Vladimir Jugovic probably thought he would be a cult hero in Turin when he fired home the winning penalty for Juventus in the 1996 Champions League final. Unfortunately for the Serbian, he has become a symbol of Juventus’ repeated failure in Europe’s top competition.
Fans do not look back on Jugovic’s spot-kick with fond eyes, rather they look back on the penalty and lament just how long it has been since Juventus were considered the best team in Europe.
This season, things will be different for Juventus. This season, they will banish chastening memories of final defeats at the hands of Dortmund, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Barcelona, and Real Madrid again. Or so we’re told.
Juventus are once again amongst the favourites with football tips to win the Champions League, but can they really shake off their European hoodoo? Read on to find out.
(Vladimir Jugovic slotted the ball past Edwin Van Der Sar to win Juventus their last Champions League in 1996.)
Maurizio Sarri was the man chosen by the Juventus hierarchy to replace recently departed manager Massimiliano Allegri. To many Sarri seemed to be a strange choice to replace Allegri, owing to the lack of silverware he has attained in his career thus far.
Up until May when his Chelsea side beat Arsenal 4-1 in the Europa League final, Sarri had failed to win a major trophy in his 29-year managerial career. Indeed, many Juventus fans had derided him during his spell as manager of closest rivals Napoli.
It was a widely held belief that Sarri’s inability to adapt to in-game circumstances inhibited the success of his teams. Sarri’s strict adherence to a certain style of play and tactical outlook put him at odds with Chelsea fans for much of last season also.
Despite guiding the team to Champions League qualification, a League Cup final and Europa League success, many Chelsea fans were glad to see the back of him when he departed Stamford Bridge over the summer.
A 6-0 away loss to Manchester City last season confirmed many fans doubts that Sarri could cut it in big games. Perhaps a manager with such a reputation for coming up short when it matters is not the ideal candidate to take charge of a team looking to banish their Champions League final jinx…
Juventus’ Key Players
Cristiano Ronaldo – It doesn’t take a genius to identify serial Champions League winner Cristiano Ronaldo as Juventus’ key player. The Portuguese forward was brought to Italy in a bid to boost Juve’s chances of winning the Champions League, a move which has so far failed to bear fruit.
Last season the Turin side were dumped out of the competition by Ajax with Ronaldo unable to recreate his Real Madrid heroics at the Allianz Stadium. Ronaldo does seem to be past his best, but in close games, he can still be a match-winner.
Matthijs De Ligt – The young Dutch centre-back was captain of the Ajax team that stunned Juventus in last season’s Champions League. For club and country, he has been imperious in the past 12 months and looks likely to be the long-term successor to Giorgio Chiellini.
De Ligt will add youth and pace to an aging Juventus backline and will be key to his side’s European success this season.
Will Juventus win the Champions League?
The short answer is no. There are at least five teams better placed than Juventus to win the Champions League this season. Teams with much better players and most importantly, better managers.
Juventus will be lucky to fall at the final hurdle, never mind win the Champions League.