Daniele Rugani's Future With Juventus On The Line In Next Matches

Questioned about Daniele Rugani’s lack of playing time, Max Allegri was unequivocal in his response. “It’s beyond doubt; he is the future of Juventus,” the coach told reporters, adding that the central defender “has a bright career ahead of him” but that he needed to wait his turn due to the club’s depth in that position.

The problem is, that press conference came in November 2015 and that “future” has yet to arrive. Since his move to Juventus became permanent in the summer of 2015—now three and a half seasons ago—Rugani has made a total of 51 Serie A starts, meaning his total number of appearances in all competitions for the Bianconeri (77) is still below his number of league starts (78) during a two-year stint in the Empoli first team.

It is understandable that the presence of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci would limit the chances for the Lucca native in those early days, but even as the first of that trio has begun to decline and the latter spent a year at AC Milan, Rugani has remained a bit-part player.

He has found himself losing playing time to Medhi Benatia, Martin Caceres and Angelo Ogbonna at various times, something which many hold Allegri himself accountable for. Yet to insist the Juve boss does not trust young players is to ignore evidence to the contrary as Rodrigo Bentancur’s appearance total already sits at 51 despite the Uruguayan being almost three years younger. A case of, as Manchester United legend Sir Matt Busby once famously remarked, “if they are good enough, they are old enough.”

By the same token, it is odd that Rugani, who will turn 25 in July, is still regarded as a promising prospect, a label that would never be applied to Federico Bernardeschi, Emre Can or João Cancelo, despite the fact all four players were born in the same year (1994). That he is older than both Alessio Romagnoli of Milan and Inter defender Milan Škriniar must also be noted, particularly as that duo are both much closer to the finished article and far more accomplished in their play than the Juve man.

Those who support Rugani continue to lean on reassuring stats such as him playing every minute of every game during his one Serie A campaign at Empoli without being booked, yet repeatedly watching him flinch away from contact makes that much less impressive. In two crucial matches during last season’s run-in he did just that, ducking away from the ball and allowing Inter and Crotone to score goals that could have derailed Juve’s title hopes.

They are far from isolated incidents and they are clearly not mistakes (to write off a pattern of behavior as such is misleading and dangerous), but right now they are immaterial. Barzagli, Bonucci, and Chiellini are all injured, while Benatia has ended his time in Turin to move to Qatari club Al-Duhail and Caceres is seriously lacking match sharpness.

That means Rugani is no longer “the future of Juventus” but is instead the only fit and available central defender in the squad. He will never get a better opportunity to showcase his talent, clearly set for a sustained spell in the starting XI in games that will prove crucial to the Old Lady’s hopes of success this term.

It is a daunting prospect, and there is every chance that his place at the club is on the line. If Rugani thrives over the coming weeks, he will repay the faith of everyone who shrugged off the doubts, the poor performances, and costly errors to still believe in him. He can prove that he deserves a place in central defense for years to come, and that Juve were right to turn down lucrative offers from Arsenal, Chelsea, and Napoli in order to retain his services.

The flip side to that is if he fails. 

Perpetually in “win now” mode, the future is a very fluid concept for sporting director Fabio Paratici, a man whose current brief is to maximize the club’s chances of winning the Champions League during what remains of Cristiano Ronaldo’s peak years. 

If Rugani shows that he is still not ready to assume such responsibility, the club cannot afford to continue waiting around for him to learn how to carry that weight. The chance is his to capitalize on, and whether he succeeds or not is going rest entirely upon his shoulders, which suddenly makes the forthcoming matches against Sassuolo and Frosinone very interesting.

There are no players for Allegri to select over him. Every excuse for both the player and his coach have been stripped away, and what remains is a two-match audition that will not only show if the Italy international is capable of playing against Alvaro Morata, Antoine Griezmann, and Atlético Madrid, but if he is in fact good enough to remain in Turin at all.

Because, to paraphrase a line from The Dark Knight, Daniele Rugani might not be the central defender Juventus deserves, but he’s the only one they have right now.

Adam Digby is an Italian football writer for FourFourTwo, The Independent, and elsewhere. Author of "Juventus: A History In Black & White." Follow Adam on Twitter.

Dwight Yorke Shined For Trinidad & Tobago And Manchester United

Sometimes all it takes is an opportunity.

Red Bulls Take Drama-Filled Atlantic Cup Game Against D.C. United

Drama was not in short supply on Wednesday night at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., as the New York Red Bulls beat D.C. United 2-1 to claim the first leg of the 2019 Atlantic Cup. Both sides finished the game with 10 men, as Wayne Rooney was sent off for violent conduct in the first half, followed by the visitor's Amro Tarek in first-half stoppage time.

D.C. United Host Red Bulls With Rivalry Pride & Table Position At Stake

Olsen Recounts Hat-Trick Against NY

It's been nearly a year since they last faced each other, but D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls kick off the MLS Heineken Rivalry Week on Wednesday night when the two sides meet at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. 

Andres Guardado, Nearing Mexico's Cap Record, Is Already A Concacaf Legend

The generation of Mexican players who are just on the cusp of nearing the end of their international careers has been some of the best ever to suit up for El Tri. Javier Hernandez is the country's all-time leading goal scorer, while Guillermo Ochoa is one of the best-ever keepers in the history of Concacaf. Even Carlos Vela, who isn't quite as beloved by fans of the national team, has had a stellar club career over in Europe and in MLS with Los Angeles FC.

Berhalter With A Decision To Make, Canada's Vicious Attack & A Growing Cuba


Group A of the inaugural Concacaf Nations League offers no shortage of intriguing storylines. 

D.C. United Can't Overcome Reyna's First Half Goal, Fall 1-0 To 'Caps

With Wayne Rooney back in the lineup, D.C. United could not turn a plethora of shots into a goal on Saturday night, falling 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place. Yordy Reyna scored the game's only goal in the 18th minute, as United failed to pick up their first two-game winning streak since May. The loss dropped the Black-and-Red down into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of rivals the New York Red Bulls, who come to town on Wednesday.

D.C. United Begin Busy Week With Visit To Face Vancouver Whitecaps

The New Look D.C. United

After scraping together a much-needed 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy on Sunday, D.C. United will look to make it two wins in a row tonight when they travel to Canada to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Black-and-Red haven't won two games in a row since May 4 and May 12, when they took down the Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City in back-to-back games at Audi Field. The win over LA last weekend catapulted United back into third place in the Eastern Conference, despite just three wins in their past 14 games.

Concacaf Legends: Honduras' Left Back For Over A Decade, Emilio Izaguirre

Sometimes, it's hard to go back home. 

Clint Dempsey Forged A Career & Persona Unlike Any Other US International

Small-town Texan. Bass fisherman. Rapper. Premier League star. World Cup hero.

League C Brings Caribbean Nations Trying To Climb The Concacaf Ladder


The inaugural Concacaf Nation kicks off in less than a month and in League C — the lowest tier of the competition — are 13 nations aiming to grow and gain promotion to League B in the next edition. The tournament is the first of its kind involving all 41 teams in the region and is a welcomed opportunity for many of the participants to convene and take part in more competitive matches than ever before, seven of which FIFA President Gianni Infantino recently visited to assess the development of the sport in the Caribbean.