So what are Juventus going to do with arguably their greatest and most valuable talent, namely French midfielder Paul Pogba?   Not for nothing, reports in the last week claimed that the ‘Old Lady” has refused to sell him to Barcelona for €80 million euro.

Are we looking at a tactical bargaining postion or have the Italian champions decided that, having offloaded both Carlos Tevez and Andrea Pirlo, they had better hold to liquid gold talent like Pogba?   Speaking at a book launch in Milan the other night, Juve’s shrewd Director General, Beppe Marotta, was emphatic that Pogba will stay in Turin, saying:

“There are a lot of clubs who would like him…but our plan is to get ever stronger by holding onto fundamental elements in the squad such as Pogba…We’re not a club that sells its players (to make money).   If we sell a player, it is because he has asked us to do so…”

One person who believes that the Frenchman will stay at Juventus, at least for now, is former star Alessandro Del Piero.   Speaking at a reception the other night, held to announce his forthcoming engagement as a commentator for Sky Italia, Del Piero offered this assessment of his former club:

“Pogba?  I believe what Marotta says.  If Juve have refused 80 million for him then that is a clear sign that they want to make the most of his quality to ensure that their midfield remains granite like tough…

“In any case, Juve remain the favourites for next season.  It was sort of inevitable that both Tevez and Pirlo would leave but Juventus know how to reorganise themselves…”

All of which does not rule out that, in the meantime, one or two “usual suspects”, such as Chelsea or Manchester City, might just throw their hat into the ring for Pogba.   Last autumn here at World Soccer, we suggested that Pogba could be the biggest mover in the Italian transfer market this summer.   Maybe we were wrong, but then again, maybe not?

Francesco Totti

This week, Roma talisman Francesco Totti sets out on his 24th season at the club.  In modern Italian football, only Milan’s sublime defender Paolo Maldini has stayed longer (25 seasons) with the same club.

For a number of seasons, now, this is the moment when critics wonder if this year will, finally and definitively, be his last season.   Totti, who remains on a healthy salary of €3.5 million euro after tax, understandably is giving nothing away.

One thing, though, seems highly probable.   This could be the first season for 20 years when the Roma talisman does not start off the season as an automatic first choice player.   There were occasions last season when Totti, who will be 39 in September, appeared to have difficulty handling games in quick succession.   It could be that coach Rudi Garcia may attempt to persuade him to assume a “golden sub.” role, coming off the bench for a final, potentially telling, 20 minutes.

Whatever about that, however, Totti has one intriguing career target in front of him.  Namely he is currently on the tantilising scoreline of 299 goals scored in 743 official  games for Roma.  Whatever else happens next season, surely we will get to see that 300th goal, giving rise to more, well deserved celebrations of his remarkable career.   For the record, in Serie A Totti is the second highest goalscorer of all time on 243 goals behind Lazio legend Silvio Piola on 274.

Can Parma rise from the ashes?

Bankrupt Parma is set to rise from the ashes.  But which Parma?  Parma Calcio 1913 or Magico Parma?  Parma may have been relegated to semi-professional Serie D, the fourth level of Italian football, but the club still retains a prestige and a reputation which means that, at the moment, two different consortia are contesting the right to take over the proud name.

On the one hand, there is Parma Calcio 1913 which features local businessmen including the pasta millionaire, Guido Barilla, as well as a 40% shareholding controlled by small investors who have to spend €500 euro or upwards to buy their way into the club.   On the other hand, there is the Magico Parma group led by the cinema  entrepreneur, Giuseppe Corrado.

Given that the Federation has made it clear that only one “Parma” can be enrolled in Serie D, we will now have to wait until July 24th to know which of the two groups will inherit the Parma name.   By that date, the Football Federation will decide, based on a variety of factors including the new club’s business programme but, above all, based on which of the two consortia earns the approval of Parma city council.

For the time being, it would seem that Parma Calcio 1913 are in poll position.   Named after the year when the club was founded as Verdi Football Club in homage to the city’s most famous son, composer Giuseppe Verdi, Parma Calcio 1913 is likely to feature some famous past Parma names such as Nevio Scala, Luigi Apolloni and Alessandro Lucarelli.

Scala was the club coach for the “glory” years of the ’90s when Parma won the Cup Winners Cup (1993) and their first UEFA Cup (1995), whilst Apolloni, along with Lorenzo Minotti, formed the regular central defence of that Scala coached team.  As for 37-year-old Lucarelli, he has been at Parma since 2008 and captained the club throughout the Serie A season just ended.