• Juventus made Weston McKennie's loan deal permanent
  • McKennie is already being hyped as a player who could be as "vital" as Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Bianconeri manager Andrea Pirlo spoke highly of the American midfielder

Juventus may have just signed a future superstar in Weston McKennie.

The reigning Serie A champions have ended McKennie’s loan deal Wednesday and made it permanent by paying Bundesliga side Schalke €18.5 million ($22 million), ESPN reported. The American midfield star is now officially a regular player at Juventus after an impressive debut season in the Italian top flight.

As early as now, McKennie is already viewed by Juve as a player who can be as valuable as Cristiano Ronaldo in the future “but capable of contributing to the present,” Goal noted.

Like any other soccer prodigy, McKennie is bound to take on the pressure of playing alongside a world-class player in Ronaldo, who is known for pushing his teammates to exceed their limitations.

The 22-year-old was a notable player at Bundesliga, but the report suggests that Serie A is a different league.

Apparently, pressure would not be much of a problem for McKennie. In fact, Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo already sees the exceptional work ethic of the U.S. national team star and is thrilled to have him in his team.

“[Weston] McKennie is young and has so much room for improvement," Pirlo said at a press conference earlier this year. "We were the quickest one to sign him and we are happy he is part of the squad.”

“He is a humble guy who always wants to improve, especially on a technical level,” the coach added. “He needs to improve when he receives the ball, but he knows this is only a starting point.”

To date, McKennie has started in 14 games for Juventus in Serie A. What’s even more interesting is that in seven of the 10 games that he has not started, Pirlo's side had dropped in points.

The former Schalke star already has four goals to his name as a Bianconeri, the latest coming from Juventus’ 3-0 thumping of Crotone last month. However, McKennie’s most notable goal was the stunning overhead kick in Juve’s 3-0 win over Lionel Messi and Barcelona in their UEFA Champions League in December.

Injuries have been one of McKennie’s setbacks in Juventus. According to Pirlo, he has been monitoring the youngster’s progress as the club needs him as soon as possible.

“Weston McKennie is getting better even though he has been battling with minor injuries this year," Pirlo recently told reporters. "I keep talking with the medical staff and even though he should rest more, we need him on the field as much as possible."

Juventus' coach Andrea Pirlo's last game as a player was a Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in 2015.
Juventus' coach Andrea Pirlo's last game as a player was a Champions League final defeat to Barcelona in 2015. AFP / Miguel MEDINA