Even in football, all good things must come to an end.
That recent heartbreaking Champions League exit signified the end of an era at Juventus as it all concluded in chaos.
The club are nicknamed “the girlfriend of Italy” and just like being in a relationship, you’ve really got to always plan for the future no matter how secure you currently are.
Despite the gloom around the Allianz Stadium in Turin, the chance of a 33rd and 6th consecutive Scudetto is still within reach; but as previously alluded to, the future is what matters most to this prestigious giant of a club.
On Sunday, Juventus hosted Napoli (a rival that they had never lost to on home turf) in what could quite possibly be a title-decider and came out with the only non-suitable result: a crushing, last-minute defeat in spite of superb defending throughout.
Now they travel to Inter Milan this weekend and host Roma soon after, leaving the door wide open for a title collapse and send shock-waves throughout world football.
With club icon and captain Gianluigi Buffon set to retire as well as no World Cup for the Italy members of squad such as Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio, the times are changing for the Bianconeri.
Old-school boss Maximo Allegri is desperate for glory but knows the club are in a transitional period.
What things are on the agenda for the team then? Let’s take a look.
Replacing the old guard
Some players are like a fine wine, the likes of Buffon and Chiellini have used valuable experience to their advantage in recent seasons but it seemed to run out in both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid as they conceded 4 goals in 2 games. Juve always seem to survive at the top for another year and, credit to them, prove doubters wrong. However, it’s surely time to refuel the machine at the back that has gobbled the opposition up and spat them back out year after year.
Keep what you’ve got
No doubt there’s caution over certain other players leaving the club too. Age is on the side of many key members of the first team squad. There is world class talent in the current crop with the likes of Chiellini, Blaise Matuidi, Miralem Pjanic, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuaín all coming up trumps on the big stage when it matters consistently. Clubs have sniffed around Dybala, especially, for years and the club know just how much it will hurt them if he were to depart. Despite his poor showing for the resurgent AC Milan, former centre back Leonardo Bonucci was integral to the side until summer and the hole he left was evident until Allegri’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation was adapted to by the squad who were used to operating in a 3-1-4-1-1 system.
Clubs sniff around the best of the Bianconeri every summer so it’s tough to keep hold of want-always such as Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Bonucci. That’s especially due to the fact the club don’t particularly have to rely on big names as replacements come easy with the ability to take chances on players due to being so dominant (such as signing the ageing Dani Alves) and pride themselves of being bigger than any player – the way it should be.
The academy and tradition this club holds is magnificent (it seems British clubs are stripping themselves of tradition for short term gain but like Juve, their foreign counterparts do it best). Although, it’s not just the academy that makes the future icons but also other reputable clubs around world from which the Bianconeri poach from. Take young Uruguayan holding midfielder Leandro Bentancur for example. He signed from Boca Juniors in 2017 and has shined whenever the opportunity has arisen. The faith Allegri shows in his youth is commendable as even against the great Real Madrid in that first Champions League leg, Bentancur was picked to play in his natural role rather than another man shoehorned in to replace the suspended Pjanic as the enforcing play-maker in the middle of the park. Another key man in the first team is budding centre back Daniele Rugani who has recovered from a tricky start to first team life at Juve to become far more reliable on the ball and in tackles. With plenty of players of all ages out on loan who’ve come through the academy, surely some will pan out to be next generation parts of the new machine.
Splashing the cash
Finance is a tricky one in the Serie A but there’s money in the back pocket for the Black and Whites. A huge £75million was given to Napoli for the services of superstar goalscorer Higuaín after the lucrative £85m sale of Paul Pogba back in 2016 and the spending hasn’t stopped there. Players such as Medhi Benatia, Federico Bernardeschi, Douglas Costa (on loan) Juan Cuadrado, Mattia De Sciglio, Dybala, Benedict Howedes (on loan), Pjanic, Alex Sandro and Wojciech Szczesny have all come with financial significance in the past 2 or so years. That shows that when things need changing; the club will make a move for the right players at the right time and their dominance over those aforementioned years has allowed them a platform to build from.
The blend of proven Serie A talent and cherry-picked world stars has proved dividends over the years and has left every other team in the league behind as they are almost first refusal on any top player looking to come to Italy due to their current status as the division’s elite.
A new centre back, right back, holding midfielder and inside forward is what the club are aiming for if rumours are to be believed. The likes of proven Serie A men Marquinhos and Matteo Darmian and foreign quality such as Emre Can and Anthony Martial have been heavily linked for a move to the Allianz Stadium. Often holding out for a bargain, such as Matuidi last season, the club does have trouble with clubs in purchasing players (again if whispers are believed). It would be no easy task to ‘splash the cash’ they clearly have at their dispense but if they win that 7th-straight title, players will be licking their lips at the prospect of joining them in the summer. If those calibre of aforementioned men were to be acquired and integrated to a strong squad, there’s no doubt that the team would feel fresh and out of their turbulent patch.
Movement between the sticks
As mentioned prior, it’s time to call it a day for Buffon and speculation has emerged of who will replace him. In spite of all the big names linked with the club such as 19 year-old starlet Gianluigi Donnarumma, the man who plays second fiddle to the former world’s most expensive stopper is patiently waiting in line.
Szczesny has slowly been given more and more game-time by Allegri and Buffon has been giving him crucial advice all season long. The ideal scenario for Allegri would be to use Szczesny for the next few seasons and bring through a young goalkeeper who can be a rock for the team for over a decade like their beloved Buffon.
Competition from the Calcio
This domestic top-flight season in Italy has been entertaining from a neutral point of view for the first time in many years as Napoli threaten to conquer the giants and the top 4 race is as wide as ever with Roma, Lazio, AC Milan and Inter Milan gunning for the two remaining spots.
At the weekend, that aforementioned encounter between Juve and the Little Donkeys was fiercely contested – showing exactly why the need for constant progression at the club must be strived for.
So much dominance has not lead to complacency – much like their Bundesliga-dominating adversaries, Bayern Munich – but now is the time to truly show what they’re made of as the pressure builds like never before in Allegri’s time at the club.