Now that the season is all done and dusted, it’s time for the whole Juventus family to look back and reflect on how badly the year went. The board, players and fans are all confused as to how they went from being champions for nine seasons consecutively, to just scraping into the top four on the very last day of the season. Better things are expected from Juventus and there will be big pressure to perform better in the coming season.
The fact that they won the Italian Super Cup and Coppa Italia, beating Napoli and Atalanta respectively has gone some way towards easing the disharmony, although if they had failed to get into the Champions League, it would have been disastrous. They will be keen to have a good summer in the transfer market and boost the hopes of the fans. So where do Juventus go from here and what challenges do they face along the way?
The Departure of Big Names
When Juventus are being discussed, it’s hard not to bring up the name of Gianluigi Buffon. One of the top-rated goalkeepers of all time, barring one season at PSG has been at Juventus since 2001. While not making too many league appearances lately, due to the form of Wojciech Szczesny and his increasing age, he did start in the Coppa Italia Final. This was to be his last start for the club as he announced he would leave the club at the end of the season and they will miss such an inspirational character.
We are being led to believe that Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the greatest football players of all time, is on his way out of Turin. While loved by the majority of fans, there is a feeling of disappointment that Ronaldo didn’t manage to push Juventus further in the Champions League while they were dominant domestically. It’s possible to bet at any live casino on his next possible destination. A winner of numerous trophies, both collectively and individually during his time in Italy, he feels it is time for another challenge.
A New Manager
Some tough decisions had to be made by the Juventus board at the end of last season. Andrea Pirlo is quite clearly a legend with the club from his playing days, yet his management skills left much to be desired. The club not afford to take a chance on him for one more season. They ran the risk of falling behind even further. It was not easy to sack Pirlo, it forced the club to look for a third manager in as many years after the short-lived reign of Maurizo Sarri. However, even Sarri managed to win the title.
While most of the best coaches worked in England, some decent options were still available. A return to the hot seat for Max Allegri was always on the cards and the chances are that he felt he still has business to finish with the club and now has the challenge of returning them to the top of the table. Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, a former playing legend with Juve and firm fan favourite had been mentioned but it is Allegri that is now back at the helm.
One player who had been dominating the news in Italy was former AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Stalling on signing a new contract, he became available on a free transfer in the summer. Still only 22, but with a massive amount of playing time under his belt already, he could have been the man Juventus turn to for the future. Very highly rated, he had no shortage of admiring clubs wishing to sign him. However, it was PSG that he ended up at and that could be a sign of things to come.
Juventus was also said to be looking at Memphis Depay of French side Lyon as being the answer to replacing the goals of Ronaldo. He is still only 27 and has a prolific goalscoring record so he could have provided a solution upfront but as with Donnarumma, Juve missed out, this time to Barcelona. Also consistently linked with a return to Juventus, midfielder Paul Pogba, now at Manchester Utd, would shore up what was seen as their main area of weakness last season, being overrun by teams in the centre of the park very easily.
What other Challenges do they Face?
The resurgence of Italian sides has been remarkable in the domestic league. Although in the end Inter Milan pulled away and won the league comfortably, for spells it was a very tight contest. While Inter stood separated from second by 12 points, from second place to fifth saw a difference of two points dividing the four teams. Juventus just did enough to squeeze into fourth on the final day, so who is to say that their task will be made any easier next year.
While overjoyed at qualifying for the Champions League, a few problems can stem from this competition. A lot may hinge on the draw they get for the group stages. This competition seems to haunt Juve as they have made it to finals in recent years, but haven’t managed to win it. Allegri will be feeling the pressure of this record as it’s clear Juve are just not as good as some of their European counterparts.
To wonder where it all went wrong for Juve is interesting but hopefully, one that is not dwelled on too long as they begin to prepare for next season. Players will come and go, so it’s important they make wise choices as some of the players leaving have made a huge impact on the club, both over the long term and short term. Another poor season could push fans towards other sports, such as American Football.
The battle to regain the top spot in the Championship must be their priority but they may not have it all their way as the teams around them have become noticeably stronger. Allegri has a tough task on his hands and the pressure will be huge, but that’s all part of taking on a top job these days and the one thing we get with the manager is a long history of being a winner.