The first transfer deal of the Andrea Pirlo era may be upon us.
According to multiple reports in Italy, including Fabrizio Romano and Gianluca Di Marzio, Juventus are close to signing American midfielder Weston McKennie from Schalke. The midfielder, who will turn 22 on Friday, would arrive in Turin on an initial €3 million loan deal with an option to buy next summer for €18 million.
McKennie arrived at Schalke at the age of 17 and was on the Bundesliga outfit’s first team by the next year. He’s played 91 times, scoring five goals and adding seven assists. He’s also earned 19 caps for the USMNT. He would be the first American man to play for Juventus, and the second American overall after Ashley Nick played for the women’s team in 2018-19.
Signing McKennie is a low-risk, high-reward move that could end up representing a big upgrade in midfield. I’ve sometimes referred to Rodrigo Bentancur as Gennaro Gattuso with ball skills. A similar comparison can be made to McKennie, except substitute Blaise Matuidi for Gattuso. McKennie isn’t the greatest creative passer, but he’s a very strong defender with a never-ending motor and great instincts off the ball. And while he’s certainly no regista he’s not hopeless with the ball either. He’s a good dribbler who can surge through space much the way Adrien Rabiot started doing as his form started to get better after the restart. He’s also an outstanding leaper, having won 2.3 aerial duels per match in the Bundesliga last year and 58 percent of the total aerials he was involved in.
He’d be unlikely to play a huge role at the beginning of the season with the likes of Bentancur, Rabiot, and Arthur on the team, but in the best-case scenario he evolves into a high-level box-to-box midfielder for a total cost roughly equivalent to what Juventus paid for Arturo Vidal in 2011. Indeed, this is the kind of low- to mid-cost move with the potential of really high upside that Juve have tended to eschew the last few years in favor of bigger, flashier signings, save perhaps for the signing of Merih Demiral last summer. He could also end up as Mario Lemina 2.0, but at this cost it would probably be worth finding out which he could be. It’s also worth noting that if he does find success in a Juve shirt, it would be a major entry point into the American commercial market for the club.