KENYA BROWN - Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Weston McKennie's dream has become reality and he hopes that he can learn as much as he can from his new teammates as he spoke to the press on Monday following his move to Juventus.
The 22-year-old midfielder completed a loan move to the Italian champions from German Bundesliga team Schalke last week that could turn permanent at the end of the season.
Following talk of moves to teams such as Southampton, Liverpool, Hertha Berlin and AS Monaco, Juventus came in out of nowhere to express their interest in the Texas native. With newly-appointed coach Andrea Pirlo looking to make changes in the midfield, he saw McKennie as the best fit. Once a team with a history like the Bianconeri comes calling, no one passes up on that opportunity.
The former FC Dallas academy player told reporters he was honored to be the first American player in the history of Juventus.
"Having the opportunity to wear this shirt, representing my country and bringing young Americans closer to football makes me proud," said McKennie. "Juventus is an international club, it is famous all over the world. In the United States, shops sell the jerseys. If I can contribute to further growth of the brand, I will be delighted."
One of the key focal points for the Turin giants this season as they chase after a 10th consecutive Scudetto and challenge for the Champions League will be their setup on the field. With veteran players such Sami Khedira and Aaron Ramsey heading out imminently for new teams, and Blaise Matuidi now playing with Inter Miami in Major League Soccer, McKennie will be working to fit into a new midfield and link up with Rodrigo Bentancur and Artur.
While he was used in various positions during his time at Schalke, McKennie stressed that the position he felt he could be most effective for his new team is as a box-to-box midfielder.
"As an 8, to be able to turn, to be able to drive with the ball or to win the ball defensively up at the top of the field, I think it's one of my strengths, ball recuperation. Just being able to win the ball back and break up plays," he said. "I spoke with the coach [Pirlo] already and he liked the way I play and my ability to be able to recuperate the ball and my immediate retaliation and pressing. So I think me and him are on the same page as far as what position fits me the best and what position I can be successful in."
Now as a member of star-laden team, McKennie could be forgiven if he was initially in awe of the players he will be training and playing with week in and week out. However, he said he expects to learn as much as he can from all of his teammates, especially Cristiano Ronaldo.
"I expect to learn a lot from him, and not just from him, I think from everyone on the team. Just the couple of days I've been here so far the (professionalism) in the locker room and in the training, in the gym, for me it's something that I feel like I can really take a lot away from," he said. "And Cristiano, in particular, he's been playing at the top level for so many years, and just to be able to be around him and see the way he works and takes care of his body I think will definitely benefit me in a big way,"
McKennie's first opportunity to see the field for Juventus will come on Sept. 20 when they face Sampdoria in their Serie A opener.