x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Serie A: Juventus spreading the goal-scoring wealth

League champions Juventus lack a prolific goal scorer but Fernando Llorente is on his way, writes Ian Hawkey.

Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente will join the Serie A champions Juventus in July. Alvaro Barrientos / AP Photo
Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente will join the Serie A champions Juventus in July. Alvaro Barrientos / AP Photo

On the weekend Juventus confirmed their second successive scudetto, the Serie A title, it was as if there was a concerted effort from elsewhere to remind the Italian champions of something they may be missing.

In Rome, a startling landmark was set by the masterly Miroslav Klose. The expert German finisher hit five of Lazio's six goals against a dozy Bologna, a collection including strikes with both feet, and a header.

In Naples, Edinson Cavani registered three goals against Inter Milan, which should ensure that the Napoli forward picks up the capocannoniere award, for the league's leading scorer. He now has 26 goals, and remarkably, reached the century mark in less than three seasons with the club. He has scored 101 goals in 135 appearances.

Cavani's nearest chaser in the hotshot ladder is Antonio Di Natale, 35, whose two Udinese goals in the 3-1 win against Sampdoria took him, for the fourth successive campaign, to at least 20 goals.

For AC Milan, Mario Balotelli scored the winner against Torino. Balotelli's goals-per-game ratio is even better than those of Cavani or Di Natale. Sunday's was his ninth strike since he arrived from Manchester City in late January. He has started for Milan nine times.

Juventus were among the clubs to whom Balotelli was offered in the winter transfer window. Had they not been closing the deal for Fernando Llorente's free transfer – to take effect in July – from Athletic Bilbao, they might have paused longer over the risk-versus-yield equation that Balotelli presents.

The absence of a prolific goal-getter on Juve's roster was pronounced then and remains so now. Amid all the milestones being gathered by the Napoli, Milan, Lazio and Udinese spearheads, here is the one reached by a Juventus individual in guiding them to their crown: The goal which secured the scudetto was converted by Arturo Vidal.

It was his 10th of the league season. So he became the leading Juve marksman in Serie A merely for reaching double figures. Vidal is a midfielder, who takes penalties.

In short, for all the skilled creative work done by Mirko Vucinic and Seba Giovinco, the industry of Alex Matri and the eye for the spectacular of Fabio Quagliarella, the next step forward for Juventus is, logically, the addition of an emblematic, prolific centre-forward.

Llorente will join some feisty, determined champions, whose admirable strength has been the spread of goals across individuals, knowing he must try to be that man.


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