A ridiculously good XI signed by Juventus on a free: Pogba, Pirlo…
Juventus can afford to spend big money on the world’s best players as one of the biggest clubs in Europe – but they’ve also developed a handy knack of signing brilliant free transfers.
Juve spent the best part of £110million on Dusan Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa alone in 2022, but they’re signed Paul Pogba on a free transfer from Manchester United – for a second time.
Pogba already features on a long list of players to have moved to the Turin club on a free, and we’ve compiled a full XI of the best ones, with everybody in their proper position.
GK: Gianluigi Buffon
Yes, it’s cheeky but indulge us for a moment.
Buffon was already a goalkeeping legend when he returned to Juventus – who’d paid €52 million in 2001 for his services – in the summer of 2019 but he went about proving the decision wasn’t solely sentimental.
His second debut, a 2-1 win over Verona in September 2019, saw him equal Paolo Maldini’s Italian record of 902 club appearances and overtook his former international team-mate the following week.
The goalkeeper broke many more records over the following two years as Juventus won both the Serie A and Coppa Italia titles. He left for Parma in the summer of 2021.
RB: Dani Alves
Another Brazilian, and honestly could it be anyone else?
Barcelona considered Alves surplus to requirements when they allowed him to leave on a free in 2016, a year before his contract was up.
And he made them look extremely stupid, playing 90 minutes as Juve destroyed Barça 3-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
He ended his one season in Turin with a league and cup double, plus an appearance in a European final, before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain.
Dani Alves with the 🚀 to secure Juve's place in the Champions League final #Juventus #ChampionsLeague #FinoAllaFine pic.twitter.com/aLzhcKo6Xv
— Fanatics View (@fanaticsview) May 9, 2017
CB: Fabio Cannavaro
Not the centre-back’s first, more impressive spell – that would have been too good to be true – but his return from Real Madrid.
The 2006 World Cup winner wasn’t quite as impressive in his second stint, sticking around for just one season, and his final European game for the club saw him dismissed just half an hour into a momentous Europa League defeat at Fulham.
Still, he gets in ahead of another big-name veteran, Lucio, who barely made an impact after joining in 2012.
CB: Olof Mellberg
When Mellberg left Aston Villa in 2008, he was always likely to be in relatively high demand, but Juve wasn’t the obvious destination.
The Sweden international arrived off the back of more than 250 games in a Villa shirt and played regularly in the Champions League, including in a group stage double over Real Madrid.
Mellberg’s versatility came in handy, too, as he occasionally covered for right-back Zdenek Grygera, another freebie.
LB: Federico Balzaretti
Balzaretti might not have been the highest-profile arrival for Juve fans, but his move meant a great deal to the club he left.
It was difficult for the Turin native, who moved from boyhood club Torino to their local rivals in 2005, but his first season brought a title – albeit one which was quickly taken away when Juventus were demoted as part of the Calciopoli scandal.
The left-back stuck around to help Juve return to Serie A before leaving for Fiorentina and then Palermo, and it was during his time with the Sicilian club that he featured heavily in Italy’s run to the Euro 2012 final.
CDM: Andrea Pirlo
How Milan must have regretted letting Pirlo leave in 2011, even if it wasn’t obvious how much he had left to give at the age of 32.
Certainly, few will have expected Juve to get four full seasons out of the magisterial midfielder, each one of them bringing league titles, plus a run to the Champions League final in 2015.
He even reinvigorated his international career while in Turin, leading his country to the final of Euro 2012 and travelling to the Brazil World Cup as a 35-year-old.
There’s no need to dwell upon his unsuccessful spell as Juventus manager. Not when Pirlo the player aged like the finest of wines…
READ: Andrea Pirlo destroyed England twice & we couldn’t help but enjoy it
CM: Sami Khedira
Another recent outstanding central midfielder acquired for nothing, Khedira let his contract at Real Madrid run down after winning everything with Los Blancos, even starting the 2014 Champions League final, but decided to move to pastures new in 2015.
Four straight Serie A titles followed, and he even recaptured his relatively regular goalscoring habit of his Stuttgart days, scoring 21 across those four seasons.
CM: Cristiano Zanetti
Can was loaned out to Borussia Dortmund after just a season and a half in Turin, while Ramsey or Rabiot failed to live up to high expectations in Italy.
That leads us to Zanetti, who helped Juve back to the top flight in his first season in 2006-07 after joining on a free from Inter and stuck around for a couple more years in Serie A before leaving for first club Fiorentina in 2009.
CAM: Paul Pogba
If Milan’s decision to let Pirlo leave on a free proved costly, the same can be said in quite literal terms of Pogba.
The Frenchman earned Juve a massive £89million on returning to Manchester United, the club from which the Bianconeri signed him as a teenager in 2012.
Four seasons, four league titles, three appearances in the Serie A Team of the Year, one in UEFA’s equivalent for all of Europe, and one in the FIFPro equivalent for the whole world.
Not bad for someone who joined upon the expiry of his Manchester United contract. Twice. His second stint has been hampered by injury and is yet to get going but we wouldn’t bet against him recapturing his old magic.
READ: ‘Self-important tripe’: 10 of the most brutal reviews of Paul Pogba’s doc
ST: Luca Toni
Toni only spent one season with Juve, and he was already getting on in years, but he made history by scoring the first-ever goal at the Juventus Stadium.
The scorer of the second? Lee Hughes, then of Notts County, who provided the opposition for the grand opening and secured a 1-1 draw.
The 2006 World Cup winner (Toni, not Hughes) would spend just 12 months with Juve, scoring just twice in Serie A including a late winner against former club Genoa, but his name will live on in the history books.
Happy birthday to Luca Toni, who turns 40 today. The Scorer of the first Juve goal at the Juventus stadium.
Goals: 2 pic.twitter.com/KgfLu3V7JP
— Khaled Al Nouss (@khaledalnouss1) May 25, 2017
ST: Fernando Llorente
Spanish international Llorente gets the final spot ahead of Kingsley Coman, and it’s hard to argue with his inclusion.
The most handsome man in the Premier League was still in his 20s when he joined Juve from Athletic Bilbao, which is news to us because we’d assumed he’d always been between the ages of 30 and 33.
He did pretty well for the club too, scoring 27 goals in his two full seasons. He even got a late run-out in the Champions League final but wasn’t able to prevent Barcelona from sealing victory.
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