The 2014/15 Serie A season is just around the corner, and it is shaping up to be the most dynamic and open-ended in recent history. Not since Calciopoli has the Serie A throne looked so open for the taking. Much to the relief of all Serie A clubs (apart from Juve), the Old Lady’s leader and talisman Antonio Conte announced his shock resignation in July, thus blowing the door open for this season’s title race.
The Old Lady is never far from dramas, but not many would have expected such a tumultuous & eventful pre-season – for all the wrong reasons. Digging deeper to the cause, this rash exit (or so it seemed) of Conte, was far from knee-jerk, but almost pre-meditated.
Having snapped up a plethora of shrewd transfer captures the past two seasons, vital to the Bianconeri‘s rapid and aggressive rise to the top of Serie A – Paul Pogba (free), Andrea Pirlo (free), Fernando Llorente (free), Carlos Tevez (€9m), Arturo Vidal (€12.5m), Stephan Lichtstiener (€10m) to name a few – Juve, as good as they have been domestically, have stalled on Europe’s biggest stage. The top off this season’s wish list was world class talent to push them into the bracket of contenders, rather than runners for the Champions League.
Earlier in May, all of the Juve faithfuls’ fears were put to bed when Conte signed a new deal, inking him to the club until 2018 and silencing the pleas from clubs abroad. What many didn’t know, was the release clause etched into this contract, allowing him to leave under mutual consent if proper strengthening wasn’t achieved. Enter Alexis Sanchez.
With Juve failing in the CL, a switch from the beloved and perfected 3-5-2 was necessary to fight for credibility and return the fear they once bestowed upon opponents across the continent.
The ideal formation being touted was a 4-3-3 and having the foundation set, Conte was after that match winner, specifically to play out wide.
Before the World Cup, Sanchez was valued and available from Barca for an estimated and affordable €25m. But Juve didn’t react.
At the World Cup, Sanchez, as predicted, displayed his qualities to the world and many sat up and took note. €42.5m later, he was in an Arsenal kit and being unveiled at the Emirates.
Juventus needed to look elsewhere, and following an impressive season at Fiorentina and dazzling at the World cup for Colombia, the back-up target Juan Cuadrado had his valuation ramped up into €50m territory, well out of reach for Juventus, whereas a prior serious bid may have persuaded the Viola to do business.
Along with a bidding war for the hot prospect Juan Iturbe, which they lost, this was the last straw for Conte. Having no real option after finding his main targets out of financial reach and no backing for more funds, he activated the release clause and out he went, taking post as the new Italy manager; a bittersweet result for the Italian Juventus fans.
The biggest shock to all the drama was the appointment of Allegri though, much to many of the fans’ dissatisfaction. With a successful pre-season tour of Australia and the East and the Serie A season kicking off this weekend, they may have to look at the more positive side.
One could see Tevez packing his bags if Mancini had signed, and Spaletti didn’t look like a promising option, among with all the Moyes jokes when he was reportedly – bizarrely – linked.
So, with very few quality coaches to take over, Juventus had to act fast – perhaps learning from their missed opportunities in the transfer market. The former AC Milan manager, infamous for ousting key man and club legend Pirlo, (allowing him to sign for Juve on a free) Massimiliano Allegri was to take the reins of a 3rd successive Scudetto club, and aim it for a record fourth. Easy?
The recent demise of AC Milan had many pointing the finger at Allegri, but it really should be aimed higher. The slide started with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva departing in 2012 for the financial benefit of the club during the crush of the economic crisis, this meant no re-enforcement. Followed by a mass exodus of old veterans, vital for stability, Allegri was left with a skeleton of the squad he once had and an all-the-eggs-in-the-one-basket approach with Mario Balotelli becoming the main man up front.
He now boasts one of the strongest Juventus teams in modern history, and after winning every home game last season, along with a record point tally. Let’s see if he can keep it that way. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as they say.
Amidst the chaos, Juventus have still been busy without making that marquee puchase signing Patrice Evra from Manchester United, Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid and another fine piece of business for the future, Kingsley Coman on a free from PSG. The young Frenchman found himself stuck in ever-growing queue at PSG, and with a hunger for game time Marotta was more than happy to take in the diminutive attacker. Sound familiar?
Some solid squad players help fill the ranks as Romulo from Hellas Verona and Pereyra from Udinese add to the utility list.
Juventus are still scouring the market and defender Kostas Manolas from Olympiakos looks like a quality purchase but may again be priced out by Roma – who have just lost Mehdi Benatia – or Arsenal looking to replace Thomas Vermaelen, among others.
Most recently, Juve have been carefully watching Hernandez of Manchester United and Podolski of Arsenal for a quick loan deal but both clubs want permanent options.
Deadline day always seems to spring a surprise and rumors circulating are that Juventus will scrap for their new top target Xherdan Shaqiri from Bayern Munich to enhance a possible 4-2-3-1 formation under Allegri. Many a rumour fly by, but the truth is Juve are still a far cry from that ‘star player’ which is required to switch the team from stun, to kill, ahead of their assault on the domestic and European fronts.
On the exit list, forwards Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella moved to new pastures, Dani Osvaldo’s loan expired and Isla and Peluso left Turin on loan deals.
On paper, Juventus still look strong and quite capable of taking out the 4th consecutive Scudetto, but with the changing of the guard and the strengthening of others around them, Juventus will have a few more dogfights to contend with this season.
A runners up placing might shock the powers above to open the wallet and secure that “world class” talent Conte ever so longed for, but their strength in depth may still be enough to lead them to a fourth title in a row.