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Blankin' Bosmans? Why Prem clubs can learn from Juventus (& Klopp)

COMMENT: What a midfield, hey? What a midfield! And none of 'em cost a penny. Is it any wonder Juventus are the club they are today when they can navigate the Bosman market with such expertise...?

Fabio Paratici, Juve's recently promoted sports director, was happy to rattle 'em off. And why not? It was a rollcall of some of the greatest pieces of transfer business seen anywhere across Europe in modern times.

At the club's annual general meeting for shareholders on Thursday, Paratici took a question from the floor about Juve's transfer business, particularly those players whom had arrived on 'frees'. And with the Bosman market being not only a cornerstone of the club's team building, but also the financial bottom line, Paratici was happy to oblige.

He declared: "As for free signings, you mentioned (Aaron) Ramsey and also (BenediKt) Howedes who was only on loan anyway.

"In the last few years we have purchased several free signings: in 2011 (Andrea) Pirlo, then (Paul) Pogba, Emre Can, Ramsey, (Adrien) Rabiot, (Sami) Khedira."

Then with a clear nod to his audience, Paratici added: "I think everyone has played numerous competitions and made a significant contribution to our successes and in some cases brought some capital gains."

Some capital gains? Many holding shares in Manchester United wouldn't be pleased with Paratici's show of false modesty here. Nicking Pogba away from the club for nowt. Seeing his best form. Then sending him back from where he came - all for a €100m profit... no club works the free agency market better than the Bianconeri. Certainly in England, no-one comes close.

Indeed, take your pick of Premier League clubs - just where would any of them be if they had managed to make the same additions to their midfield as Juve have achieved?

The question put to Paratici was in reference to the performance of this summer's Bosman arrivals - Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot - along with Emre Can, who was ferried away from Liverpool the previous year. None of them are pulling up any trees at the moment. But no matter. With their peak still potentially ahead of them, Juve will, as Paratici argued, finish out in front.

A sale of €30-40m for any one of them would see Juve not only cover wages and signing-on fees, but also allow them to reinvest back in Maurizio Sarri's squad. And this gets to the crux of Juve's approach.

During Juve's AGM, shareholders agreed to expanding the transfer budget to €300m. It went unsaid, but it was no secret amongst members that the suggestion was put forward with Neymar, PSG's still unsettled superstar, in mind. Vice-chairman Pavel Nedved would confirm as much later in the day when stating "we're always ready to seize every opportunity", in response to a question about another "Cristiano Ronaldo-type" signing.

But none of this would be possible without Juve's Bosman expertise. What chance of ratifying that €300m budget if they'd had to spend near half that on Ramsey, Rabiot and Can? Indeed, you can throw another free transfer into the mix - Gigi Buffon. Would Juve have been in a position to outbid Barcelona and PSG for Matthijs de Ligt, the former Ajax captain, if they had been forced to part with €20m-odd to find themselves new cover for Wojciech Szczesny?

It all adds up. Especially when Juve - with no chance of the virtually limitless cash supply of the Premier League's TV money - are having to compete with these very same English clubs at the top end of the market.

But is that the simple answer? Is that why Premier League clubs don't do Bosmans? Is it just a case of having more money than sense?

All signs are it runs a little deeper than that. The expertise Juve have shown working free agency is something you just don't see from the front office of English clubs.

In the same week Paratici was boasting of Juve's Bosman success, Joel Matip was putting pen to paper on a new deal with Liverpool. And with the signing came the words of his manager.

"...signing a player of his quality is one of the best, incredible pieces of business we've done since I started here," declared Klopp. And rightfully so. After all, Matip had arrived on a Bosman from Schalke three years previous. And as the team has grown, as has he, culminating in last season's Champions League triumph.

But Matip is the odd one out. And when Klopp enthuses about this "incredible piece of business", it is only relative to English clubs. English clubs which simply don't do Bosmans. Indeed without Klopp, there's no chance Matip would be a Liverpool player today. It was the manager who knew him. Who identified him. And recognised a bargain.

Klopp confirmed as much back in January 2016: "He never played for my team, he did the extreme opposite - he played for their biggest opponent. Maybe that says a lot about his quality. Even when he played for the team you cannot love as (Borussia) Dortmund manager, you see his quality. Then that's real quality."

And without having to shell out the needed €50-60m required to buy a defender of Matip's quality, how far down the road would be Liverpool's team building without Klopp's intervention?

Premier League clubs are missing a trick here. Landing a Bosman isn't just about the player in question, it's also about squad building. What Prem manager would turn up their nose to the midfield name-checked by Paratici on Thursday?

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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