Player Profiles: Daniele Rugani
After being an understudy to Europe’s most formidable defense, Daniele Rugani is ready come out of the shadow of Turin’s best defenders.
With Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli holding Juventus’ back line for season upon season, the young Italian has observed his veteran teammates and been learning his trade in the art of defending. Now 23, perhaps the time has come for the talented defender to leave the comfort of the Old Lady and play week in week out for one of Europe’s elite. Chelsea are reportedly closing in on a £45 million deal for the former Empoli centre back and with the staggering price inflation in today’s market, this has the potential to be one of the signings of the season.
Daniele Rugani began his career at Tuscan side Empoli and played there for the majority of his youth career. Then joined Juventus on loan for €150,000 in August 2012, winning the Coppa Italia Primavera in 2012. His performances as a regular starter showed the potential he possessed and inevitably he was purchased by the Bianconeri in a co-ownership deal with Empoli.
As a part of the deal, Rugani returned to Empoli on loan for the 2013/14 season, the beginning of the Italian’s senior career. His season was very successful with an impressive 40 appearances along with 2 goals. The centre back’s defensive efforts were instrumental in Empoli’s 2nd place finish and promotion to Serie A. Juventus were certainly impressed, yet the Serie B Footballer of the Year would remain with newly promoted Empoli for the 2014/15 season as part of that co-ownership deal.
At 21 years of age and his first season in Serie A, his talent was evident. 38 appearances for Empoli without substitution demonstrated his consistency and quality, hence why he was named in the 2015 Serie A team of the season. With his exceptional performances at such a young age, Juventus knew they had a star in the making and promptly purchased Empoli’s registration rights on Rugani. In total, this took Rugani’s transfer fee to €4 million, an absolute bargain for the Turin club considering what they could now sell him for.
17 league games in his debut season (2015/16) at the Allianz Stadium was a solid foundation to build on for the 7 time capped Italian. However, collateral lateral ligament damage limited his game time to 15 appearances the following season. Yet he did not allow this injury to stagnate his development, playing 22 games whilst additionally registering 2 goals and 2 assists in the 2017/18 season.
His time so far in Turin has accumulated 3 Serie A titles and 3 Coppa Italia trophies, not a bad trophy cabinet for someone still so young. However, Rugani may choose this season to leave Italy in search of more silverware and success abroad.
At 6ft 3 inches tall, Rugani is physically strong and an obvious aerial presence. Despite his lack of pace and mobility, he is known for reading the game intelligently, certainly aided by his time beside Chiellini and Barzagli. Furthermore, he is confident in possession, able to build attacks from the back rather than clear the ball into Row Z. However what sets him out from most defenders in today’s game is his discipline. He has only received 11 yellow cards in his 5 seasons as a senior professional, a clear example of how well he positions himself at the back so that he can avoid risky challenges.
With his physical characteristics and technical ability, the acquisition of Rugani would be a brilliant signing for Chelsea. He would perfectly replace the aging Gary Cahill and be under the management of a fellow Italian Maurizio Sarri. However, this transfer may have repercussions for the defender. With a plethora of defenders at Sarri’s disposal, Rugani may struggle to play every game, especially if Sarri is getting to know the rest of his squad.
Also, with Chelsea outside of Europe this season, Rugani would lose Champions League football that he is almost guaranteed in Turin every year, which may be a deterrent for a move to London. Not to mention, with Barzagli being 36 years old, time may be limited for Juventus’ impenetrable duo, which may open a door for Rugani to be the new starting centre back for Juve.
Nonetheless, Daniele Rugani is yet another talented Italian centre back that is an exciting prospect for Italians and Chelsea fans if they sign him. The company he has been in, his statistics and his consistent performances all suggest that he is destined for a successful career. Whether his future is in Turin or at Stamford Bridge, only time will tell.