Miralem Pjanic a major boost to Juventus' hopes of European glory
While the world's eyes feast upon the spectacle that is Euro 2016, Juventus' management team are busy preparing for the new season. With Barcelona's Dani Alves all but secured, the first player the club have purchased in the transfer market is Miralem Pjanic, activating his buyout clause to secure the Bosnian from Roma for €32 million.
A player boasting sublime skill, a deft touch and audacious dribbling ability, Pjanic possesses the technique befitting of Massimiliano Allegri's wider Juve plan and one of the few in the world who would raise the quality of the midfield.
When Allegri took over the team, he took his time to introduce changes but he made it clear that he prioritised technique, good football and placed great faith in his men. He was not about to micromanage from the side-lines much like his predecessor managed before him. For a side to achieve both domestic and European wins, they had to play less exhaustive football, make the ball work for them and be tactically versatile enough to overcome talented teams, ones they would regularly face in the Champions League.
Juventus have greatly improved since the tactician's arrival. While they may still be renowned for their unity and willingness to suffer, their football is more accurate, the attacking patterns more efficient and the goals spectacular.
Reliant on Andrea Pirlo's tremendous creativity and free-kick ability in his first season, Allegri was then able to depend on Claudio Marchisio and his tactical intelligence the next year. Pjanic, you could argue, possesses traits from both players and has since learnt how to perfect them.
In his hilarious autobiography, Pirlo once noted how "the search for Juninho's secret had become an obsession for me, to the extent that it occupied my every waking thought."
Spending hours training, it's safe to safe Pirlo finally uncovered the secret and became the architect behind some of the most beautiful free-kicks. However, Juninho Pernambucano himself, the idol of the great Italian wizard, believes Pjanic is the greatest free-kick player he's ever seen.
"Mire has incredible quality. He's maybe the best free-kick taker in the world today. He always stayed with me after training for free-kick practice. We discussed things a lot," Juninho told L'Equipe.
The Brazilian was at Lyon when Pjanic, billed to be his replacement, arrived. Keen to absorb as much knowledge and advice as he could from Juninho and all the others he played with at Lyon, the Bosnian developed quickly and credited relentless training for his capabilities on the ball. "I've practiced about ten thousand free kicks from every single position on the pitch. It takes more than 10 years to learn," he said.
Dubbed the "Little Prince", the player may capture the imagination, caressing the ball with his manipulative touch yet he describes himself as an aggressive athlete, one with relentless desire to keep the ball and push forward. Versatile and efficient, his tactical intelligence and flexibility allows him to play in any midfield role, much like the player with whom he shares a nickname.
Lovingly referred to as "Il Principino" by his teammates, Marchisio is the tactical gift every Juventus coach has come to rely on. While he and his new teammate share certain traits, the two are different players who could provide immense quality to the team's overall game if played together.
Under Allegri, Juve's game continues to evolve tactically and the coach hopes to have a squad so well-versed in different formations and styles of football, they could overcome even the toughest of opponents. Pjanic is another addition to this intelligent squad, allowing for variety.
He could play as the orchestrator, the deep-lying midfielder to allow Marchisio to reprise his former role, one of a man who arrives into the box at opportune moments or to the right of him, in Sami Khedira's position. That position would permit him greater freedom to dribble forward and unleash his wizardly. After all, Pjanic played 365 minutes fewer than Paul Pogba yet produced the same amount of assists, more goals and more key passes forward.
Boasting a superior pass success rate, Pjanic loves to play behind quick forwards, regularly delivering Mohamed Salah with the chances the fast attacker converted for Roma. Played behind a fast striker like Alvaro Morata should result in explosive play from Juventus -- the kind of football that would delight even the harshest of critics. Possessing players with different skill sets and the ability to play different roles, Juventus can play a 4-3-1-2 formation, a 3-5-2 shape or even a 4-3-3 should they desire next season.
It will be up to Allegri to find the right tactical shape to ensure balance, attacking intent and defensive security.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.