From a results perspective, Danilo’s two-month absence thanks to a thigh injury didn’t prove costly. During that stretch, Juventus lost just once in Serie A and three times in all competitions.
The Brazilian has since returned to the fold, marking his comeback with a composed display from an unfamiliar centre-back position in last month’s 4-1 Coppa Italia triumph over Sampdoria. Then, on Sunday, Danilo made his first league appearance since his collision with Lazio’s Elseid Hysaj on November 20, as debut goals from Dusan Vlahovic and Denis Zakaria heralded the beginning of a new dawn in Turin.
It was great to see him back.
Danilo’s importance to Juventus was shown on his return to Serie A action
He was certainly put to the test by Hellas Verona’s primary attacking threat on the night, Darko Lazovic, who beat Danilo on the outside on a couple of occasions. Nevertheless, the Brazilian churned out a mightily impressive display as he registered eight combined tackles and interceptions (joint second-most among the Juve players). The 30-year-old once again proved to be a stabilising force in a stout defensive performance with his masterful ability to defend crosses at the back post an underrated facet of his game that was on full display on Sunday.
Danilo’s return was widely celebrated by Juventini as the Bianconeri prepare for a tricky, and potentially season-defining, run of fixtures. Massimiliano Allegri’s side compete on three fronts in February, and their form throughout could determine how the remainder of their 2021/22 campaign transpires.
And while the boss has numerous options, Danilo’s poised to be a mainstay at right-back. Alternatives, such as Juan Cuadrado and Mattia De Sciglio are flawed one way or another. The former, for example, is erratic defensively while the latter is strangely better suited to playing on the opposite flank.
Danilo provides a healthy balance from his position and his value to Juventus became clear last summer when Bayern Munich came calling. The club’s hefty €30m valuation deterred the Bavarian behemoths despite Julian Nagelsmann’s intrigue. Danilo would’ve been a superb fit for Nagelsmann at Bayern, with their current system being a more meticulous and efficient iteration of the one often employed by Andrea Pirlo last season – in which the Brazilian thrived.
Nevertheless, the reliable veteran didn’t come close to leaving Turin and the Bianconeri are set to reap the benefits of Danilo’s presence down the stretch. His role under Allegri is almost incomparable to what Pep Guardiola and even Pirlo demanded of him, but the simplicity of his current function had only aided the veteran before his November injury.
His primary job is to defend as part of a back four and get forward when space opens up on the overlap. There are no esoteric idiosyncrasies to the role. It’s a traditional right-back function, and Danilo’s harmonious blend of defensive astuteness and attacking potency mean he’s ideal for Allegri. He does things properly.
Following a difficult start to life at Juventus with Maurizio Sarri at the helm, Danilo has since blossomed into one of the Bianconeri’s most consistent and reliable performers. He’s proved to be an invaluable leader at the back over the past 18 months, with his celebration of any successful defensive action highly venerated in these parts.
And as Juventus seek to evolve into a more progressive and dynamic unit following their successful January mercato, the versatile and reliable Danilo will undoubtedly play a key role moving forward.
The brilliance of Joao Cancelo at Manchester City means he’s never going to be fully appreciated by a wider audience as he’ll almost always be assessed through the prism of the freakish Portuguese full-back (or whatever he is). Nevertheless, unlike Cancelo, Danilo’s beginning to forge a legacy of his own in Turin and his importance to the Old Lady will become clear should he stay injury-free during the remainder of the 2021/22 campaign.