The Italian Job: The Return of Juventus

Posted on August 26, 2011 by

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The slate has not, by any stretch, been wiped clean. The reputation of the Italian club remains contaminated by the events of 2006 and the outfit’s illustrious history is cursed with an unfortunate tint. What Juventus need is a legitimate triumph to positively endorse this, the post-calciopoli side of their history but a victory to rival the Juventus of old has proven all too elusive. However, a younger squad and an established manager suggests their fans needn’t dwell on the past for too much longer. Their turbulent years could prove to be merely a formative penalty for deplorable mistakes.

But, let’s face it, who’s still rooting for them? Half a decade may have passed but the spectre of Calciopoli still looms large over the bianconeri in a way is hasn’t for their companions in controversy. Perhaps this is due to the fact the severity of their punishment has always implicated them as the most culpable party.

Indeed, when it came to light that certain Serie A clubs had been designating particular officials to their own matches, Juventus were relegated to Serie B whilst Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina evaded the obligatory drop. It was a novel and unwelcome experience for the 7 time European Cup finalists and so a new resolve was required of Juventus, now in their second century of existence.

Yet, since then glory has been sporadic. Immediate promotion in 2007 (in spite of the conspicuous departures of Thuram, Ibrahimovic and Cannavaro) spelled a quick ascent to past greatness but two 7th place finishes in the past two seasons and increasingly paltry European campaigns has marred the club’s rejuvenation (pun very much intended). The future, if bright for the Turin side, may require them to revolutionise.

Their current personnel seems consistent with this concept, boasting a squad full of younger players that has no place in Serie A. Some 23 of the squad’s 30 outfield players is under 30 years old and though it isn’t awash with star power, there is a hidden gem or two buried in Turin. Certainly 19 year old Frederik Sørenson prompted a few head turns last season with a stellar performance against Inter Milan, serving to quell any concerns fans might have that Juve, in their sans Champions League era, are no longer afforded the luxury of lure. Nowadays, in lieu of preserving the elders and shopping up-market, Juventus could invest substantially in such youth, perhaps a peculiar endeavour by their own standards.

Or rather a peculiar endeavour by many Serie A standards. The youthful incarnation of Juventus may yet redeem the misdeeds of previous generations but youth could prove an affliction in a league with a notoriously stubborn penchant for seniority. Hot prospects will be paramount to success for Juve but longevity will likely always be a priceless virtue in the Italian top flight.

Perhaps it is for this reason that recently Juventus have actively pursued some more seasoned players to accompany the younger crop. Evergreen Del Piero’s unfaltering commitment has certainly proven a priceless asset since the club’s digression from prevalence but the recent recruitment of Pirlo (aged 32), Barzagli (aged 30) and Toni (aged 34) will help to forge a nucleus to the club’s regeneration.

And, helming the club’s rehabilitation, is a man who has both previous with the club and, somewhat unsurprisingly, is a little on the young side. 42 year old Antonio Conte (appointed earlier this summer) has an intriguing CV, decorated with a variety of impressive accomplishments. He previously orchestrated the promotion of Bari and Siena to Serie A and was linked with the Juve job in the past before his eventual appointment last May.

Against Conte’s credit is his brief tenure at Atalanta, halted by his tumultuous relationship with the often hostile fans. However, remedying this issue and complimenting his other credentials is his 12 years playing experience for Juventus. This naturally could endear him to the exuberant Italian support but, more importantly, it could be imperative for the club to be directed by someone better acquainted with the pre-calciopoli Juventus. A healthy link to the past could be just what they need.

However, ultimately few may care if Juventus continue to toil in mediocrity or not. The club’s demise was, after all, self inflicted. As such, their new stadium, to be opened in September, could simply serve as a tragic monument to their dwindling popularity should they fail to populate its 41,000 seats. Yet, wisdom dictates that titles aren’t won on reputation or popularity. Perhaps that’s why it may be worthwhile keeping a few old dogs around after all.


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Posted in: Europe