Emre Can’s first start of the season for Juventus came this past weekend against Lecce. The German had only made substitute appearances previously and is finding his future up in the air.
There was controversy when the former Liverpool man was excluded from Juve’s registered list for the UEFA Champions League. The player himself spoke about it. Despite not being included in the side, he also tweeted about his love for the club.
“Yesterday the coach called me and told me in less than a minute that I was not in the squad. I am shocked and angry. I will always be grateful to Juventus Turin and how they supported stood by me since I am a part of the club, particularly during my time of illness. Out of respect to Juventus and my team-mates, whose success has always been my first priority, I won’t say anything more and will continue fighting on the pitch.”
But the exclusion wasn’t a surprise. In fact, Can was offered to Barcelona in late stages of the summer transfer window. That was a clear sign of how much Juve valued him, in the first place. As things stand, all the doubts have been confirmed.
Can is a bit-part player in Turin, despite being a full-fledged German international. Despite hardly having done anything wrong, he finds himself on the fringes.
Last season, Can appeared 29 times in the Serie A for Juve under Massimiliano Allegri. He scored four goals and had one assist to his name. He was hardly ever the worst player in the squad either. The former Bayern Munich man also played consistently in Juve’s Champions League campaign.
But like it was for Paulo Dybala, he found himself being pushed out of the exit door. Unfairly so, Can never said anything wrong about the club either.
But in another sense, it is valid. No disrespect to Can, the midfielder isn’t the most technical player in the world. Last season, he played only 34.7 passes per game for Juve (via Whoscored).
Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea side had Matteo Kovacic, Ross Barkley or N’Golo Kante play as the midfielders beside Jorginho. The Frenchman was key in that part of the pitch. He played as many as 56.2 passes per game for the reigning Europa League Champions (via Whoscored).
At Napoli, Sarri had Allan often play in the same role. The Brazilian played 46.6 passes per game for the partenopei (via Whoscored).
Those difference in numbers say a lot about why Can might not really play as a regular central midfielder under Sarri. While his work-rate and versatility can’t be questioned. He is clearly not the most technical midfielder. He isn’t meant for a system that relies on playing a possession-oriented brand of football.
That isn’t the only reason why Juve were looking to move him on. The club were looking to sell not just Can or Dybala. They were listening to offers for Daniele Rugani, Mario Mandzukic, Gonzalo Higuain, Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira too. All of them had been linked with a move away from Juve.
The bianconeri were looking to balance their books. The signings of expensive players in Cristiano Ronaldo and Matthijs de Ligt in the space of about 12 months had an impact on their financial situation.
But since they failed to sell the likes of Rugani, Mandzukic, Matuidi and Dybala, they had to resort to some emergency sales to get some money. Can was part of those possible emergency sales.
But the clubs that he has been linked with offer some hope. Manchester United, Liverpool’s fierce rivals, seem to be tracking him. Sky Sports claimed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could make a January move.
While a move like that may not please many fans on Merseyside, it will not be a bad option at all for the player. United let Ander Herrera leave the club on a free transfer. But failed to replace him with any new midfielder.
As a result, they find themselves thin in the midfield area. Fred is yet to score or assist in the Premier League. Andreas Pereira has only one assist in nine Premier League appearances. Nemanja Matic’s influence has reduced. He has played only thrice in the Premier League.
Scott McTominay has been United’s most reliable midfielder, with Paul Pogba out injured till December. Can would add depth and quality to a midfield that needs numbers in it desperately.
Since Juve signed Can on a free transfer, any fee that they receive for him will be deemed a profit. They should exercise the option as they can go out in the market and find more technical midfielders.