Lately, media have speculated of Juve’s interest in Gigio Donnarumma, Milan and Italy’s number one. He’s just 22 and yet he’s already played more than 200 games for Milan in Serie A and other main European competitions and been considered one of the top young goalkeepers in Europe for five years. Simply said, he’s a Unicorn and this Unicorn, thanks to his super agent Mino Raiola, will be a free agent this summer if he doesn’t sign a new contract between today and 30 June 2021. On the other hand, also thanks to his agent, he will command a huge salary, maybe around 10m/year (I don’t believe he can get 12m/year even at PSG or Manchester City), not to mention the agent fee and yet, it’s not everyday a Unicorn is on a free transfer. It’s unheard of. So…

Can we afford him?

First of all, I love our numero uno Wojciech Szczesny. Sometimes he makes mistakes, like all goalkeepers do, as shown in the recent game against Torino but he has also gained us points. I’m perfectly fine with Tek yet Juve don’t usually let an opportunity like Gigio pass by. The problem, obviously, is the salary. With Covid-19 hitting hard, it’s clear to see that Juve cannot afford to commit what they have committed so far: 236m in salary (including tax).

Second, five years ago, Juve were at a healthy 124m in total salary with Paul Pogba, another Raiola’s client, as the highest earner at 4.5m/year. That 2015/16 financial year, Juve earned 341m in revenue so the total salary spent was 36% from the total revenue. A year later, though, the management started to break the 5m-barrier and paid Gonzalo Higuain, fresh from Napoli, at 7.5m/year. Then they kept adding them up: Paulo Dybala (7m), Douglas Costa (6m, free transfer), Miralem Pjanic (6.5m), Aaron Ramsey (7m, free transfer), Adrien Rabiot (7m, free transfer), Matthijs de Ligt (8m), and of course, the motherload, Cristiano Ronaldo at 31m/year.

This season, Juve paid EIGHT players above the 5m threshold and as per Deloitte Football Money League 2021, they were 10th in revenue with 398m. Improvement, yes, but the total salary has ballooned up to 236m, which makes it 59% (!) from the total revenue. For comparison, Inter Milan paid four players above the 5m threshold with Romelu Lukaku as the highest at 7.5m (from the total salary of 149m) and with 291.5m in revenue, they spent 51% for the total salary. However, even 51% is probably not safe. They made a loss of more than 200m. Juve were a little bit better and announced that they made a 113.7m loss in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year, worse than a year earlier, which was a loss at 50.3m. Safe to say that this is not healthy, either.

So, we cannot afford Donnarumma? No, not if the management doesn’t make any changes. His high salary will add upon the unhealthy total salary so in my opinion, something drastic must be done. There have already been rumors of Ramsey and Rabiot leaving. They do contribute to two of the top five in salary but selling them will make little difference as Juve have to sign two new midfielders, albeit with lower salary. The problem is Cristiano. I don’t think Juve can afford him anymore. On the pitch, he does score regularly but at the expense of his teammates. Now add him to Ramsey and Rabiot leaving, the management suddenly has a lot of room to improve the team, and yes, sign Donnarumma.

Let’s rosterbate a minute. Ramsey has lost his place in the starting line-up and he’s injured too often. Rabiot has actually gotten better but Juve probably cannot justify paying his current salary anymore. Both midfielders have admirers in EPL. Presuming Cristiano leaves, we’ll need a goal-getter and unfortunately, Alvaro Morata doesn’t fit the bill. I love the Spaniard and he’s superb in a supporting role but he’s an average scorer. Dybala may also leave as he has one year left in his contract and rumor has it Juve have pulled out the new contract offer. But then again, presuming Cristiano leaves, he may not. Outgoing:

  • Cristiano: 31m/year
  • Ramsey: 7m/year
  • Rabiot: 7m/year
  • Szczesny: 6.5m/year
  • Morata: 5m/year

To replace them, Manuel Locatelli is the most touted choice. The 23-year-old regista has played more than 130 games in Serie A for Milan and Sassuolo. In the last three seasons, including the current campaign, he has cemented his place in Sassuolo’s starting line-up and is one of the rising stars in the Italy national football team. In all top teams in Serie A, only Juve have a glaring need in his position. Rodrigo De Paul may not be a sexy choice and doesn’t have what Pogba or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have but the 26-year-old Argentinian may be just what Juve need (and can afford): A box-to-box midfielder with attacking talent. Mauro Icardi has proven himself in Italy and among the top teams in the peninsula, only Juve have a glaring need at the no.9 position. Juve may not have the required transfer fee but a swap deal could be the answer. Incoming:

  • Locatelli: 3m/year
  • De Paul: 3m/year
  • Icardi (a swap with Cristiano?): 10m/year
  • A backup No.9: 3-5m/year
  • And finally Donnarumma: 10m/year

That leaves Juve 25.5-27.5m (net) less in salary, around 45-50m including tax. Presuming the revenue stays the same (it won’t because of Covid), the total salary spent will be around 45-50% from the estimated total revenue, still high but significantly lower than 59%.

Too many changes? Perhaps. And perhaps not. Juve may refresh the LB/LWB position and sell Alex Sandro and sign Emerson Palmieri from Chelsea or Robin Gosens from Atalanta. We also need a backup at RB/RWB to rotate with the-soon-to-be-33-years-old Juan Cuadrado.

As always, you cannot completely trust Raiola but Donnarumma is likely a very good investment. He’s still only 22 and if he and his agent get greedy, Juve can always flip him to PSG or Manchester City for a profit so my guess is yes, Donnarumma is an opportunity too good to pass by but we are probably seeing the last few games of Cristiano in black and white.