An English prospect abroad: Why Juventus signed Stephy Mavididi
Stephy Mavididi signed for Juventus from Arsenal in a surprise €2m deal on 17 August. The move divided opinion among supporters and neutrals alike. The 20-year-old is another talented Englishman who has opted to challenge himself abroad, and it doesn't get more difficult than the Serie A champions.
Given Mavididi's current ability and potential to develop further with more senior experience, €2 million could turn into a real steal from Juventus' perspective. The possibilities are endless. Should the youngster initially impress in their under-23 side, it's possible he could earn a senior breakthrough under Massimilano Allegri. With ageing forwards Mario Mandzukic and Cristiano Ronaldo on the books, the former Gunner is likely to feature alongside highly-rated Moise Kean in the Old Lady's long-term plans.
Mavididi is now the 16th player aged 21 or younger still eligible to represent the Three Lions playing elsewhere in one of Europe's top leagues. Torino defender Charlie Rowan and Sampdoria midfielder Ronaldo Vieira have both also joined Italy's top flight this summer. Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho, 18, is widely regarded as the best prospect outside England.
Mavididi must overcome adversity
Edward Nketiah, twelve months younger than Mavididi, outperformed his former teammate within Arsenal's youth ranks over the last two seasons, recording an impressive 38 goals in 46 matches across both under-18 and 23 levels. Whether he can replicate such form at the top level remains to be seen, though his competitive debut was one to remember - scoring twice against Norwich last October to seal the Gunners' passage through the Carabao Cup.
Meanwhile, injury severely hampered Mavididi's chances of enjoying similar success at senior level. Loan spells at League One's Charlton Atletic and Championship's Preston North End were ultimately unsuccessful. He suffered a ruptured hamstring just a month into his first spell at the Valley early last year, though encouraging performance pre-injury was enough to justify a reunion during the campaign's second-half. That came after a frustrating six-month period at Deepdale, where he was rarely given an opportunity, playing less than 400 minutes.
Juve move is surprising
Mavididi, despite his critics, is an unselfish striker who was struck by injury at precisely the wrong time. A lengthy spell on the sidelines is never ideal but in his case, it ruined a chance to earn valuable first-team minutes under Arsene Wenger and therefore affected development.
The major criticism is that Mavididi failed to set both leagues alight while out on loan - like Chelsea's Tammy Abraham did with Bristol City. However, the former Arsenal frontman didn't have the time or patience to replicate similar results. If granted this, he would have no doubt flourished at a top Championship or lower-tier Premier League team.
An immediate problem which faces Mavididi at Juventus is the fierce competition for places. Coaching staff appear intent on signing the best possible prospects to add as part of their own academy set-up. In truth, the Derby-born striker would benefit more from playing at a smaller Serie A outfit, where he would actually earn consistent minutes.
From within England's various youth sides, Everton midfielder Tom Davies and Fulham's Ryan Sessegnon are the only bonafide Premier League players yet to make their senior international debuts. The majority are contracted to top teams but find themselves constantly loaned out every year. So, why not follow in the footsteps of Sancho by moving abroad and proving adaptability?
Strengths, future potential
Mavididi was excellent for Arsenal's under-23s, but it was clear a while ago he was already good enough to warrant competitive football. Importantly, his game is not solely based on scoring goals. Watching him often in recent years, it's obvious his playing style has developed in the final third as a more refined number nine. He creates chances for teammates as much as finds the net himself.
With physical attributes aplenty, it's not a surprise Mavididi has played in various attack-minded positions, from either flank to the number ten role. As he has matured, though, his preference to play centre-forward is clear.
Juventus agreed terms on a four-year deal for an ambitious youngster, one who only had a year left on his contract in North London. Yes, it's a surprise, but Mavididi could now take advantage. He can hone his craft in Turin.