23. Alex Sandro
Juve have historically produced a number of great defenders. Defenders that not only carry out their main duty of stopping an opponent but also defenders that regularly contribute to the attack with their technical qualities.
There are a lot of great names in a long list of wide defenders at Juve. From Virginio Rosetta and Umberto Caligaris in the first Quenquennio to Antonello Cuccureddu, Claudio Gentile and Antonio Cabrini in La Madama’s most successful era ever. From Moreno Torricelli, Angelo Di Livio, Andrea Fortunato and Gianluca Pessotto to Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta and Alessandro Birindelli under Marcello Lippi or Fabio Capello.
Three of Juve’s four most successful eras have witnessed the presence of the aforementioned names. The Torinese side’s fourth most rewarding era is currently ongoing having seen Stephan Lichtsteiner, Juan Cuadrado and Dani Alves on the right flank while Kwadwo Asamoah, Patrice Evra and Alex Sandro on the left flank.
Giuseppe Marotta is rightly praised for a lot of transfer coups but he’s rarely credited for signing a certain Brazilian from Portugal. Sandro was 24 when Marotta invested a hefty fee of €26m in 2015 to secure his services from Porto amid stiff competition from top clubs in England, Spain and France.
A €26m investment makes Sandro, Marotta’s fourth most expensive transfer at Juve. Only Gonzalo Higuaín, Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanić were more costly than him. Two of these three were signed in the summer of 2016. So, at the time, he was Marotta’s second biggest investment at Juve. It’s clear that the club had massive confidence in the player considering that they crossed certain economic barriers and beat off profitable companies, to sign him when his contract was expiring in a year.
And so they said, “Brazilian players don’t do well at Juve” …
The São Paulo native arrived in Turin on August 24, 2015. There was great optimism among Juventini around this transfer. A lot of enthusiasm in Turin, rest of Italy and among international Juve fans. But, it was also a period of transition and uncertainty.
Juve had parted ways with Carlitos Tévez, Andrea Pirlo, Marco Storari, Simone Pepe and Fernando Llorente while selling Arturo Vidal. Naturally, the new signings that took their places took time to settle in and this resulted in a poor start.
Seen as a futuristic replacement to Evra, Sandro took less time to make an impression in comparison to his other teammates that were signed in the same mercato as him. While Cuadrado takes the plaudits for scoring the winner over Torino, it was Alex Sandro’s spectacular cross that found the Colombian. The Brazilian came off the bench for Dybala with three minutes left in normal time and created a goal that changed the course of La Madama’s entire season and kickstarted his Black and White spell. That 93rd minute win in the Derby Della Mole instilled some sort of strength and renewed energy in his team. The Bianconeri would go on a 15 game winning streak record in the league.
The rate at which the ex-Porto man developed was astounding as fans of the Torinese club wanted him to be the permanent holder on the left wing as early as his fourth start. He featured in 32 games in his debut season at Juve. He started in 22 games and played a total of 2,248 minutes. He accomplished 23 clean sheets, scored 2 goals and made 4 assists. He created the second most goalscoring chances [42 chances] in Serie-A among defenders. He also completed the second most dribbles  among left sided defensive wingers in Serie-A.
Sandro managed to fully displace Evra in the 2016/2017 season. The sale of Paul Pogba, the absence of Claudio Marchisio and the transition problems of Miralem Pjanić made Juve rely more on creativity from the flanks. Technical guarantees that the energetic Brazilian offered were at another level in comparison to his French teammate.
In his second season, Sandro became a complete player with very little notable flaws on the sporting side of things. He featured in 43 games and started in 37 games by playing a total of 3,417 minutes. He accomplished 22 clean sheets, scored 3 goals and made 7 assists. He created the second most goalscoring chances [50 chances] among defenders in Serie-A. He also completed the second most dribbles  among left sided defensive wingers in Serie-A. A significant numerical improvement in contrast to the previous season.
Winning a domestic treble, a domestic double and reaching a final of UEFA Champions League as a starter demonstrates that the ex-Santos player is a magnificent Champion.
Technique is Sandro’s best attribute. He demonstrates a very high quality when it comes to ball control, dribbling and efficient crossing. He is physically strong, energetic and has a good body balance.
He is an incredibly smart guy, who is able to offer control to the tempo of the game while attacking central spaces with intelligence in order to lure and destabilize the midfield. He has improved a lot in the defensive aspect of the game.
He is also very versatile and offers great guarantees anywhere on the left flank. He offers great flexibility because of his physical, technical and tactical attributes.
It is difficult to find any technical, tactical or physical flaws in a player that is so complete. But, Sandro can still improve in certain areas.
He lacks maturity, which he will attain as time goes on. A slight area of concern is his mental attributes. He loses concentration in the defensive phase of the game by either pressing too early or too late. He also suffers mental hangups while he’s on the ball inside his team’s own half.
Juve have always relied on great guarantees from the flanks to succeed. Sandro is a key player that offers assurances to La Vecchia Signora unlike anyone else in the world.
There have been many great players in footballing history. Very few come close to reminisce Cabrini, especially at the most successful Italian team in history. Sandro is the closest to the legendary World Cup winner.
In my opinion, the Catanduva loca is La Madama’s best left sided defensive player in this century.
By: Arjun Pradeep/@IndianRegista