Once the transfer was agreed and announced, Emre Can didn’t mince words when asked about his decision not to renew with Liverpool in the 2018/19 season, leaving for Juventus on a free transfer instead.
“I lost the Champions League Final against Cristiano Ronaldo last season (2017/18). This season, I want to win it with him,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
Juventus exited the competition in the quarter-final stage and Liverpool claimed the trophy in June 2019.
Juventus appointed Maurizio Sarri head coach of the team, beginning 2019/20 and right off the bat, he made it clear who he wants to work with and who he doesn’t. Can was one of those singled out by Sarri to be booted out of the club.
The transfer window came and went with Juventus turning down an offer from PSG for Can, and a new agreement was struck between both parties. He was promised Champions League football. But Sarri and the management reneged on their promises and he was excluded from the squad, which has left fans distraught and confused at the decision and Can fuming.
Can has expressed his displeasure vehemently at the omission to all who cared to listen to him, but anybody who knows Sarri will tell him to channel his feelings elsewhere.
Another round of talks will commence again when he gets back from international duty with Germany, with a view of leaving the club in the winter transfer window. But if Can leaves, will Juventus miss him?
No player is bigger than a club, no matter the god-like status they achieve, and players who are true fans of the club they’re playing for always know when and how to bow out as the ovation becomes louder. However, with the options Sarri has in Juventus, the statistics prove that Can will be missed.
Let’s compare him with his obvious replacement, Aaron Ramsey.
The former Arsenal man also joined Juventus on a free transfer at the start of the season, signing a four-year deal with the Old Lady. He is a midfielder with great technique and power, a proper workhorse who functioned as a box-to-box midfielder and also as a defensive midfielder. His attacking capabilities are his stronger suit which has earned him the plaudits he’s gotten so far in his career. He also possesses a keen awareness of the space around him which makes it easy for him to drift into spaces and score late goals.
With all those qualities Ramsey possesses, he still falls short of Can. Can is better technically, which implies better ball control, better anchor play and better passing ability. Can is tactically sounder which means better positional discipline and overall discipline (marking), and Can is better defensively which means he can play comfortably as a defensive or holding midfielder, the same role Miralem Pjanic occupies in the squad.
Why, then, did Sarri leave him out of the team?
Let’s also compare him with two other midfielders who were supposed to leave this summer, who, like Can, could not.
The 32-year old former PSG man also lacks the qualities to actually depose Can from the midfield. Blaise Matuidi has never been the most versatile midfielder, but his stamina and endurance make up a whole lot for places where he lacks and Juventus have benefited from this part of his play since he joined.
He’s not the biggest goalscoring threat, although he likes to make forward runs into the box to provide distraction for the opposition defenders as well as an extra man in the box in the case of rebounds or tap-ins. He also drifts out wide a lot down the left-hand side of midfield and receives balls to deliver, just like a winger or a fullback would. Many times, he has knocked the ball back into the path of goal just by anticipating its movement and being where it will end up.
Still, this is no reason for Can to be left out.
His fellow German’s inclusion ahead of him is the most surprising. 32-year old Sami Khedira has given his all to Juventus since the 2015/16 season and has earned the required praise a midfielder of his calibre should get. However, he doesn’t bring anything to the table that Can doesn’t already have.
He can hold up play well enough, has a powerful shot, has a tactical adeptness that makes him comfortable in the holding midfielder position as well as possessing the stamina to play in that position, and can play as a box-to-box midfielder. From set-pieces, he is a very big goal threat and converts a lot of his headers. This aerial ability also comes handy in defence and breaking up plays, as he can win an aerial battle in the midfield easier than most.
And just like the other two we have compared to Can, he doesn’t really have a strong case to be in the squad ahead of Can.
Can could still be added to a revised squad for the knockout stage in January if Juventus make it that far. But from the look of things, Can maybe at another club. Can’s addition to the champions’ league squad for a potential knockout round of matches will also hinge on his performances – if Sarri chooses to play him – from now until the beginning of 2020.
Can has never lacked either ambition or confidence. He has a frustrating tendency, though, to over-complicate matters in possession by holding on to the ball too long and making needlessly risky long-range passes. Sarri is settling up his team to attack fast and this weakness of his could be the reason why Can is on Sarri’s exit list.
The players in the squad are more than enough and truly Juventus will not miss him much in the middle of the park, but under Sarri he has the potential to grow into a player that would be very much talked about.
His stars are probably not aligned right.