They’re Italian, so they’re tough to beat, but Juventus, known as La Vecchia Signora (the old lady), are not the force of old. Italian champions always deserve respect, and Juventus have made something of a comeback, but they are still trying to recapture past glories.
What’s more, they have signed Nicklas Bendtner on loan for 2012-13 from Arsenal. The Danish irritant has yet to make his Serie A debut, but has been signed to give Juve more options up front. Veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who drove Italy to the Euro 2012 final remains a key figure. Pirlo netted on the opening day of the Italian season when Juventus beat Parma 2-0. They followed that up with a 4-1 win at Udinese. That win put Juventus on top of the first Serie A table.
Juventus coach/manager call it what you will, Antonio Conte clinched the title in his first year in charge. But in the summer, Conte was accused of misprision of felony over the latest match-fixing scandal and later suspended for 10 months. So, on matchdays, Massimo Carrera runs the team!
Juventus’ title was their 28th and went some way to compensate for being stripped of two titles in 2005 and 2006 due to the match-fixing scandal that engulfed the Italian game. [Note: Why is Italian football so susceptible to bribery, corruption and malpractice? It’s not as if Italian players are badly paid. Perhaps FIFA/UEFA should punish them appropriately – they would soon change their ways if the Azzuri were banned from the World Cup or the top Italian clubs were exiled from the Champions League. Of course, it’s not going to happen.]
Since winning the title, Juventus have added to their already huge squad (have you seen the number of players they have out on loan, for example). As well as Bendtner, they spent more than EUR 50m in the summer – not bad for an economy that’s on its knees! Sebastian Giovinco cost EUR 11m from Parma and he’s already netted twice against Udinese in game two. Ghanaian midfidler Kwadwo Asamoah came from Udinese for EUR 9m and his compatriot Richmond Boakye – a striker – arrived from Genoa for EUR 4m. Chilean defender Mauricio Isla was also picked up from Udinese for EUR 9.4m and another defender, Uruguay’s Martin Caceras, cost EUR 8m from Sevilla.
Conte described Juventus’ return to the Champions League as “the right place for a club that, for tradition and results, has made and continues to make history in Italian football and beyond.” He’s not wrong, but regulars at the newly-built Juventus Stadium will be hoping the club makes the right history going forward.
As far as the Champions League is concerned, Juventus have made good history, winning the competition twice, 1984-85 and 1995-96. They’ve also been runners-up five times. Interestingly, Juventus was named by FIFA as the most successful Italian club in the 20th century and the seventh most successful in Europe. There’s some pedigree there!
So while Juventus have slipped from the lofty heights of the 1980s and 1990s, when a trip to Turin was one of the most daunting for any club, they are on their way back. They are out to prove they belong in the top strata of European super clubs.