The transfer saga involving Tottenham star Christian Eriksen was probably the most interesting one this past summer. The Dane was linked with moves to Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus. But Spurs managed to keep hold of him in the end.
The window may have slammed shut. But the saga is far from over. Eriksen is yet to sign a new deal at the Premier League giants, with his current contract running out next summer.
Because of that, links continue to be made with the same clubs. Real Madrid seem the keenest. But Juventus are known to be the masters of the free signings.
It seems highly unlikely that Eriksen leaves for free considering the acumen of Daniel Levy but he could depart for a compensation fee in January. The former Ajax man will be free to discuss terms with other clubs from January and seal a free move in the summer.
That is where Juventus come in. The Old Lady signed Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey for free this summer. They signed Emre Can for nothing last summer. And they have previously signed Sami Khedira, Paul Pogba, Kingsley Coman, Andrea Pirlo and Dani Alves on free transfers.
Eriksen, a very recognisable face in the game today, won’t be a surprise entrant to that list either.
Indeed, the Dane has become one of the world’s playmakers over the last few years. Last season, he showed the versatility in midfield to play various positions when Spurs were undergoing an injury crisis in the Champions League. He scored eight times, assisting 12 times in the Premier League too (via Whoscored).
Eriksen’s vision and passing abilities can be a joy to behold. And Spurs’ reliance on him has only increased over the last 2-3 years.
Even this season against Aston Villa, Spurs were 1-0 down at home with Eriksen on the bench. The former Ajax man came on in the second half and had a huge hand in winning Spurs the game even though Harry Kane did grab a brace.
He has scored against Arsenal this season, helping Spurs pick up a point from the North London derby. Juve would remember him from the stunning free-kick he scored for Spurs in the Champions League Round of 16 clash between the sides in the 2017-18 season.
Talking of Juve though, they were keen on offloading Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi this past summer. But their performance against Parma change Fabio Paratici’s mind and they have become important part of Maurizio Sarri’s side.
It is unlikely that they last long, considering their ages. Miralem Pjanic has been impressive in the regista role, while Khedira and Matuidi have played as the deep-plying playmaker and the mezzala respectively.
Aaron Ramsey has been used in place of Khedira in a 4-3-3 shape. Or he has been used as the most advanced midfielder in a 4-4-2 diamond shape. Adrien Rabiot has played in place of Matuidi, struggling with fitness and the system.
Eriksen could easily play as a deep-lying playmaker in a possession-oriented system like Sarri’s. He will do a better job than Khedira, more importantly.
Khedira did play in a deeper position last season but Eriksen played just about everywhere, even though it seemed like an advanced midfield role on paper.
Eriksen, by that, sense was involved in more goals and assists- a vital part for a deep-lying playmaker under Sarri. It is unfair to compare both of them considering how they have different playing styles. But Eriksen’s creative involvement means he is better suited to that role than Khedira.
Matuidi though, was involved in a more advanced role than Khedira. He was tasked with the role of shuttling up and down the midfield. Massimiliano Allegri used his exceptional workrate to wonderful effect.
Despite that, a comparison of their attacking outputs shows how Eriksen was miles more productive in creation than Matuidi. He created more and scored more. Allegri’s system at Juve last season was sluggish and the midfield was slow, leading to less creation.
As per Whoscored though, Matuidi more tackles per game than Eriksen last season (1.9 as compared to 1.2). He also made more interceptions than the Dane (0.9 to 0.4). That is a reflection of his workrate and engine.
Eriksen may not have that tireless engine but Sarri’s possesion oriented-system keeps a high defensive line. This allows Matuidi to play in advanced positions and carry the ball forward by often receiving it deep.
His heatmap against Inter shows where exactly Sarri wants Matuidi to play. He thrives in that role but he is slowly going past his best.
Eriksen can easily take up that position even though his impact areas will be slightly further forward. He can conduct play from deep and allowing the attacking players to thrive.
If Sarri takes the 4-d-2 position forward, Eriksen can play exactly where Ramsey has done well and do a better job. It is the job he has grown up doing and has done before last season.
More than anything else, Eriksen would come for a fee that could mean nothing for the Juve budget. More so if the bianconeri sell Khedira and Matuidi next summer. That will allow them to balance their books and they would do a deal that clubs like Real and Man Utd will envy.