Has Dusan Vlahovic finally found his feet at Juventus?

When Dusan Vlahovic scored his second goal against Frosinone last weekend, creating space in the box by wrong-footing his marker before producing an exquisite finish to level the game at 2-2, the official Juventus social media handle exclaimed: “Dusan!! He just can’t stop scoring can he?!” It was a sentiment the Bianconeri fans ardently agreed with.

This marked a change — in both the tone and mood in Turin — from much of 2022 and 2023, when Vlahovic’s reputation as one of Europe’s hottest talents was fast eroding. Juventus had acquired the Serbian hitman’s services during the January transfer window in 2022, beating serious competition from Arsenal and forking out €80 million. 

Price-tag pressure

But Vlahovic struggled to reproduce the sort of form that saw him score 38 goals in 58 games across one and a half seasons before Juventus signed him. There was a growing feeling at the Turin-based club that the output was not living up to the price tag. By the 2023 summer window, the Italian powerhouse was courting wealthy clubs, hoping to recoup its investment.

Juventus even reportedly offered him to cash-splashing Chelsea in the hope of securing Romelu Lukaku. But with no club willing to part with the kind of money Juventus wanted, Vlahovic stayed put. And now many Juventus fans are thanking their lucky stars. 

The brace against Frosinone took Vlahovic’s Serie A tally this season to 15, second only to Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez. Even more impressively, they made Vlahovic the leading scorer in Europe’s top five leagues in 2024, his nine goals in seven Serie A games having no equal.

In addition to deciding matches — he also assisted Daniele Rugani’s stoppage-time winner against Frosinone — Vlahovic is looking like a leader at The Old Lady. He has scored 37% of Juventus’ goals this season; no one among Serie A’s top 10 scorers has a higher proportion. 

Vlahovic is also setting the tone for the supporters of a club struggling to keep pace in a title race. Juventus is second in the Serie A standings but trails Inter by a large margin. The Serbia international celebrated his first goal against Frosinone by placing his hand under his chin, as if to say the Bianconeri must hold their heads high and soldier on. 

What has changed for Vlahovic? “I honestly don’t know what happened. I think all the hard work I did finally paid off,” he said. “I’m physically well, it’s simple. I work as usual, I take care of my body. I sleep well, I eat well and I train well, the difference with the past season is that I’m fine and I don’t have problems.  Nonetheless, I am not happy … the team results matter more than my goals. We have not been up to our usual standards.”

Former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes Vlahovic’s desire to prove himself and the trust he has begun to feel in Turin have contributed to the turnaround. “He has more self-esteem and is convinced about his role inside Juventus,” Prandelli told Tuttosport. “Against Frosinone, he literally dragged Juventus. He can become a leader and the reference point for personality, technique and goals. He has a fire inside and really cares about the consideration he feels from his teammates and the environment. If he feels trust, he gives his best.”

Best in the world?

And Vlahovic’s best is truly elite. Former Juventus striker Darko Kovacevic thinks his compatriot “can become one of the best in the world”. “Dusan is — and has always been — a great striker, he just needed to find his best form,” Kovacevic told Gazzetta dello Sport. “His talent has never been in question. We are talking about a young but complete centre forward. He has been going through a spectacular state of form since January and I hope that this is only the start. I remain convinced that Dusan can become one of the best in the world… just like [Erling] Haaland.”

A jackhammer for a left foot: Vlahovic is an exceptional ball-striker, which makes him a goal threat at free-kicks as well as from distance. | Photo credit: Getty Images

Vlahovic is an exceptional ball-striker — with a jackhammer of a left foot that can get the ball to curve and dip, he is a goal threat at free-kicks. His left foot also makes him dangerous from range as well as from inside the box, where he often finds space to receive progressive passes. 

Unlike many other left-footers, the 24-year-old isn’t one-footed. He is a more-than-competent finisher off his right when defenders shepherd him onto his ‘weaker’ foot — he is capable of both striking across his body and opening up his hips and side-footing the ball.

The 3-1 win over Lazio earlier this season showcased the variety of finishing Vlahovic possesses. He opened the scoring by sweeping home a cross with a technically supreme first-time finish. He later restored the two-goal cushion when he chested down a long ball, opened up space in front of two defenders with a touch and fired home from the edge of the box.

At 6’3”, Vlahovic has enough of an aerial presence. He can outjump most defenders and score off towering headers. He is also brave enough to attempt diving headers, his poacher’s instinct often getting him to balls other strikers may have given up chasing. 

At Juventus, Vlahovic doesn’t always get to show off his all-round game. He does not participate in the build-up as often as Lautaro does at Inter, for instance, but the Serb has the skill and touch to roll his defenders under contact. This makes him a good bouncing board for passes to release runners from deep, a facet of his game that makes him an ideal option for both one-striker setups and the two-striker system he almost always plays in at Juventus.

Power and touch: The Serb has the strength and skill to roll his markers under contact. This makes him a good bouncing board for passes to release runners from deep. | Photo credit: Getty Images

Power and touch: The Serb has the strength and skill to roll his markers under contact. This makes him a good bouncing board for passes to release runners from deep. | Photo credit: Getty Images

What the future holds

But for all of Vlahovic’s undeniable qualities, he will be judged on the numbers he puts up and their influence on Juventus’ pursuit of titles. The question both player and club will want the answer to is whether this run of goal-scoring form is consistently replicable or a one-off — this will also have a bearing on their future together. 

With Vlahovic’s contract set to run until June 2026, this summer could prove pivotal. A 25-goal season will attract interest from top clubs, with several big-name strikers set to shift. Juventus will need to ascertain whether cashing in when Vlahovic’s value has risen again is the right move; the risk of losing his potentially elite peak years is fairly high as well. 

For now, though, the focus is on closing the gap to Inter and keeping the others behind. If Juventus and Vlahovic can manage that, it’s unlikely anybody in Turin will ever question the €80 million price tag again.

Source website: www.thehindu.com

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