Who: Weston McKennie
From Where: Schalke 04
To Where: Juventus
For How Much: (reportedly): €3M/$3.6M loan, with a playing time-based €18M/$21.6M option to buy
Grade For Juventus: B
Grade for Schalke: B-
WESTON MCKENNIE TO JUVENTUS OVERVIEW
We’re more interested in this deal than we typically would be when a 22-year-old joins a powerhouse that may or may not have space for him in their lineup. Are we playing this up because McKennie, after Christian Pulisic, is arguably the most exciting player in the USMNT pipeline?
Maybe Definitely. On second thought, is McKennie’s future really any brighter than Gio Reyna’s (BVB), Tyler Adams’ (Red Bull Leipzig) or Sergino Dest’s (Ajax)?? That’s a separate conversation for a different article, but regardless of your preference, the American soccer cupboard appears better stocked than ever.
Now for the reality of McKennie’s move. He’s taking a leap here, as he could very well have a hard time getting off the bench for his new club.
I say good for him, though. Scrapping for playing time on one of Europe’s best teams should do more for his future than toiling on a team with limited say in the Bundesliga title race (Schalke finished 14th in ’18-19 and 12th in ’19-20).
WHO IS HE?
McKennie, who just turned 22 on August 28, has already gotten a ton of experience in the Bundesliga, making 56 starts in the German top flight over the past three seasons.
His versatility is one of his biggest assets, as he can play pretty much anywhere in the midfield, but seems most comfortable as a center midfielder. The rare times the USMNT has impressed in recent years, McKennie has looked like the team’s second-best player after Pulisic.
He’s also held up well in a solid league for his club the last two years, earning WhoScored ratings of 6.82 in ’18-19 and 6.78 in ’19-20. Though he’s not known as a huge scoring threat, he scored three goals in the Bundesliga this year and notched four assists a year ago, an indication he can contribute to a team’s attack when playing box-to-box.
IS THE PRICE FAIR?
For now, Juventus is paying a negligible amount, at least for a team with their wealth.
Let’s assume McKennie sees enough of the field to require his new club to buy him, though. Even in that case, a price of just over $20M for a young regular on a team that’s probably making at least the Champions League quarterfinals (as long as they don’t draw another Ligue 1 juggernaut) is a pretty good bargain. And if he doesn’t earn a spot, from Juve’s standpoint, they’ve wasted just a few million.
This appears to be a low-risk, high-reward roll of the dice by the Old Lady.
WHAT IMPACT SHOULD WE EXPECT?
As we previously mentioned, it’s hard to predict whether McKennie will have a big role. While the reigning Serie A champs have parted with Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi — and Sami Khedira is reportedly out the door, too — the likes of Arthur (joining Juve from Barcelona in the Pjanic swap), Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey mean playing time could be hard to come by for the American.
I don’t expect him to spend too much time on the bench, though, because new Juve Manager Andrea Pirlo should be willing to give all his options a shot. At the very least, this seems more likely than it might be if McKennie were joining a club with a more experienced manager and/or established lineup.
Juve’s front office has sacked Serie A-winning managers each of the last two years, which tells you there’s some organizational willingness to experiment to figure out how to raise a Champions League trophy.
One way or another – his versatility will help his cause – I expect McKennie to start around 10 games in about twice that many appearances.
Because of the amount they’re spending, you can’t really give these guys lower than a B. The flip side is that it’d be hard to spell out why a player’s role is uncertain, then turn around and call his signing an A or A+.
The Bundesliga club doesn’t appear to be going anywhere fast, with or without McKennie. They didn’t win another Bundesliga match in ’19-20 after a 2-0 win over Monchengladbach on January 17!! On second thought, “not going anywhere fast” is incredibly generous.
They’re getting a good sum for a young, proven player who was likely headed for greener pastures eventually – the only question was when he’d be leaving.