Despite the additions of Manuel Locatelli last summer and Denis Zakaria this winter, Juventus’ midfield still lacks quality. In the midfield, Juve requires both offensive vigour and end product, which is also the cause for Bianconeri’s goal-scoring troubles – notably against strong Serie A and Champions League opponents. The most connected names to the Bianconeri this summer are Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Serie A’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. They aren’t the only players Juve might buy to strengthen their midfield, but they are the two biggest names on the market. And it’s not without cause. Juve’s midfield is in desperate need of a star, and one of these guys maybe that star.
Paul Pogba or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who should Juventus sign this summer?
It’s virtually a foregone conclusion that Paul Pogba is the superior playmaker. After all, the former Juventus midfielder can do things on the ball that very few midfielders can. His technical abilities, as well as his talent, are unrivalled. On his day, Pogba is a fantastic passer, as seen by his performances at the Euros in 2021 and throughout France’s triumphant World Cup campaign. Pogba has nine assists for Manchester United in just 1,345 Premier League minutes this season.
Milinkovic-Savic, on the other hand, is no slouch when it comes to inventiveness, and as a superior athlete, he can contribute more to the squad in terms of ball movement and breaching the penalty box. He has 10 assists this season and makes the same number of vital passes as Pogba each game. However, at the end of the day, you must give Pogba the upper hand. We’ve seen what he’s capable of, and despite the fact that he doesn’t fit in at United and plays for a side that is even more dysfunctional than Juve, he’s still averaging more than two dribbles completed per game and assists totals that almost every other midfielder would envy.
Upside- Paul Pogba
The category that has the most influence on Juve’s victories and defeats. Who has the most goals? While Pogba scored at least seven goals in three consecutive Serie A seasons for the Old Lady and once scored 13 Premier League goals to Sergej Milinkovic-career-high Savic’s of 12 in Serie A, I would still give SMS the edge.
The reason for this is that it is recent. Now, I can’t guarantee that Pogba’s recent scoring slump will not lead to him becoming a prolific scorer for Juventus, but the fact is that any return from Pogba will be matched by a rise in SMS’s productivity. The Serbian international is entering his peak and is just getting better, whereas Pogba, at 29, maybe nearing the end of his greatest years. This season, Pogba has only scored one goal, whereas SMS has scored nine.
Upside- Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
There is a perception that Paul Pogba is a “poor” or “lazy” defender, yet most Juventini forgets that during his time in Turin, Pogba averaged more than two tackles per game, covering a lot of territory in the midfield to win back possession for his side.
But now that he is getting older and more prone to injury, Pogba has to play a different role. He can’t be as aggressive defensively and is more of an anchor, but his game reading and tackle technique are still excellent. Pogba is a more productive – and willing – defender for France than for Manchester United when he plays in a role that suits him better in a squad that cares about him more.
However, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has the upper hand here. He is the definition of a box-to-box midfielder since he is stronger and quicker than Pogba. SMS can provide what Adrien Rabiot cannot, but he can also provide the ball-winning that leads to Max Allegri annoyingly regularly playing the beleaguered Frenchman. Milinkovic-defensive Savic’s stats are particularly good in the Champions League and Europa League, demonstrating that when Lazio requires a defensive strategy, one of their most productive offensive players can step up. That would be tremendously appreciated by Juventus.
Upside- Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
Pogba’s transfer value will be low if he joins Juventus. He may if he bursts in Turin, but PSG is likely to be his sole potential suitor. Because, as a free agent – and particularly as a Mino Raiola client – Pogba will fetch a hefty wage. In a transfer, only a few teams could pay the salary. Juventus has a lot of expertise with this. As a result, Pogba, at the age of 29, has virtually no resale value. In terms of transfer fees, he is a free agent, but not in terms of compensation. He’s also a net-zero investment who, because of his injury risk, might become a financial burden if he doesn’t live up to his earnings.
I seriously doubt Juve would have to pay €80 million because initial transfer prices are often exaggerated in the media. There’s one more point to mention. If SMS follows in the footsteps of other players this season, such as Dusan Vlahovic, and makes it obvious that he wants to play for Juve above all else, Lazio may be obliged to sell him on terms that aid a move to Juve (such as deferred payments and/or a cheaper total transfer cost). However, the argument remains that SMS will be extremely expensive, likely exceeding €50 million. His salary will not be small, but it is safe to assume that he will be far less expensive than Pogba.
Juventus is looking for a player who can be an improvement and a star in the next seasons. SMS is a stronger investment in that regard, with lower wages and, at the age of 27, more recent production and performance to fall back on. The question of cost is if Juve can afford the transfer price after investing heavily in Federico Chiesa, Manuel Locatelli, and Dusan Vlahovic – all of whom are younger than SMS. They can afford Pogba’s ‘free’ fee, but are they willing to take a chance on his wages? For both, it is a separate financial investment.