What an exciting week it has been for the Bianconeri as not only did they thrash Siena away from home, they have now automatically qualified for the Champions League and could secure second place on Sunday. President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli and cohorts Jean-Claude Blanc and Alessio Secco must be rubbing their hands with glee. Their swift decision in sacking Claudio Ranieri has paid dividends and given them the much-needed result that kept them in a job in spite of those who have criticised them for ruining the image of Juve. Coaches and players alike were falling over themselves to hail Ciro Ferrara as the perfect replacement. Antonio Conte was busy, furiously texting good luck wishes to his rival for Juve’s hot seat, captain Alessandro Del Piero was singing his praises and John Elkann announced his utter faith in the caretaker Coach by stating that he has what it takes to win. And win he did as Juve’s legendary defender and devoted fan guided the Old Lady to her first win in two months.
After a hard week of training that caused injuries to both Del Piero and Zdeněk Grygera, Ciro knew he had a difficult task ahead of him by attempting to earn a win in the Stadio Artemio Franchi against Siena. The only major changes made to the squad on Sunday were the inclusion of Ferrara’s old teammate Del Piero and the blossoming youth product Claudio Marchisio, the very two men who went on to win the match for the Old Lady. The legendary defender had a heart attack-inducing start as Gianluigi Buffon had to make a save less than one minute into the game from Siena’s free-kick and Paolo de Ceglie was lucky not to have been red carded a little later by his tackle on Emanuele Calaio’. However, soon after, Vincenzo Iaquinta, who started alongside the captain, found himself in front of the net without a defender in sight. Nerves must have gotten the best of him as he squandered the chance to grab the opening goal of the game. The Coach’s anxiety was calmed just two minutes later as Del Piero scored one of the most magnificent free-kicks of the season, a top-corner strike from more than 20-yards out.
Il Pinturicchio came close to scoring a brace but volleyed one over and was robbed of the second by Daniele Portanova. A second goal looked sure to arrive and in a moment of brilliant teamwork, the possible new Bianconeri icon, Marchisio, burst through and scored Juve’s second thanks to numerous wonderful passes between him and the current Juve legend. Ferrara now had a smile that no-one and nothing could remove. The tempo settled in the second half as the Tuscan heat took its toll on the players. Juventus were still very much in control and were content passing the ball around whilst Siena, who admittedly had nothing to play for, seemed happy to let the visitors dominate the game. Eventually, Del Piero achieved his brace thanks to a wonderful long ball from Marchisio and accomplished Juve’s mission for immediate Champions League qualification. Although he really should have scored more, Il Pinturicchio put on an impressive show that fully justified his place in the squad and went further in highlighting Ranieri’s poor judgement in excluding him from prior games’ starting line-ups.
It is perhaps too early to start demanding his permanent appointment, but Ferrara has already achieved in a fortnight what Claudio Ranieri failed to so in two months. Not only did he help galvanise a ponderous defence but also injected the much-needed motivation that had been lacking. Watching the game, one could tell that Ciro’s visible passion and excitement were the only things this team needed to win and essential factors should they look to knock Inter off their current pedestal and reclaim top spot next season. He is Juve through and through and this well earned result and beautifully played game perfectly demonstrates the need to have a Coach with sincere ties to the black and white blood running through his veins. However, one must not forget that Ferrara has never coached a side and simply lacks the necessary experience to take over a team he deems to be one of the top six most important clubs in the world. Certain Juve lovers are hesitant with the possible employment of Conte due to his lack of coaching experience in Serie A but he as at least shown his credentials with Bari in Serie B. Whilst no-one can deny that Ferrara had the perfect start to his two-week long campaign, motivation was all he really delivered or all that he needed to deliver.
Even next week’s match will not be enough to prove his ability as Coach as once more he will take on a side that does not need to win. Lazio have nothing to play for as they have already secured a spot in Europe much like Siena who were playing for pride having already avoided relegation. Conte should really be the chosen one if they are the only two choices for the Old Lady and according to il Corriere dello Sport’s headline on Tuesday, Conte is most likely the man to be awarded Calcio’s most prestigious job. Rumours even surfaced Tuesday morning that Bari’s sporting director, Giorgio Perinetti, allegedly confirmed that Conte will not be their Coach next term as they find themselves back in the top flight. They are currently considering replacements with Walter Zenga thought to be the preferred choice.
Coaches aside, Juventus are back on the path of rediscovering their awesome form pre-Calciopoli. With Diego signed, sealed and delivered, Domenico Criscito looking likely to return and Fabio Cannavaro secured, Secco is finally beginning to settle in and do a little more than fail miserably in his job. Diego is quite the coup and one that even Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo would have been proud of. Nevertheless, he alone is not enough if Juventus want to seriously challenge the likes of Barcelona and the Premier League in next year’s Champions League. If the management really want to endear themselves to the fans then capturing someone like Karim Benzema would be the ultimate weapon to blow Inter out of the water. Should they fail, then 19-year-old Eduardo Salvio could well be the much needed cement in Juve’s squad construction. The Argentinean starlet currently plays for Club Atlético Lanús in his home country and has been widely praised for his versatility and fearless attitude – perfectly illustrated when he scored two past current league leaders, Boca Juniors. In their attempt to bring the young sensation to Turin, Juventus sent their chief scout, Renzo Castagnini, to Argentina in late 2008. However, due to Salvio’s club’s policy, youth players must complete a full season before transfers are considered and therefore the summer transfer window may well be management’s shot at redeeming themselves for past failures. Alongside one more quality midfielder and possibly two additional defenders, Juve’s former triad management may well be forgotten.
Speaking of Giraudo, he recently won a defamation case against an article written at the height of the Calciopoli scandal. The two journalists responsible will have to pay the ex-director €5000 in compensation – money that Giraudo gallantly promised to forward on to a charity. He was seen dining on Monday night with Fabio Capello and their respective wives in Daphne’s restaurant in London’s West End, possibly celebrating his success in the courtroom. (On a side note, I was sitting next them and as I stood up to say hello, I was greeted by broad smiles, a possible cause to my evident excitement at having met them or alternatively due to the fact that I was more star struck by Giraudo as opposed to the infamous Capello. I told Giraudo how his departure had left Juve with a deep void and wished Capello luck in the World Cup, even though I hoped Lippi would blow him out of the water which prompted loud laughter as I made my way back to my seat in complete awe!)
So one more match left to test Ferrara’s skill as Coach as Juve take on Lazio at home on Sunday which could see them seal second place if they win. Milan lost to Roma at home on Sunday in Paolo Maldini’s final home match of his career. Unfortunately, a certain group of ultras marred the celebrations by protesting and insisted that Franco Baresi will always be their only beloved captain. Milan’s loss means that they gifted their place in the league to the Bianconeri and have to face off Fiorentina on the last day of the season. If both Juventus and Milan are level on points on the last day of the season, Juve will be awarded second place thanks to their superior head-to-head record. A humiliated Ranieri was probably wondering where he went wrong as he begins to prepare a legal battle against his previous employers.