22 Midfielder Juventus Italy
Italian central midfielder Stefano Sturaro graduated into professional football from Genoa’s academy and made his mark quickly enough for Juventus to snap him up in the summer of 2014. He was loaned back to Genoa immediately and began the 2014/15 season at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
He played 13 Serie A games for his freshly temporary club before 2015 grabbed him by the throat and thrust him unapologetically into the spotlight.
2015 has been…
A whirlwind. Sturaro began the year in Liguria but quickly returned to Juventus. The Old Lady had recalled him and, it seemed, had every intention of using him. They did just that and he started eight Serie A matches for Max Allegri down the home straight of last season.
Juventus won the league and Coppa Italia as well as reaching the final of the UEFA Champions League. Sturaro was an unused substitute in both finals but he did feature, albeit briefly, in Juve’s Champions League quarter-final and semi-final against AS Monaco and Real Madrid respectively.
Sturaro is the very picture of an old head on young shoulders. He plays a relatively fluid role by the standards of a central midfielder, not just in terms of his play but his flexibility. By its nature, Juventus’ midfield is a difficult one to crack. Sturaro’s route is just a sliver of versatility across the Bianconeri’s middle three.
He’s at his most effective when he’s driving forward with the ball, which he does relatively quickly but mostly by way of a significant level of strength, and looking for a ball into a striker’s feet. Sturaro is about yardage and he gains plenty. At the other end he’s also handy around his own penalty area thanks to a mature and dedicated attitude to defensive work.
He likes to be close to the action rather than being anchored to a specific spot in the middle, a factor that couples with a good work ethic to make Sturaro a formidable source of energy in the middle of the park. There, he’s also a good link passer who’s at his best when he keeps it simple.
Despite that his passing isn’t perfect; in fact, at times, it’s clearly quite raw and Sturaro can occasionally be profligate in possession. He can be a little rough and ready in the tackle and give up a few free kicks, but, frankly, that’s part of the reason we like him.
There’s room for improvement, of course. Sturaro’s future must be focused around a better grasp of games; he can be a little quiet and that leaves him overshadowed by some seriously talented senior players around him. He can be caught in possession and in some matches he seems especially vulnerable to being closed down. The speed of thought required to overcome that will develop.
Where we’d normally consider a youngster’s first challenge to be pinning down a first team spot, Sturaro’s situation is different. Such progress just isn’t likely at a club of Juventus’ stature but he can become a more consistent and reliable option in midfield for a squad that has to rotate in order to compete to the very highest standard on four fronts.
He’s yet to play for the senior Italian national team having only made a handful of appearances for the Under-21s, most notably in this year’s UEFA EURO Under-21 Championships. He was sent off in Italy’s opening game and watched on from the sidelines as they exited at the first junction. Establishing himself at that level and then looking to push on into Antonio Conte’s squad is a must.
Is he really a player of that level? Juventus director Pavel Nedved seems to think so. Back in February, the legendary Czech playmaker confirmed that Sturaro was being brought back to Turin in order to be given an opportunity. Nedved said that Sturaro and Sassuolo goal merchant Domenico Berardi will be “the leaders of the team and the future of Juve” – Berardi has already moved on. Good luck, kid.
C+ Making excellent progress in a position of unusual responsibility
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