It was officially Juventus’ first friendly under the returning Massimiliano Allegri. The Bianconeri were up against Cesena. A rather adolescent Old Lady side wrapped up a 3-1 victory, with the USMNT star Weston McKennie producing a moment of individual brilliance that turned into the decisive point of the match.
“You’ve got to score 10 goals this season!” — this was Allegri’s response to McKennie’s goal that extended Juve’s lead to 2-0 that day. Observing the game from pitchside, the Italian gaffer was delighted from what he’d seen from the 23-year-old midfielder.
Not only did McKennie win the favour of the newly-hired Juve manager with that solo goal, but he also received widespread praise from fans watching at home. Briefly, it felt as if McKennie might catch fire ahead of his second season in Italy.
How has been McKennie’s time at Turin so far?
Touted to be one of the most promising outlets during his playing days in the Bundesliga, McKennie joined Juventus from Schalke on a season-long loan deal in the summer of 2020.
The deal, however, was made permanent by La Vecchia Signora in the latest summer transfer market. Juventus triggered the permanent-buy option of around €18.5 million for McKennie in a deal that holds €6.5 million more in potential performance-related bonuses.
It is hard to argue whether his performances during the loan spell justified Juventus’ decision to sign McKennie permanently, but he, as a midfielder, was more proactive than a lot out there under the regime of Andrea Pirlo. Per FBref.com, McKennie scored five goals and racked up two assists from 34 appearances in Serie A last term.
Last weekend against Torino, McKennie got two golden chances to open the scoring for Juventus in the initial stages of the game. But owing to his poor finishing both times, the contest remained goalless. Although Juve went on to secure a narrow 1-0 triumph (thanks to the awe-inspiring goal from Manuel Locatelli), McKennie’s performance against Torino mirrored his overall struggles in the 2021/22 season.
McKennie is yet to bag a goal or an assist for Juventus despite making five appearances — that includes four starts — in Serie A this term. Thus, Allegri’s desire to see his protégé reach double figures in the goals column by the end of 2021/22 seems nothing but a pipe dream.
What do the recent stories claim?
A recent report from Tuttosport claims that Juventus are likely to let go of Weston McKennie in the upcoming January transfer window, with the Piedmontese side currently setting their sights on AS Monaco’s Aurélien Tchouaméni.
Allowing McKennie to leave would open up a vacancy in Juve’s midfield department. When signing him permanently, Juventus made him pen a long-term contract with the club. As such, his current contract with Le Zebre will run out in June 2025.
The Juventus hierarchy has been left disappointed with McKennie’s on-field performances. The lack of inconsistency has also hampered the confidence shown in the 23-year-old by the club management.
Furthermore, the club recently disclosed its financial statement for the 2020/21 fiscal year. The data (via Forbes) record that Juventus have made a staggering loss of €209.9 million ($246.2 million) amid the COVID-19 pandemic – the second-highest loss by a Serie A club in history.
Money is something a club like Juventus desperately needs in this uncertain period. Considering all these aspects, Juventus might be coerced into letting McKennie leave at a reasonable price this January.
Is time running out for Weston McKennie at Juventus?
McKennie’s start to the 2021/22 season has been so poor that it has given rise to numerous riddles around the Texan’s future in Turin. “Is time running out for Weston McKennie at Juventus” is one of those uncertain questions. The lack of involvement on the pitch — both offensively and defensively — haven’t aided the player’s motivation.
Juventus strengthened their midfield with the signing of Manuel Locatelli this summer. Under the management of Allegri, Juan Cuadrado has found a more advanced position, now playing down the right and occupying a midfield spot in the process.
In addition to that, Arthur Melo, who has been nursing his injury for a long time now, is set to make his return to action sooner rather than later. His return coupled with the aforementioned dilemmas will only increase competition for places within the team.
If that is less worrisome, the off-field controversies, ignited by Weston McKennie’s disobedience, have worsened the case for the USMNT midfielder. Last season, he hosted a dinner party in Italy that broke all the COVID-19 protocols imposed by the club. McKennie and the other two wrongdoers in Paulo Dybala and Arthur Melo were straightaway suspended by the club and fined for their culpable deeds.
Having failed to learn the moral lesson in that instance, McKennie violated COVID-19 protocols once again, endangering the lives of his teammates in the United States men’s national soccer team. This time, the extent of his action was so severe that it led to a former international player in Landon Donovan saying that he is “extremely disappointed” in McKennie.
When it comes to righteousness, Juventus have been a pace-setter for the rest of Serie A. They recently banned the fan who had hurled racial slurs at AC Milan’s Mike Maignan. In the middle of that, McKennie, to some extent, is merely an individual who attracts negative attention.
Allegri has seemingly found his first-choice midfield that consists of Manuel Locatelli, Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot, and Juan Cuadrado. After the return of Arthur Melo, the stock of Weston McKennie will undoubtedly decline further.
At an age when a player of McKennie’s ilk aspires to play regular football, the starlet could find himself on the periphery of Juventus for the foreseeable future. Now, it will be intriguing to see whether or not he chooses to stay put and endeavours to recover the appreciation of Allegri.