Marko Pjaca’s move to Juventus in 2016 was met by some joy from the Old Lady faithful. Dinamo Zagreb had received a record transfer fee of 22 million euros, while Juve were adding youth and pace to their attack.
This was one summer before Federico Bernardeschi was signed from Fiorentina. And a summer after Paulo Dybala was signed from Palermo. Pjaca was one of the best Croatian talents in the country and Juve was seen as the step-up he needed.
While Dybala brought technicality and the eye for a pass, Pjaca bought directness. Gonzalo Higuain brought the eye for goal, while Mario Mandzukic brought the graft and hardwork. There was a direction to which Juventus were heading.
But things could have been so different for Pjaca today, if injuries had never come by. Just when the Croatian seemed set to make his first start, an inflammation of the fibula kept him out for ten games (via Transfermarkt).
On his return, Pjaca broke into the first-team. He made his first start in Juventus’s 2-0 win at Crotone. But just when things began getting merry, the winger suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Since then, it has been sad story.
He returned to fitness in January 2018. A loan move to Schalke followed.
The loan stint did yield two goals and it seems like he was getting back to his best. But Juve had signed Bernardeschi and Douglas Costa’s deal was made permanent too. Pjaca had to spend another season on loan at Old Lady’s rivals Fiorentina under Stefano Pioli.
Pjaca showed signs of inconsistency and lack of form at La Viola. He could never nail down a spot in the first-team and often had to come off the bench. Federico Chiesa’s prominence had increased. And Kevin Mirallas was signed on loan from Everton. Pjaca’s fitness was also concern until disaster struck once again. His ACL injury relapsed.
Right now, Pjaca is recovering from the same injury. In a recent interview that Pjaca’s agent Marko Naletelic gave to IlBianconero, he talked about his client’s future.
“Will he leave for sure or maybe he can play the second part of the season in Under 23? It’s still too early, let’s see later. When he trains with Juve till a month on a regular basis, we will see how the thing proceeds.”
This pretty much clarifies the fact that Pjaca’s future is up in the air. January does present the opportunity to move away from the bianconeri, but clubs can’t rely on him. Especially when his fitness isn’t up to the mark at all yet.
Clubs know that he’s had fitness issues and they can’t risk money on him before being completely sure about his health.
A January move away, because of this, seems difficult. The best idea is to get his fitness back and plod on with the Primavera side. Despite that, he will have a decision to make in the summer.
Juve seem to have moved on from him already. They’ve already got enough depth to have two separate teams, even when Pjaca is out. That says a lot about the situation. The purpose that Pjaca was meant to serve when he joined has already been served by others.
Although, Pjaca could have been a very good addition to Max Allegri’s Juve side last season, he will find himself behind Dybala, Bernardeschi and Costa. Maurizio Sarri’s side will probably have one of these three playing on the right side of the 4-3-3. Gonzalo Higuain is expected to be the regular upfront, with Cristiano Ronaldo on the left.
That leaves Pjaca with 2-3 ladders to climb to play regularly for Juve. Even though Bernardeschi hasn’t developed well and is struggling himself, but Pjaca is a level below him.
Dybala has looked playing as a striker in a 4-4-2 diamond shape alongside Ronaldo or Higuain. Sarri probably played that formation to get the link-up between the three going and the front three of Ronaldo, Higuain and Dybala could be the way forward.
Douglas could easily play on either sides- like Pjaca himself. If Ronaldo is sitting out, Douglas can play on the left and unleash his pace and thrive in an attacking system. Last season was a struggle for the Brazilian, but a player like him needs an attacking system to impress. Allegri’s system was failing him last season.
Even after all that, there’s no guarantee that Pjaca will play well. He wasn’t impressive in the loan stint at Fiorentina even when he was fully fit.
But Fiorentina could still be a place to go for him. Vincenzo Montella has found a system in which he plays two false nines in Franck Ribery and Chiesa and the duo has been sensational. La Viola have been exciting to watch on the break and they could do with a player like Pjaca.
Ribery can’t play every game in a season and Leicester City loanee is unproven in that position. Summer signing Pedro is more of a proper striker. Pjaca brings everything Montella would need in Ribery’s absence.