As Juventus returned to title contention over the last two months, the press in Italy has been constantly discussing the futures of a number of unhappy players within Max Allegri’s squad. Indeed, while the Bianconeri climbed from as low as fourteenth place to fourth in the space of just nine matches, the coach has had to contend with stories of discontent concerning the likes of Alvaro Morata, Simone Zaza and Brazilian goalkeeper Neto.
It remains unclear whether that trio – as well as former Arsenal target Daniele Rugani – genuinely want to leave Turin, but it seems centre-back Martin Caceres’ time at the club is almost certainly coming to an end. The combination of Juve’s depth at his position and the fact his contract expires this summer appears to signal that the Uruguayan defender is headed for the exit, with little talk of an extending what has undoubtedly been a tumultuous tenure.
Both Milan and Inter have been mentioned as potential destinations this month, but the Corriere dello Sport this week insisted that the Bianconeri would prefer to sell him to a foreign club. The newspaper believe that Liverpool have emerged as favourites for his signature, but go on to add that the Premier League side will face competition from Turkish clubs Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe as well as Ligue 1 side AS Monaco.
Caceres joined Italian football’s grand Old Lady in January 2012, seemingly the ideal utility player to support the superb backline on which the club’s recent success has been built. Able to cover for Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in central defence, he was also expected to fill in at full-back when necessary.
Blessed with the speed and athleticism that the aforementioned trio lack – as well as being a strong tackler and diligent man-marker – he clearly possessed qualities that were otherwise missing from the squad. Caceres produced arguably his best form for Juventus in the opening months of last season as Barzagli sat out with various injuries, taking the Italian’s place on the right of the three-man defence or as an orthodox right-back once the team switched to a back four.
In September and October, Caceres was arguably the club’s best defender, consistently showing the ability that saw Barcelona spend €16.5 million on him back in 2008. While he may have failed to live up to expectations at Camp Nou, the 28-year-old slotted in ideally on the peninsula, netting a crucial goal in January’s win over Napoli.
The displays also highlighted his tactical acumen too, with statistics from WhoScored.com showing he averaged 1.8 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game, while also demonstrating the ability to keep possession. The same source shows he made 70.5 passes per game in the Champions League last term, connecting with an impressive 92.2% of those attempts, a team high for 2014/15.
Playing his part as Uruguay lifted the 2011 Copa America, his 68 international caps are further evidence of his quality when he steps on the pitch, but sadly the Montevideo native has often struggled to do just that. In his four years at Juventus he has started just 44 league games, a number of injuries and off-field issues ensuring he has failed to maximise his potential and versatility.
This term has seen that on-going problem come to the fore, perhaps leading to the current unhappy situation. Caceres started in the SuperCoppa Italiana victory over Lazio as well as two of Juve’s first three Serie A fixtures, but would then spectacularly and inexplicably waste a perfect opportunity to establish a regular place in the side.
In the same week that it was revealed that first-choice right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner required corrective surgery for an irregular heartbeat, the defender would crash his car in a drink-driving incident. Italian news agency ANSA revealed Caceres was over the legal alcohol limit when his Ferrari crashed into parked cars and a bus shelter in Turin, the second time in twelve months he had done so.
Coming as they prepared to face Sevilla in the Champions League, Juventus reacted quickly and suspended Caceres for what a club statement labelled a “gross violation of his responsibilities as a Juventus player, as well as damaging the image of the club.” He has yet to play for the Bianconeri since then, despite featuring four times for Uruguay in the intervening months, netting goals against Bolivia and Chile.
Captain Gigi Buffon said that his team-mate “knows he's made a mistake,” before lamenting the timing of this latest indiscretion.
Clearly a very good if somewhat injury plagued player, it seems Martin Caceres will need to head elsewhere to rebuild his career, and his all-action style may well be gracing the Premier League very soon.
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