Weston McKennie is the Juventus star everybody is talking about
Weston McKennie is the Juventus star everybody is talking about… the American youngster is Pirlo’s most valued midfielder and has struck up an unlikely friendship with Buffon who is 20-years his senior! Now, he wants to take on the world
- Weston McKennie has burst onto the scene with Juventus this season
- The American youngster is a senior first-team star after joining from Schalke
- McKennie is keen to tackle football’s problem with racism after suffering abuse
- Andrea Pirlo values the 22-year-old more than any of his other midfielders
- Sportsmail takes a deeper look into the US star taking the world by storm
Step by step Weston McKennie is becoming Juventus’ leader, an integral part of the new era under the inexperienced Andrea Pirlo.
In the United States he is considered the rising star of American football, the player capable of recovering and surpassing legendary Landon Donovan’s popularity.
In Italy, the first Made in USA footballer was Alexi Lalas, a powerful and slow defender who played for Padova in the early 90s.
McKennie’s story is one of social revenge of the African American community, of continuous struggle against racism through sport.
Weston McKennie’s Nou Camp wonder strike has made him the talk of the football world
The 22-year-old American has burst onto the scene at Juventus and is a fully-fledged starter
McKennie is the son of a Marine who moved to Germany for work: the love for football therefore arises from the European DNA that the player absorbed at a young age while living in the country.
A battler on and off the pitch, McKennie may fight for 50-50 balls but he also fights racism every day.
The 22-year-old is very active in his calls for respect and racial equality to the point of becoming a champion in the fight against racism. For this reason Juventus president Andrea Agnelli gave McKennie a book by Nelson Mandela on racism, on the day of his arrival in Turin.
McKennie spoke enthusiastically about this precious gift from the president, saying: ‘Agnelli on the day of my signature on the contract, through the club’s communications manager, gave me a book on Mandela.
‘He made me understand that that book was a symbol and my signing could also be a symbol. It was like saying, “Know that we are always with you. In fact, we will give you a hand. You are not alone in this fight.” It was just a small gesture, but for me it was monumental. ‘
McKennie (pictured with director Pavel Nedved) signed a loan deal with the club from Schalke 04, which will be made permanent at the end of the season
The first exposure to racism for McKennie took place in the USA before later going on to occur in Germany, with the player telling Italian publication Tuttosport: ‘When I was at Schalke 04 in a match they replaced me and I heard a man behind the fence shouting at me “monkey s***”.
‘I remember other fans close to that person started yelling at him to shut up and I remember my teammates holding me back as I made my way to the fence to avoid physical contact. ‘
Through a video message in October, McKennie also talked about the fear of racism experienced in the US after proudly wearing the captain’s armband for his nation: ‘I came back to my house in Dallas and was afraid to drive at night.
‘I don’t know what it would be like. It could have happened if the police stopped me for a checkup. I represent a country that probably doesn’t even accept me, just because of the colour of my skin. It’s really very sad.
‘Wearing the captain’s armband of the national team was therefore a duty and a responsibility for me. First as an American and second as an African American ‘.
Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (right) has struck up a close bond with McKennie despite being 20-years his senior and has eased his transition into Andrea Pirlo’s (left) squad
Now, the Juventus midfielder is simply trying to enjoy the moment as his career takes a rapid trajectory, and he recounted the feeling he felt every day in training alongside club legend Gianluigi Buffon to Sport Illustrated.
McKennie said: ‘I feel from the first moment an incredible sense of belonging to the club. I joke a lot with Buffon, with [Cristiano] Ronaldo: legends that put me at ease ‘.
Buffon could be McKennie’s father due to the 20-year age difference between the two, but the bond that has been created is very strong and the Italian goalkeeper has nicknamed McKennie Big Mac. The pair are neighbours in the locker room and Buffon contributed to his immediate adaptation to the dynamics within the club.
In McKennie Juventus has found its Texan gold. The midfielder is the new lighthouse of the club’s midfield and in the space of three days he scored both his first goal in Serie A and in the Champions League.
McKennie is a pit bull of raw power and aggression who bites the ankles of his opponents and scores spectacular goals.
This was portrayed to the world perfectly against Barcelona. McKennie took to one of the world’s most famous stadiums and requested the perfect through-ball from Juan Cuadrado, before pulling off a remarkable acrobatic effort and planting the ball into the top corner of the Nou Camp goal.
Pirlo places full trust in McKennie and makes him one of the first names on the team-sheet
McKennie is the player who gives more balance to the team because he guarantees competitive malice, a quality that appears currently lacking in the four midfielders available to Pirlo.
In the first matches played in Italy McKennie always showed great commitment and determination, only failing to make an impact in the derby clash with Roma. Pirlo seems to have decided to trust him with the role of master of the midfield, alternating Arthur, Adrien Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur in the role of occasional companions.
Next to him everyone shines more brightly, even the under-fire Aaron Ramsey finally manages to play between the lines of midfield and attack without losing tactical references in the defensive phase.
McKennie is the most important soul of this new Juventus. The Texan is perhaps the most important player in this delicate moment of the season because he is the only midfielder to have proven himself to fight for every ball and also provide goals of his own.
The former Schalke starlet is the first midfielder to score two consecutive goals in this unfortunate season in which Juve remain entirely dependent on the goals of Alvaro Morata and Ronaldo.
After splashing £4.5million for the 12-month loan, Juve will purchase McKennie at the end of the season with the cost set to rise up to a maximum of €30m.
McKennie is a leading light for the USA and tipped to surpass the legendary Landon Donovan
As per the contract guidelines, McKennie will become a Juve player if he plays 60 per cent of his games this season; a very likely scenario given his importance.
McKennie is a young purchase that represents the club’s desire to grow and open a new cycle with very young players.
The first American footballer to wear the famous Juve stripes, McKennie can already boast more than 90 appearances in the Bundesliga and various career roles despite being born in 1998.
In many quarters McKennie is regarded as the heir to Arturo Vidal, due to his physical strength and his predisposition to attack the spaces behind the attackers.
Pirlo has trusted the young American because his qualities can no longer be shied away from; McKennie is ready for the big time.
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