Football Features

Footballers you (probably) forgot played for Juventus, from a West Ham flop to an Arsenal cult hero

By Ben Green

Published: 13:15, 2 September 2020

There are few honours in football as prestigious as lacing up one’s boots while wearing the illustrious colours of Juventus.

The Old Lady are European royalty. They are a club steeped in tradition and success. History is littered with examples of Juve’s excellence, both domestically – where they have been reigning Serie A champions for nine years and counting – and across the continent.

Indeed, Turin has proven a real goldmine for talent over the years. Names like Alessandro Del Piero, Dino Zoff, Zinedine Zidane and Pavel Nedved will forever exist in Juve lore. But, not all who have gone on to don the famous black and white colours have left a lasting impression, or even made a noteworthy contribution to the club’s revered annals.

There are some who are best forgotten, or genuinely have been forgotten, either because they weren’t quite good enough or simply failed to hit the lofty heights expected of you when you put on the Bianconeri shirt. Here we revisit those cases…

1. Ciro Immobile

These days you can find Immobile lighting up the Eternal City for Lazio. The obsessive goalscorer is one of the most prolific strikers in Europe, having netted a quite outrageous 36 goals in 37 games last season, securing the European Golden Shoe. But, back as teenage prodigy for Juve, he was completely overlooked despite promising loan spells away from the club.

One of those came in 2011/12 during a temporary stint with a Pescara side that included names like Lorenzo Insigne and Marco Verratti. Naturally, the Dolphins lifted the Serie B title and Immobile clinched the top goalscorer award. This was not enough to impress then-manager Antonio Conte, however, who allowed him to join Genoa permanently.

2. Nicolas Anelka

Out went a fresh-faced Immobile that year, and in came the ageing but esteemed legs of Anelka. The former France international thought his playing days at the peak of European football were behind him when he left Chelsea for the lucrative pastures of Chinese football in 2012.

However, that man Conte would provide Anelka one final – albeit brief – swansong at the summit. A 33-year-old Anelka featured sporadically during his brief sojourn in Turin, making just three appearances – later labelling it the experience of his career.

“I had decided to accept Juve because it is a great club, with a good history and also because they were leading Serie A,” he told TuttoJuve in 2019.

“Unfortunately, this will remain by worst experience [in football] since I only played 45 minutes and I never wore the shirt at the Juventus Stadium in front of the fans.

“Honestly, when someone talks to be about Juventus I try to change the subject immediately… I’m ashamed of that transfer!

“I played and scored for all the teams I signed for, except Juve. So without disrespecting that great team, it cannot be said that I was their player because of how that experience went.”

3. Manolo Gabbiadini

The Italian marksman is remembered in England for netting a brace against Manchester United in the 2016/17 League Cup final for Southampton, which Claude Puel’s men went on to lose owing to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s last-gasp winner. But before Saints signed him, Gabbiadini turned out for some colossal names in Italian football. Chief among those is Juventus.

After emerging on the scene as a promising forward for Atalanta, Juve prised him away in 2012, but he was immediately sent out on loan to Bologna. He enjoyed an impressive, but not overly eye-catching stint, and subsequently joined Sampdoria on a permanent deal the next year, all without making a Juve appearance.

4. Lucio

Famed for being the formidable bulwark in Jose Mourinho’s watertight Inter Milan backline, the Brazilian wasn’t quite able to replicate that success with Juventus in 2012. He helped form an impenetrable defence during the Nerazzurri’s historic treble in 2009/10 but barely got a look in at Juve.

Despite Conte favouring a back-three, Lucio made just four appearances in all competitions before having his contract terminated by mutual consent in December 2012. A combination of injury problems, inconsistent showings and the form of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli meant Lucio’s spell at Juve was fleeting to say the least.

5. Armand Traore

There was a time it looked as though Traore might follow in the fabled footsteps of Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy as Arsenal’s next emerging left-back. But at 30 the former Senegal international currently finds himself without a club. However, in 2010 Traore had the world at his feet, having just secured a season-long loan move to Juventus, all while inheriting David Trezeguet’s esteemed No. 17 shirt.

Whether burdened by the weight of expectation or simply too inexperienced to outmuscle stalwart Fabio Grosso for the left-back berth, Traore left Turin having made just a handful of appearances. He certainly wasn’t helped by a three-month injury lay-off at the start of his spell.

6. Benedikt Howedes

The 32-year-old Germany international is a Schalke legend, having made over 300 appearances for the club while also lifting a DFB-Pokal in 2011. But in 2017, Howedes decided it was time to test himself at a higher level and joined Juve in another of the club’s audacious loan moves. Like many on this list, Howedes’ temporary timein Turin was largely a disappointment. The defender made just three appearances and Juve opted against making his deal a permanent one. He retired in the summer of 2020, ending his career at Russian Premier League club Lokomotiv Moscow.

7. Eljero Elia

The Dutchman played a part in his nation reaching the World Cup final in 2010 and one year later would be on the move to Juventus, signing from Hamburger SV. Unfortunately for Elia, he was unable to squeeze his way into a star-studded Juve XI and mustered just four Serie A appearances before ultimately handing in a transfer request the following summer.

He moved to Werder Bremen and has since become the latest Juve reject to appear for Southampton, spending the second half of 2014/15 on loan at St Mary’s.

8. Antonio Candreva

The 54-capped Italy international has been a prominent winger for both Lazio and Inter Milan since joining the former in 2013. He has established himself as one of Serie A’s most creative wide-men and currently plays a unique role in Conte’s Inter, such is his versatility.

But, before moving to the San Siro and Italy’s capital before that, he was plying his trade for Udinese, for whom he made just three appearances and undertook multiple loan moves away. One of those was, of course, Juve in 2009/10. He joined the club midway through the campaign, and featured regularly, including in the club’s infamous Europa League defeat to Fulham, but he ultimately returned to Udinese in the summer.

9. Olof Mellberg

The imperious Swede was a rock for Aston Villa, spending seven years in the West Midlands, which culminated in winning the now-defunct Intertoto Cup. Such was the affection Mellberg shared with the Villa faithful that he splurged out on over 3,000 farewell shirts for travelling fans on his final match for the club.

After leaving the Villans, he joined Claudio Ranieri’s Juve and formed a strong partnership with Chiellini as the club finished runners-up in 2008/09. Despite impressing, that would be his only season in the black and white, and he parted for Olympiacos that summer.

10. Neto

The Barcelona goalkeeper was a formidable force between the sticks in Serie A, but he will be more commonly remembered for his time at Fiorentina rather than Juventus. After four successful years for the Purple One, Neto joined Massimiliano Allegri’s side in 2015. He must have known he was in for a bit-part role, though, as Gianluigi Buffon was still defying gravity back then.

He was, unsurprisingly, unable to supplant the ageless Italian and spent two years in Turin playing second fiddle before ultimately reviving his career with Valencia. The Brazilian has since returned to his deputy duties with Barcelona.

11. Simone Zaza

On these shores, Zaza is largely remember for two things: that bizarre penalty miss at Euro 2016 and an ill-fated move to West Ham. The Hammers have a history of signing shoddy strikers, but few could have predicted that bringing one over from Juve would backfire. Well it did, spectacularly.

The Italian had, in fact, impressed Juve so much he convinced the club to sign him twice, once in 2013, and again in 2015 after a highly productive stint with Sassuolo. However, on both counts, he failed to make the grade, which may explain how he ended up in east London. He has since featured for Valencia and Torino.

12. Nicklas Bendtner

Joining Juve’s long list of bizarre loan signings is Lord Bendtner himself, who played very briefly for the club in the 2012/13 season but failed to register a goal or an assist and made just 11 appearances. He was not helped by an adductor injury, but his career has certainly nosedived since that spell, after rising to prominence as a towering tyro for Arsenal all those years ago.

13. Kwang-song Han

Kwang-song Han’s name is recognisable in Italian football as he became the first North Korean to score in Serie A in 2017. The 21-year-old was making considerable noise for Cagliari after fruitful loan spells for Perugia in Serie B, and he earned himself a move to Juventus last summer. He secured a two-year loan deal but featured exclusively for the U23s in the first half of the season, before Juve signed him permanently in January and then sold him six days later to Al-Duhail in Qatar.

14. Hernanes

The 27-time Brazil international was a dynamic midfield playmaker during his time at Lazio, where his performances helped the club famously clinch the Coppa Italia in 2013. Those authoritative showings caught the eye of Inter Milan in 2014 and Walter Mazzarri snapped up the midfielder, who went on to impress for the San Siro club before Juve came knocking two years later. Hernanes wasn’t quite able to reproduce his best form at Juve and left for China in 2017, though not without collecting a Serie A title-winner’s medal along the way.