There were rich pickings to be had in Italy this summer: Edinson Cavani and Marquinhos moved to PSG in mega deals, Erik Lamela went to Tottenham for something in the region of €30m while Pablo Osvaldo was snapped up by Southampton for €18m.
Serie A clubs are facing financial difficulties and are willing to sell if the price is right but one club that will draw the line on parting with a star performer is Juventus. Reports that Chelsea are set to make a bid or Paul Pogba have been met with a dismissive Latin shake of the head from Turin.
When asked about the possibility of allowing the 20 year old to leave, Juventus director general Beppe Marotta was quoted in Tuttosport as saying, Goodfellas style: “Forget about it.” And you can see why the Italian champions would not for one moment entertain any offer no matter the amount for a player they have earmarked as their midfield general for many a campaign to come.
Andrea Pirlo may have a season or two left in him but the French youngster is set to fill the central midfield role well before the Italian pass master calls it a day.
The tall, commanding Pogba has drawn comparisons with compatriot Patrick Vieira – although for older Italian fans, he possesses a style more similar to Frank Rijkaard.
Like the former AC Milan lynchpin, he has an eye for goal at the most opportune moment: his first goal for the Bianconeri came against title contenders Napoli last October before he popped up for the 92nd-minute winner against Bologna when he ran from deep to head home but it has been his thunderous efforts from distance that have really caught the eye.
His first of a brace against Udinese at the turn of the year was a half-volley from some 40 yards which was measured at 101kph while the second from the edge of the area was not far off that mark. In total, he netted five goals in his first season and was on the scoresheet last Sunday for the opener in the 4-0 demolition of Lazio in the Italian Super Cup.
Pundits in Italy are still wondering how Sir Alex Ferguson allowed such a star in the making to leave Manchester United for nothing more than the small change of €1m – even if United had acquired the player in contentious circumstances from Le Havre.
Mino Raiola, who looks after the affairs of Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, had begun handling Pogba in late 2011 and had brokered Ibra’s switch from Ajax to the Turin club so the agent had form in getting the best for his client and the buying club.
For many it might be the best piece of business he has ever done and Juventus are well aware that although Pogba is currently only at the start of his second year of a four year deal worth €1.5m a year that amount will be doubled before long.
Of course his earning power would be much higher in the Premier League but the way Conte is grooming the starlet there would be a major meltdown from the coach if there was a hint that club were about to sell.
The youngster doesn't lack confidence or a flourish: witness the Mario Balotelli blond streak atop his Marek Hamsik spiky haircut but Conte has kept the player's feet firmly planted on the ground. A dip in form at the end of a long winter saw him spend time on the bench but there was good reason behind that.
“It's all about the carrot and the stick when you are managing young players,” explained the Juventus boss. “Then he has a role model in Pirlo who can show him each day in training what it takes to become a truly great professional.”
Studying the best, Pogba started to show signs of maturity by accepting that he could not play a starring role every time – but his walk-on parts continued to be eye-catching and in March he received his first call-up to the full France squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Spain.
He played in both matches but picked up two yellow cards against Spain and his sending off suggested there was still some petulance to be ironed out. Having already been crowned Serie A’s unofficial young player of the year he further blotted his copy book when he was sent off in the title-clincher against Palermo for spitting at Salvatore Aronica who had slapped him in the face.
However, the trajectory towards stardom continues unabated and coming off being named player of the tournament at the Under-20 World Cup where he captained his country to the title.
Last season as Pogba’s burgeoning talent blossomed so Conte felt comfortable enough to change his system to push Marchisio further forward to support lone striker Mirko Vucinic and the way things are going it cannot be too long before the coach can feel confident in leaving Pirlo on the bench, safe in the knowledge he has a genuine replacement ready to step forward.