As Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot reported for duty in Turin earlier this week, Juventus once again reinforced their reputation as masters of the free-agent signing. The two midfielders follow in the footsteps of Andrea Pirlo, Fernando Llorente, Kingsley Coman, Sami Khedira, Dani Alves, Emre Can, and Paul Pogba, all joining the Bianconeri when their previous contracts had expired.
Debate over whether such deals can be called “free transfers” can wait for another day, but one undeniable truth is that the man responsible for securing those aforementioned deals is no longer at the club. Indeed, Juve owe a great debt of gratitude to Beppe Marotta for his diligence in acquiring such talent, but he has wasted no time in using them to help his new club Inter follow suit.
Snapped up back in February as his contract with Atletico Madrid entered its last few months, Diego Godin represents a major coup for the Nerazzurri. His vast experience in the Spanish capital makes him an almost ideal signing for a club looking to challenge for a title, the last decade spent trying to upset Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga.
Godin made almost 400 appearances for Los Rojiblancos, establishing a reputation as a physical, combative defender, his strength in the air and tactical intelligence making him a formidable opponent for even the very best attacking players. He also emerged as a terrific leader, becoming club captain and an inspirational teammate, a leader who embodied Diego Simeone’s relentless drive out on the field.
He was unquestionably the driving force behind Atleti’s La Liga triumph in 2013-14 and helped them to lift the Europa League trophy in both 2012 and 2018. Add in more than 130 international appearances for Uruguay — with whom he also won the 2011 Copa America — and it quickly becomes apparent that not only is Godin an excellent defender, he is also a gritty, determined winner.
There is little doubt that he will find a kindred spirit in Antonio Conte. The freshly installed Inter boss has built his own fearsome reputation, starting at Juventus where he built what became known as the “BBC” backline of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, and Giorgio Chiellini.
That trio complemented one another perfectly, but the arrival of Godin now gives the coach a chance to create similar magic for the Nerazzurri, who could already count on the presence of Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij in defense. Godin’s vast experience and relentless tenacity will add an extra dimension to the team, one which could help Conte transform Inter into title contenders almost overnight.
Given that they finished 21 points behind the leaders last term, that might seem far-fetched, but that would be nothing new for a coach who has performed such feats before. In the season prior to his arrival at Juve, the Bianconeri finished 24 points behind champions AC Milan, but the team finished Conte’s first campaign by winning the Scudetto themselves.
He did the same again at Chelsea, arriving after they finished the 2015-16 campaign in 10th place and a staggering 31 points behind league winners Leicester City. The following year? Chelsea won the title with two matches to spare as Conte once again proved his ability to galvanize a squad and push them to new heights.
That will be no easy feat, however, the other contenders for the Serie A title having also worked to improve their chances next term. AC Milan will be led by Marco Giampaolo, the perfect manager to bring the best from their collection of talented young players, while Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli should be much better in his second season at the Stadio San Paolo. AS Roma have brought in Paulo Fonseca, who will hope to bring the capital club back into contention, while it remains to be seen how much impact new owner Rocco Comisso can have at Fiorentina.
Then, of course, there is Juve, who have added Ramsey, Rabiot and — perhaps most surprisingly — Gigi Buffon to a squad whose dominance of the Italian football landscape needs no explanation here. Rumors of a move for Paul Pogba or Sergej Milinković-Savić continue to gather pace, the Bianconeri seemingly determined to provide Maurizio Sarri with everything he needs to not only keep Juve winning, but to ensure they do so while playing his stylish brand of football.
Just as it did at Empoli, Napoli, and Chelsea, it will undoubtedly take the 60-year-old some time to get his methods ingrained in the side, a fact which only adds to the intrigue. With Max Allegri gone, so too is the feeling of inevitability that Juve will simply steamroll their way to yet another league title.
Now the Old Lady is showing even the thinnest veneer of vulnerability, her rivals will sense a chance to finally end the dominance she has exerted over the past decade, with nobody more eager to seize that opportunity than Antonio Conte, Diego Godin, and Inter.
Buckle up, because the 2019-20 Serie A campaign is going to be fun!
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.