Media view on Bentancur and Kulusevski - James Horncastle, Italian football expert
Tue 01 February 2022, 16:45|Tottenham Hotspur
James Horncastle, European and Italian football expert, The Athletic’s Serie A correspondent and part of the Golazzo Live and Champions League Goals Show on BT Sport, gives us the inside track on our new arrivals from Juventus, Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski.
James: “Rodrigo Bentancur is a ball winner in midfield, Juventus’ best presser of the ball, and a player who, when he’s had the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala in front of him, is the one looking to cover and regain possession. He’s a very honest, hard-working, blue-collar player, the profile of player that Antonio Conte has always appreciated. I expect he will play in a midfield two in a 3-4-3 or if Spurs evolve into three in midfield, that’s something he can do as well. What impresses me about Bentancur is that Juventus signed him as a teenager, yet he was already starting for Boca Juniors, a massive club in Argentina, and there is a lot of pressure that comes with wearing that shirt, playing at La Bombonera, playing in the Classico against River Plate and the Copa Libertadores. After a couple of years, he came over to Juventus, a winning team, and he was part of a side that went on a run of nine straight league titles, and he contributed to that record-breaking run. It’s not easy for young players from South America to come across to a new country, new culture, new language and play for such a competitive team as Juventus were when he arrived. He gradually established himself as one of the most reliable and dependable players in that group, no mean feat. Juventus are another massive club and with it, comes that expectation. I think it speaks volumes about his ability and character that he was able to handle all that.”
James: “Dejan Kulusevski came across to Italy very young. He caught the eye of Atalanta at a number of tournaments that are held in Italy. That’s a very good youth set up at Atalanta and he was part of a group of players who were winning Under-19 championships and was a transformative player for them. The other player of that generation, if not younger, was Amad Diallo Traore, who moved to Manchester United this time last year. The expectation was that Kulusevski would become a very important player for Atalanta, but the pathway through for him was blocked, because this Atalanta side is probably the best they’ve ever had, they’ve played Champions League for three consecutive years now and Josip Ilicic, the player in front of him at the time, was arguably the best player in the league. Dejan moved to Parma on loan and that’s where he won Serie A Young Player of the Year (2019/20). I would say he single-handedly kept Parma up that season, and I don’ think it’s a coincidence that when he left for Juventus, they went down. They couldn’t find a player in their style of play who could create and score the goals he did from his position. Dejan is a very versatile player, with the athleticism to play in the Premier League. There is no doubt about that, with both players. At Parma, he played off the right in a 4-3-3, he’s left footed, but when Juventus signed him, Maurizio Sarri was coach and playing in a 4-4-2 diamond, and the expectation was that Kulusevski would either play wide right or as a number 10. With Antonio Conte, he provides options in the 3-4-3/3-5-2 system. At Juventus, he could cover for Juan Cuadrado on the right, cover for Paulo Dybala just off the striker, cover for Federico Chiesa on the left, so he’s a player who can cover a lot of bases in attack. Parma were a counter-attacking side under Roberto D'Aversa, he had Gervinho on the left, Kulusevski on the right. They would defend deep, and it was up to one of those players to carry the ball forward and create - Dejan was very affective at that. He will be a very important player on transitions.”