri has clearly reached that conclusion himself - because his fingerprints are all over this Vlahovic-Lukaku idea. Juve have a new sporting director in Cristiano Giuntoli but this is not the kind of deal with which he transformed Napoli into Serie A champions. He is renowned for identifying and polishing diamonds in the rough - not signing stars. So, just like the decision to rather brutally jettison Leonardo Bonucci, ditching Vlahovic for Lukaku feels like the coach's call. One that he could very well end up paying for.

  4. A dream that turned into a nightmare

    A dream that turned into a nightmare

    Allegri is on thin ice as it is after two trophyless seasons since returning to Juve in 2021. He still has some credit in the bank because of the five successive scudetti claimed during his first spell, but patience is running out at a club where 'Winning is the only thing that counts' and, given his obvious influence over this summer's player recruitment, there is already speculation that he will be sacked if Juve start the new season poorly - not least because Antonio Conte and Luciano Spalletti are both available.

    Vlahovic, though, cannot afford to wait around to see what happens. And why would he want to anyway? He was meant to be one of the cornerstones of a new Juve but he's no longer central to the project. Both the board and Allegri see him as expendable.

    He'll have to bide his time, of course. An immediate move appears unlikely at the moment. Both PSG and Bayern are interested but have Harry Kane at the top of their respective lists of transfer targets. That's understandable, of course. Kane is the more proven player. His class is beyond dispute.

    But so too is Vlahovic's potential. Gigi Buffon and Christian Vieri both argued during Vlahovic's time in Florence that he could become become the best forward in the world after Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland. Such talk may appear fanciful now but there is a great goalscorer in Vlahovic and it’s just waiting to be unleashed.

    For that very reason, Juve fans want him to stay and he probably does, too, in fairness. Vlahovic was desperate to make as big an impact in Turin, just as Ibrahimovic did.

    But that childhood dream has long since turned into a nightmare. Juve may have been the right club for Vlahovic - but he couldn't have picked a worse coach.