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In the summer of 2009 Juventus proudly unveiled their latest signing, the €25 million capture of Felipe Melo from Fiorentina. The Brazilian International was one of footballs hottest properties after an outstanding debut season in Serie A and an excellent Confederations Cup with Brazil.

With Arsenal heavily interested in him it was seen as something of a coup by then Sporting Director Alessio Secco and that feeling only grew as Melo put in a number of great performances in the early days of that season. The away win over Roma is often looked upon as the pinnacle of last season and the midfielder had his most influential performance for his new club.

After that however the displays of both Melo and Juventus deteriorated from good to poor and then kept getting worse. Melo’s disciplinary problems also grew with yellow and red cards amassed at an alarming rate. The whole situation was compounded by his attitude to the fans, the player being openly critical of Juventus supporters in the press and insulting them in the stands on two separate occasions.

Part of the issue was not that Melo was playing badly but that he was completely the wrong player in the first place. At the time of his signing what Juve really needed was a deep-lying creator - a regista in the Andrea Pirlo mould - and Gaetano D’Agostino was the main target. When Udinese asked for far too high a fee for the former Roma man however, Secco switched his attention to Melo and him being a highly paid foreign ‘flop’ made the ideal target for the fury of fans as yet another year was wasted.

Most of those same fans would have had him as the first player out of the club in the summer, or perhaps at least a close second to Fabio Cannavaro. His abject displays continued during the World Cup and it seemed he was a lost cause, with only three men holding a different view. From the day they arrived Andrea Agnelli, Beppe Marotta and Gigi Delneri publicly backed the player on numerous occasions.

The coach in particular made a number of declarations, notably saying that “Melo is a leader, I have no complaints about him. He jokes in the dressing room and he is doing really well.” Many scoffed, but most could see the logic behind the move; to restore the players confidence and make him feel both wanted and important.

This tied in with the comments made by former Brazil coach Dunga who said “He’s a lad who needs to be made to understand. It’s right to speak to him a lot.” Melo clearly is a player who needs to feel loved by those around him and Delneri showed great managerial skill in handling him the right way when most had given up on him, including the Brazilian National Team where his ‘guilt by association’ with the old regime sees him still on the outside looking in.

Following some simply outstanding displays most fans and pundits can see him for what he truly is, a vital piece in allowing Delneri’s team to function properly. Again Dunga, a man who knows more than most about Brazilian mediani playing in Serie A, is seemingly being proved right again after his comments this winter;

“Melo will be the real great signing of this new Juventus. If he feels confident, he becomes super. Last year it wasn’t like this: You saw only 60 per cent of his potential”

Behind this transformation are some quite simple adjustments that have seen the improvements in other aspects of his game. He has returned to the accomplished ball-winner of two years ago and, aside from the mindless lashing out against Parma in early January, he has yet to put in a poor performance this season.

One major difference has of course been the addition of Alberto Aquilani, the passer so sorely missed last year. The two compliment each other perfectly, but to view it as Melo doing the defensive work and giving the ball to Aquilani is to do a great disservice to both men. The Brazilian has been returned to his natural mediano role but he has also improved his passing under Delneri, making good decisions and making the right pass with increasing regularity.

The coach has taken time to help the player regain his confidence and this support for a mentally fragile player has been returned in impressive fashion. Seemingly asking much less of Melo than Ciro Ferrara had to, Delneri is reaping so much more reward from the ‘good brother’.

  • Philip Gatt

    Very enjoyable read about a player that can be very important to Juve for years to come, always if he keeps his head bolted on the right way.

    Well done on another good post.

  • Ted

    why hasn’t Melo been recalled to the Brazil team?

    • Adam Digby

      As i touched on in the piece he’s tainted by his association with Dunga, a long road back for him I fear.

  • Damir

    OK, I give up. Honestly, I do. I can not understand why do you feel compelled to praise such an obvious waste of space, waste of time and waste of money that is Felipe Melo. A sure contender for one of the spots on the “Worst ever” list.

    The man is useless. Everything (and I mean EVERY SINGLE THING) that he does someone else can do same and/or better, and for a lower price.

    Any team would be more than happy NOT TO HAVE such an idiot on the team sheet.

    And yet, you of all people keep singing praises to him.

    I can’t understand it, and I never will. Of course, you are perfectly entiteled to you opinion, and I am more than happy to read about it, because (as usual) your articles are impeccable writing, and a delight to read.

    So, on this one particular subject we must agree to dissagree eternaly.

    Best regards, your friend Damir

    • Adam Digby

      Thanks Damir, & yes, we must agree to disagree here

      • Damir

        And gladly so.

        You just keep doing your excellent work, and may we keep dissagreeing about something else.

        After all - that’s the point of discussion, isn’t it?

        P.S. I must say this. As you may have noticed, I tent to “slightly” exaggerate when I speak (and write) about things that are important to me, and Juventus certainly is one of those thing. And in that exaggerations, I sometimes unintentionaly insult the people I dissagree with. If that was the case with you, I sincerely apologize. No insult was intended, never ever. I truely hope my apology will be accepted.

      • Adam Digby

        Never a problem between us my pessimistic friend

    • the gutter poet

      Damir, either you have missed the whole season, other than the Parma game, or you simply do not understand football. Big Phil has been our most consistent performer this season. When he hasn’t played, through suspension or injury the lack of steel and talent and determination of Marchisio has been painfully exposed, as our whole midfield becomes as easy to cut through like a hot knive through butter. Also the defence is put under much more pressure, due to the lack of cover from in front of them. Only a moron could truly bark such lunatic criticism of for most Juventini…player of the season. Another annoying season, YES…but he has been our best player. And it will be an absolute disgrace if he is sold duing the Summer, and Mr Invisible marchisio is retained as well as the very hot and cold Aquilani…

      • Adam Digby

        There are lots of Juventini yet to forgive Melo for last season, & I fully understand Damir’s position on it. No need to resort to comments like that. Similar responses to your assessment of the other two midfielders could easily follow, I for one fail to see how people think Aquilani has been inconsistent. Was told he had a bad game v Genoa yet he had 92% pass completion and two assists. Go figure!

      • Paul

        Aquilani’s two assists: a cross in to a crowded box and a pass intended for the winger that somehow ended up in the box; as for the 92% passing: not difficult when you pass only backwards and laterally, he should play in La Liga

      • the gutter poet

        passionate opinions lead to passionate responses. I take such slurs on Melo somewhat personally, as I see him as one of very few this season who has fought tooth and claw in 99% of the games.

        So. Indeed. Go ahead an defend Damir, and I will continue to defend Melo. You see nothing amiss, Mr Digby in ‘supporters’ referring to our players as ‘a waste of space’, ‘useless’, ‘worst ever’. Expressing their opinion. But another suppporter expressing an opinion, equally scathing, but in defence of one of our much maligned players results in a ‘no need to resort to comments like that’. Hardly objective.

        As for Alberto…he slumped when the team slumped over New Year. And has not managed to regain his form, like the rest of the squad (except Matri and Melo), since that horrid Parma setback. 16m is a lot, although we have already paid 4m i thought????

        I suspect that with a better manager we would see a better aquilani. The same I will say about Marchisio, krasic and Martinez. Probably also Bonucci…

  • Damir

    Yeah, right. Felipe Melo is our most important player, and I don’t understand football.


  • Ted

    Aquilani has two goals and 4 assists. Zlatan has 11, and he’s not a midfielder.

    • Adam Digby

      He also plays between 40 & yards closer to goal. Aquilani not an assist man in Delneri’s side & comparing him to Ibra is a nonsense Ted, come on.

      • Ted

        Sorry. It was a silly comparison.

  • Ted

    Adam, didn’t Melo tell the Juventini to ” fck off “…or something along those lines?

  • Jikiboy

    While I also think Aquilani has been largely inconsistent,his presence in the Juventus midfield has complimented Melo perfectly & has made us to see the best of Melo which is a big plus in what has otherwise been a disappointing season so far for the Bianconeri.

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