McKennie nears stunning deal that will send him to Italian champions Juventus
August 25, 2020
ON WEDNESDAY, big news surfaced out of Italy and Germany that United States national team midfielder Weston McKennie was on his way to join Juventus. The terms are still not clear yet but all reports (including what ASN is hearing) suggest it will begin as a loan for the 2020/21 Serie A season.
After that, there are various options at play. One report suggested that the buyout will be mandatory for Juventus in 2021. Another report said that if McKennie plays in a certain number of games (one Italian outlet, DiMarzio, said 60%), the buyout will only then become mandatory. But the reported value to the deal appears huge: €3 million for the initial loan and €18 million for buyout.
Even for Juventus, that is a lofty sum. For McKennie, it would allow him to make his way under Andrea Pirlo, a legendary player but still very new to the coaching side, while giving himself a chance to play for a team that should contend for another Serie A title while also taking part in the Champions League.
Gradually, American players are working their way into bigger and bigger teams throughout Europe. Christian Pulisic at Chelsea, Gio Reyna at Borussia Dortmund, Sergino Dest at Ajax, and Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig are all first team regulars at Champions League-level clubs. McKennie looks to also rejoin that group.
So what is to make of this potential move? Here are some thoughts.
Weston McKennie has just landed in Turin to join Juventus. He’ll have medicals tomorrow morning - loan (€3m) with buy option (€18m). It’ll be an obligation to buy McKennie if he’s gonna play more than 60% of the 2020/2021 season matches with Juventus. ???? #Juve #transfers— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 27, 2020
Will McKennie play at Juventus?
As mentioned, the money being reported in this deal is very serious. The opportunity to go to Juventus is something that is a dream for most players and now it appears to be a reality for McKennie. But as someone who is used to playing every game, minutes are everything for the Texan.
He is a player who has already played in the Champions League and been a starter for a Schalke team that finished second in the Bundesliga. He is well beyond the point where he gains any benefit from being on the bench at a prestigious club. To play the number of Bundesliga minutes he has accumulated at his age is actually quite rare.
McKennie needs to play and he walks into a team who has a manger in his first managerial job. The good thing is that McKennie as the physical strength and the athleticism that the modern game requires. He also can hit some game-changing passes and has a lot of skill. Combined with his youth and his resume in the Champions League and the Bundesliga, it is easy to see why high-caliber teams would take a chance.
The deal structure could play a huge role in how much he plays. If there is a threshold requirement for the number of appearances he must meet for there to be a buyout, McKennie might have to impress right away. Juventus, isn’t going to want to simply cough-up seven figures unless they are certain they have someone who fits their long-term plans.
Clearly Juventus believes in his upside. The team also has positions and roles available with the departure of midfielders Miralem Pjani and Blaise Matuidi. So as things stand, there is likely to be player rotation in the midfield and McKennie should be in line to be part of that rotation – regardless of the approach Pirlo will take.
If the DiMarzio report is correct and the buyout becomes mandatory if McKennie plays in 60% of the games, then it might make sense that McKennie will get a lot of looks early in the season while Juventus makes an evaluation of McKennie. If he does not seem to be a good fit, the club is probably not going to want to play him much later in the season because it would trigger the buyout.
Here’s the goal. Great plays from Bradley, Cannon, & McKennie pic.twitter.com/XGeFznbVTm— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) July 4, 2019
If the buyout is mandatory regardless of appearances, McKennie is in a great position. Players who earn a seven-figure transfer price are always given a legitimate chance to prove themselves. A club (especially during this COVID era) is putting its money on the line for McKennie and speaks volumes.
The bottom line is that McKennie is likely to play for Juventus but, most likely, he is going to have to be sharp early.
American fans should be optimistic. McKennie is a versatile player that can help teams in many different ways. He can play the scrappy and physical side of the game easily. He will have to limit his turnovers but the modern game is extremely athletic and that is a strength forMcKennie - in addition to also having the skill to make a big play.
From a Schalke standpoint
From a Schalke standpoint, the club needs money and McKennie is their most valuable asset to sell given his age and experience. Schalke gets salary relief but the club will really need the buyout to make it work.
Schalke had a dismal ending to its season and its preseason is showing no improvements. This is a club that could very well be looking at relegation this upcoming season. With American players like Matthew Hoppe and Evan Rotundo in its youth system, it might open the door for minutes sooner than later but it remains a question if it is a healthy or positive environment for players to develop?
Soto’s loan to Telstar finalized
On Wednesday, U.S. U-23 eligible forward Sebastian Soto finalized his loan to Telstar in the Dutch second tier. This comes three weeks after his signing at Norwich was announced. But with him having neither an EU nor a UK passport, a direct move to the Championship-based club was not possible due to his inability to get a U.K work permit.
Telstar SC should be a good level for Soto to score goals. While he has played with the first and second teams of Hannover in his past, he has yet to score a goal at either of those levels. His most productive stage was the U-19 Bundesliga and last season was essentially a lost season as he rarely played for Hannover while he awaited his contract to expire.
Last season, Telstar finished 15th out of 20 teams in the Dutch second tier. It is still a pretty low level but at least Soto should get used to the experience of playing against adults while also having the responsibility of being one of the team's key offensive options.
But there is pressure on Soto during this loan. If he doesn’t succeed at this level, it raises the questions over his next step and his ability to contribute soon to a Norwich team that wants to return to the Premier League.
For Soto's international prospects, this move is also important. The key for him should be the United States U-23 team and he was not selected for the Olympic qualifying roster in March. But with that tournament postponed, the door is open again for him but there is still a lot of competition. Jeremy Ebobisse has been thriving in Portland in 2020 and Nicholas Gioacchini is emerging in France's second tier. Jesus Ferreira is also a versatile option up top. Soto is going to need to score to overtake those players to get back on the team that will attempt to qualifying and play in Tokyo next summer.