When Andrea Agnelli was appointed as President of Juventus, very few of the club’s fans expected a great turnaround to take place, particularly in such a short period of time.
Five years later, and Juve have returned to glory with four consecutive league titles as well as the Coppa Italia (once). More remarkably, Juve reached the Champions League final only to lose to an extremely talented Barcelona side.
One of Agnelli’s best decisions was to hire Giuseppe Marotta as Director General (Marotta would later on become CEO of Juventus as well). Following a disappointing 7th place finish in Serie A, former Juve captain Antonio Conte was hired as coach. The Agnelli-Marotta-Conte trident would work its magic guiding the club to one historic season after another.
In the summer of 2014 when Conte and Juve went separate ways, many fans expected the club to struggle yet with Massimiliano Allegri as manager, the Old Lady continued to excel. Juve not only won the Scudetto for the fourth time on the trot, but also added the Coppa Italia for a domestic double, the first since the Marcello Lippi era in 1995, and reached the Champions League final, a first since the 2003 Final against Milan (again under Lippi in his 2nd spell with Juve).
Despite the managerial change (Conte’s departure) last summer and the departure of key players (Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo & Arturo Vidal) this summer, the club remains in safe hands. President Agnelli and CEO Marotta, along with Fabio Paratici, the club’s Sporting Director, and hardworking players such as Gianluigi Buffon, club’s captain & soul, as well as Giorgio Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio have remained with the club leaving enough room for optimism for the upcoming and future seasons.
Despite the dramatic departures this summer, there are several reasons for Juve fans to celebrate:
1) Average Age of Squad: Juve’s average age continues to drop this summer with the majority of the signings being under the age of 25. Of the outfield players signed, only the experienced Sami Khedira and Mandzukic are over 25 years old (Neto is a goalkeeper).
2) Squad’s Depth: Despite the loss of Tevez in attack, Juve added veteran striker Mandzukic to retain some experience upfront along with the talented Paulo Dybala & the powerful Simone Zaza. In midfield, the club added Khedira who has vast experience having played for Real Madrid and won the World Cup with Germany.
3) Team’s Core: Key players such as Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, Claudio Marchisio & Paul Pogba have all remained with the club. They offer a mix between veteran leadership & the youthful exuberance embodied by Pogba.
4) Combination of Youth & Veterans: While Juve boast several players under the age of 25, including Zaza, Dybala, Daniele Rugani, Kingsley Coman and Stefano Sturaro, there is plenty of experience left in the side with Buffon, Chiellini, Patrice Evra, Marchisio, Khedira & Mandzukic on the team’s books.
5) Longevity of Players: Barring any injuries, Juve’s team will be quite competitive by World Cup 2018, not just in Serie A but also in the Champions League while most of Juve’s rivals, with the exception of perhaps Barcelona, will be in need of revamping their squads.
6) Transfer Market: If there is one management circle that can be trusted to deliver the results, then it is Juve’s! There have been mistakes but you can only admire the quality of the work that has been done since Marotta & Paratici joined the team. Juve still have a few weeks to add the missing pieces, most likely a number 10 & a left-back as per Marotta’s words.
7) Financially Sound: Juve’s financial foundation is increasingly favorable compared to a few years ago and the club will continue to benefit from owning its stadium. While the club has spent big on the like of Dybala, Juve did sell Arturo Vidal and also made a hefty sum from reaching the final of the Champions League.
8) Team Spirit: Juve’s way has been defined as putting the team ahead of the individual. Even during Lippi’s two successful eras, Juve were built on team spirit with emphasis on performing as one unit as opposed to relying on individual performances. This means the loss of a star player or two can be compensated for by the group’s effort.
9) Serie A is Behind: While Inter and Milan have spent heavily in the summer market, the two Milanese sides have a lot of catching up to do following a dismal season. Napoli will improve following the departure of Rafa Benitez while Lazio were the surprise package. However, none of the aforementioned teams (plus Roma), have what it takes to dislodge Juve from the top of Serie A. The 2015-16 Scudetto is Juve’s to lose!
10) Hunger: The club’s core players, specially Buffon, Chiellini & Marchisio, are hungry for more success, in particular in Europe. This can only bode well for the team as a whole not to mention the fact Juve still have Pogba. Pogba’s 2014-15 season was disrupted by the injury he suffered against Borussia Dortmund so he will have a lot to prove ahead of Euro 2016 & following the departure of senior midfielders Pirlo and Vidal.
A close look at Juve’s successful 2014-15 campaign shows that while Tevez was perhaps the club’s best player, not a single individual stood out far ahead to separate himself from the rest of the squad in terms of performances. Both Pirlo and Vidal played the least number of league games per season since joining the club.
Bonucci had his best and most consistent season ever while Buffon built even further on his legendary status. In midfield, Marchisio covered for the trip of Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal whenever they were injured and did so in admirable fashion. This leaves encouraging signs for this upcoming season.
In addition, Sturaro proved he belongs when he had an absolute cracker of a game against Real Madrid in Turin. The fact that Sturaro was not fazed when thrown into the thick of things against the stars of Real shows the Italian midfielder is up for the task of playing the toughest competitors in the Champions League.
While the fans remain nervous about this summer, they need to sit back and reflect at what the management has done in the previous seasons. Overall, and despite a few mistakes, the track record has been too good to be true. The same management which signed Pirlo on a free transfer, was able this summer to scoop Khedira in another free transaction.
Marotta and Paratici brought Vidal to Juve so fans must not lose faith in them after a few significant departures this summer. One thing comes up to mind when analyzing the current situation at Vinovo: will there be a repeat of the 1996 summer revolution at Juve? Back then, stars Gianluca Vialli, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Paulo Sousa were allowed to leave. Some believe that proved too costly with Sousa helping Dortmund in 1997 to lift the Champions League at the expense of none other than Juve!
Will we see a repeat of what happened post the 1996 season? Or will it be different? Either way, the 1996-97 and 1997-98 campaigns went well with Juve winning the Scudetto twice and reaching the Champions League final on both occasions. The main issue here is whether this rejuvenated Juve side can deliver the Champions League title in the upcoming couple of years? That is perhaps what Agnelli and Marotta are banking on!