Every day Sport/Voetbalmagazine takes a close look at a top foreign club. We look back on the past season and look ahead to the challenges in the future. Today: Juventus.
One thing was certain at the start of the Serie A season: Juventus will become champions. Nobody really doubted that after Andrea Pirlo was sidelined in the summer for the return of success coach Massimiliano Allegri. For the rest, the team remained basically what it had been the season before, with the big difference that goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo suddenly had enough of the sun in Turin at the end of August.
One thing was certain at the start of the Serie A season: Juventus will become champions. Nobody really doubted that after Andrea Pirlo was sidelined in the summer for the return of success coach Massimiliano Allegri. For the rest, the team remained basically what it had been the season before, with the big difference that goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo suddenly had enough of the sun in Turin at the end of August. A cartload of goals left the Allianz Stadium with the Portuguese. Who would take that? All eyes were on Alvaro Morata, Federico Chiesa – who just had a great European Championship – and especially Paulo Dybala. La Joya was finally able to step out of Ronaldo’s shadow, but that quickly turned out to be a misjudgment. Juventus started the season dramatically and one depth record after another was achieved. Especially the eighteenth place after four matchdays (two draws, two defeats) immediately prompted thought in the head offices of the Oude Dame. Juventus may have come back slowly, but in November a new title – after it had to tolerate Inter for nine consecutive championships last year – already seemed far away. Allegri could not work miracles with a team that could barely interfere in the title fight last season, with Ronaldo. January had to offer solutions and Juventus took a strong hit in the transfer market for Denis Zakaria, a new midfielder, and especially Dusan Vlahovic. The new Serbian revelation had quickly grown too big for Fiorentina and now had to become Ronaldo’s successor in Turin. And that worked out great in the beginning too, because the ‘Serbian Ibrahimovic’ scored on every debut – remember the goal after a few seconds in the Champions League against Villarreal. For a moment, Juventus even seemed to be completely back in the title race, as it narrowed the gap with the Milanese clubs every week. But Vlahovic’s blitz start was not immediately followed up. Since March, he has scored just four times in 11 games and Juventus went down with him, eventually finishing fourth, just 16 points behind champions AC Milan. The big problem with this Juventus is in the midfield and the flanks. With regulars like Manuel Locatelli, Adrien Rabiot and Weston McKennie, you know there isn’t too much creativity in the ashes of the field. Locatelli was the trio’s best assister this season, by the way… with four decisive passes. And up front, especially on the flanks, it wasn’t much better. Morata was the best there with 7 assists. You understand: who brings the goals? And who scores them? Vlahovic has scored ‘only’ seven times in Serie A since his arrival, but it was the highest total of any player in that period. Only Morata and Dybala have outperformed all season with 9 and 10 goals respectively, which is not even good for a place in the top 20 top scorers in Serie A. Juventus have a clear attacking problem. welcomed as the savior. After a dramatic season under Andrea Pirlo, which only just saw them reach Champions League football, the coach who already led Juventus to five consecutive titles and four cups had to take the club back to the top of Serie A. But with a barely changed squad and a departed Ronaldo, that became a more difficult task than initially thought. It was therefore Allegri himself who already told the cameras at the end of last year that the title would not be for this year. According to him, there were also too many players who could not handle the pressure of a top club like Juventus. In the end, it was the Italian’s tactical ingenuity that brought Juventus to a place in the Champions League, mainly after a rock-solid run between November and March – not losing once in 16 games. In the end, Allegri also had to accept the limitations of this core. There were no great stars this season at Juventus. You had Dusan Vlahovic for a little while after January, but he was only in the north of Italy for half a season. For the good and consistent performance, we have to look at the back, to Matthijs de Ligt. Under Allegri, the Dutchman initially did not seem to have to hope for too many playing minutes – in his eyes De Ligt was still too inexperienced – but he eventually played himself fully in the team. What’s more, in the 29 games with De Ligt in the starting lineup, Juventus only lost five times. Certainly with the departure of Giorgio Chiellini, the young Dutchman seems to become the new leader of this Juventus.The futureWhile Paulo Dybala and Giorgio Chiellini, two icons of Juventus in recent years, said goodbye to the house, the board was already looking for new names. Moreover, Juventus must be on the lookout for fresh blood in almost all positions during the summer. After this season, the board also realizes that it will not be possible to achieve a new title with this core. And before that, it went into the transfer-free market, completely in the style of the house. In midfield, looking for a player who can bridge the gap with the attackers, a genre Kevin De Bruyne who can serve the strikers at their beck and call. Paul Pogba is one of those characters in the eyes of the bosses and fans would love to see him return to the Italian record champion. The Frenchman is currently a priority for Juventus and the transfer already seems to be in order. In the front it is then again waiting for the return of Chiesa, who was out for almost an entire season. But Juventus also want better players on the flanks and for that they are doing everything they can to bring another transfer-free player to the Allianz Stadium: Angel Di María. The problem with the transfer: the Argentinian only wants a one-year contract, while Juventus wants to keep him longer. And meanwhile, Barcelona has also jumped into the dance. That will be exciting. Juventus already has a plan-B with Filip Kostic from Eintracht Frankfurt and Muriel, Giovanni Simeone and Marko Arnautovic are also on the wish list. Finally, in the back, Captain Chiellini’s departure leaves a large void. Worse still, De Ligt would also be thinking of leaving northern Italy. Finishing fourth in a row is enough for him. The Dutchman would also no longer have faith in the Juventus project and would like to go elsewhere for the prizes. Still, a new defender is anything but a priority at the moment, which means good news for Koni De Winter, the 19-year-old Belgian from the Bianconeri youth academy. He has been the chouchou of Allegri for some time and could get more playing minutes that way. There is a lot going on in Turin this summer. The title must absolutely be regained, but will that also happen with the names it currently wants to achieve? Allegri still has a lot of homework to do.