Dejan Kulusevski impressed for Sweden during the international break | Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
It’s been quite the week for Sweden and Juventus star Dejan Kulusevski.
The 20-year-old received the seal of approval from the nation’s king, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, after the AC Milan striker described Kulusevski’s absence against France as a ‘f***ing joke’, in a remarkable attack on his coach.
Honestly, losing Kulusevski to Juve is a bigger deal to me than losing Tonali to Milan.
Of course time will tell which one will be the superior player… pic.twitter.com/cZgug0mo8C
— Uncle Sharma (@RSharmzz) September 9, 2020
A few days later, the winger was on the end of another series of compliments from Portuguese legend and domestic teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. Kulusevski was awarded the Man of the Match award, despite Sweden losing 2-0 to the Seleção, and Ronaldo could not have been more forthcoming in his praise for the forward after the match.
“I’m sure he will score a lot of goals,” the 35-year-old told Swedish channel TV4.
“I see great potential and great talent in him. I am convinced that Dejan will do his best and will help us do great things at Juve. I really enjoyed watching him play for Sweden because I didn’t know him very well, but this time I watched him and I know a great player has been signed.
“I hope to be able to play and score many goals together.”
Cristiano on KULUSEVSKI:
“I see in him enormous potential and talent. He did very well on the field today. I watched him and had fun. We’re going to score a lot of goals together.” ? pic.twitter.com/LWO0RksbfV
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@c_ronaldo7egend) September 8, 2020
All Kulusevski needs is for Lionel Messi to claim the Swede has the greatest left foot in the game, and he’ll have completed the set. In all seriousness though, the signs are all pointing in one direction for the new Bianconeri winger: superstardom.
It may seem churlish to suggest, but Juventus are at their lowest ebb in a decade, and the club’s dominance of Italian football hinges on their bold appointment of rookie coach Andrea Pirlo and his regeneration of the squad.
The main problem with the Old Lady is hinted in the nickname – the majority of their players are over the hill and unlikely to reach their peak again. Fortunately, lessons are being learned. Miralem Pjanic, Gonzalo Higuain, Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi – all the wrong side of 30 – have either departed or are heading for the exit door, while younger blood has already been recruited in the form of Barcelona star Arthur Melo and midfielder Weston McKennie.
?? New Juventus number 14 Weston McKennie in Turin ⚪️⚫️#UCL pic.twitter.com/n3F2m93IHx
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 8, 2020
Then again, I Bianconeri are willing to splash a huge chunk of their wage bill on Luis Suarez, so old habits do tend to die hard.
One deal that was completed before Pirlo’s return to Turin could prove the most important in their title defence next season, though. That’s right – King Kulu.
The youngster was snapped up in January last year, having caught the eye with some devastating displays while on loan at Parma from Atalanta. The Italian champions had seen enough, snatching the Swede from under Inter’s nose, for a fee of €35m – which could rise to €44m, depending on his achievements at the Allianz stadium.
Anyone worried that Juve had taken too hefty a gamble on a boy with only six months of experience at the top level was quickly silenced, as the winger doubled down on his impressive displays, becoming the undisputed young jewel in the Serie A crown.
Kulusevski managed 10 goals and eight assists in his breakout campaign with I Crociati, and he won countless plaudits for his combination of strength, skill, speed and deadly end product. His ease and calm on the ball was frightening for a boy who had only recently escaped his teenage years, and his comfort with both feet is a lethal weapon for any forward to possess.
It was evident from his 12 months on the Serie A scene, that he was far too good to be slugging it out in the middle of the pack. He deserves to be right at the top.
And so, that leads nicely onto Juventus’ current predicament. What was plain to see last year, was that front three of Douglas Costa, Paulo Dybala and Ronaldo is not a winning formula. At least, it could – and should – be improved.
Juventus players celebrate after scoring against Lecce | Soccrates Images/Getty Images
It may be a touch harsh, but there is a definite weak link in that trident. Costa, individually, is an exciting player, but his attacking style and build up play is out of sync with the rest of his teammates. His fellow offensive companions, on the other hand, struck up a nice little bromance towards the end of the season, and appeared to have found a terrifying wavelength of their own.
The idea then, of Ronaldo prowling the left flank, Dybala acting as a false nine in the centre, and Kulusevski doing his thing on the right, is far more appealing for any Juve fan. In fact, he could be everything the beleaguered Federico Bernardeschi has threatened to be for a couple of years now.
The Swede’s guile and love for spontaneity and individual moments of magic could inject a bit of unpredictability into this side, and given his ability to step up to every challenge that comes his way, there should be no fears that he could be daunted by the expectations of the champions. He is consistent – and consistently brilliant.
When the minutes are running down, and the seconds ticking by, Kulusevski can conjure the unthinkable. A slalom through a row of defenders, a bolt from the blue, a lock-picking pass – he has the potential to be a match-winner week in, week out.
In short, he could be the man to bring the fear factor back to I Bianconeri – and see them light up the European stage as they’ve desperately wanted to do for so many years.