Why Juventus defender may be perfect Ogbonna replacement at West Ham

Matthijs de Ligt and Daniele Rugani of Juventus (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Matthijs de Ligt and Daniele Rugani of Juventus (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

In July 2015, West Ham signed a 27-year-old Italian centre back from Serie A giants Juventus to shore up their backline. That man — Angelo Ogbonna — was to be a key man in David Moyes’ solid defence this season, at least until he suffered a season-ending injury earlier this month.

Now that Ogbonna is out long term, the Hammers reportedly may head back to the Allianz Stadium for another 27-year-old Italian international to replace him.

Daniele Rugani was once touted as the next big thing in Italian football when coming through Juve’s junior ranks, which is no small feat coming from a nation renowned for producing world-class defenders.

Unfortunately for him, his pathway to regular game time (for both club and country) was blocked by the evergreen trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli.

Daniele Rugani’s career seems a lot like Ogbonna’s past

After years of warming the bench in Turin, the centre back was farmed out on loan last season, first to Rennes, then Cagliari — neither of which were particularly happy spells. Now 27, Rugani is at a stage in his career where he must leave The Old Lady for good if he is to begin fulfilling his considerable early promise.

In many ways, Rugani’s circumstances are a close parallel to Ogbonna’s more than six years ago. Ogbonna, too, had not been able to usurp Chiellini & co. in the heart of defence and was forced to leave for more game time, especially as he harboured ambitions of playing international football.

Like his compatriot, in West Ham, Rugani may find a situation which (while not without sizeable risks) offers significant upside and may kick start his career.

West Ham could be the perfect fit

With Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma both out for significant periods of time, Rugani’s only competitors for a starting berth in the near future are Issa Diop and Craig Dawson, both of whom are not strong passers, and are prone to errors.

In contrast, the Italian would offer a calmer presence in the Hammers backline, and a dependable passing outlet from defence, having had a 90% pass accuracy when last he played significant game time for Juve.

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With the Hammers desperately in need of an experienced centre back to replace Ogbonna midseason, and Rugani needing a fresh start, a move to London for the Italian seems a perfect fit for all parties. If all goes to plan, we may yet see another former Juve man leading the line at the London Stadium soon enough.