Juventus on the rise again
Published: 05.08.12 / Written by: David Gold
It seems so long ago now, back in 2006, when Juventus were unceremoniously stripped of two league titles and relegated to Serie B.
That was the punishment for their involvement in the Calciopoli affair. It took them five years to recover.
During that time they experienced the low of being forced to compete in Serie B for a year and the inevitable fire sale of big names that caused. They saw AC Milan, and then Inter Milan, win the Champions League, whilst the Nerazzuri dominated the league. Then Milan took over, whilst Juventus were finishing seventh more often than not and failing when they finally made it back into the Europa League.
This season, everything changed. Seemingly everything. In came Antonio Conte, former club stalwart during some of their better years in the 1990s. He brought in Andrea Pirlo, mystifyingly discarded by AC Milan. They also moved into a new stadium, and ended up going through the entire season without a single league defeat, joining an elite group of clubs to have achieved that.
The main thrust of their play came from Pirlo in the middle, who formed a potent partnership with Claudio Marchisio. Defensively they have been superb, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonnuci and Giorgio Chiellini forming a formidable back line in front of Gianluigi Buffon.
Now seemingly they are looking to strengthen and become a European power once again. Robin van Persie will sign, if Arsenal fans have anything to do with his eventual destination, and they have talked up signing Luis Suarez. That is a lot less likely, but is a signal of their intent. Juventus mean business once again, and they have the money behind them thanks to a new stadium which they own. Most teams in Italy do not own their own grounds.
This is a symbol of the divide growing potentially between the Bianconeri and the rest. Inter are undergoing change, a team still rebuilding post-Mourinho and stuttering along. AC Milan meanwhile, have seen an exodus of players this summer. Their big names of recent years, including Pippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta among others, have all left. So have Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for huge sums as the club look to slash their wage bill.
Inter and Milan are both in a moment of flux, change and are at risk of being left behind. The other serious challengers could be the ever talented Udinese or Napoli, but both lose their big players, whether it be Alexis Sanchez or Ezequiel Lavezzi. And then there is Roma, who parted company with Luis Garcia after the ‘Barca-Roma’ project failed. If one year without success can be classed as failure of course, that is. Lazio also lost their manager in Edy Reja, whilst Fiorentina have endured mediocrity of late, and though they have some talented players like Stevan Jovetic, they would be more likely to lose him than to build a force to challenge in Europe.
So Juventus have Italian football at their feet again, six years after they were taken away from underneath them. Can anyone catch them? It seems unlikely in the short term, and it probably will not be long until they are back among the European elite.