It would be fair to say that Juventus have had a rocky few years. From the depths of the Calciopoli scandal and relegation, to the rebirth of the ‘new’ Juve, we look at changes both on and off the pitch and see if the club will ever recapture it’s glorious past.
‘The Triad’ – Antonio Giraudo, Luciano Moggi and Roberto Bettega – a name that struck fear in the world of Italian football, symbolised everything that was good and bad about Juventus. Let’s start with the bad. The match-fixing scandal, and subsequent demotion to Serie B tarnished Juve’s reputation of being the best-run club in Italy. Their (particularly the former two) alleged cornering of both the transfer market and officialdom struck fear into the world of calcio, and it took the bravery of one Zdenek Zeman to let the cat out of the bag when he initially raised his concerns about doping in the game which led to further investigations, finally resulting in Calciopoli. During his time at Napoli, Moggi wielded his power which inevitably caught the eye of the FIAT management who eventually lured him to the Turin club in 1994. Inspired by his success and the backing of Giraudo (who was still the boss of FIAT), Moggi’s influence grew to the point where he constantly used psychological violence behind the scenes and through exploitation of the media to get his way on issues on and off the pitch – and got away with it – until 2006. Knowing the full extent of the damage he had done not only to Juventus but the whole of football, he was the first to resign in disgrace.
The good was the success they brought to the club not seen since the Giovanni Trapattoni era. With a winning model of management coupled with an unrivalled transfer policy, they not only ended Milan’s dominance of the domestic scene, but almost threatened to make Europe their own. They had to be ruthless in order to do so and did just that. After jettisoning the likes of Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri for either being past their sell-by date or for a handsome profit, the triumvirate in that period reinvested by bringing more world-class performers befitting the club – Vladimir Jugovic, Alen Boksic, Gianluigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved to name a few. These players’ ambitions matched those of their employers and yielded seven championships, one Coppa Italia, the Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League (not to mention three more appearances in the final in eight years). Perhaps, it was because of this dominance did the Triad think they were untouchable, which ultimately led to their downfall.
Which leads us onto the current trio running the club. Giovanni Cobolli Gigli, Jean-Claude Blanc and Alessio Secco divide opinion among the Bianconeri faithful however hard they try. While the club is now solvent after two years away from Champions League football and with a new stadium on the horizon (to be opened in time for the 2011/12 season), it seems they have compromised sporting success for prudency. While they have restored peoples’ faith in a transparent and clean Juve, it seems they are too afraid to be compared to the old regime if they too, make controversial decisions. This gentlemanly approach has been reflected in their two Coaches since 2006 – Didier Deschamps and Claudio Ranieri – both respected Coaches known for their conduct and ‘nice guy’ approach. However being nice does not guarantee you success – just ask Messrs Mourinho and Capello. Unfortunately, this train of thought seems to have bypassed the current management, and this view is shared by both the Bianconeri faithful and the Turin-based Tuttosport who are fast running out of faith and patience. Deschamps’ ruthless sacking after leading them back up to Serie A at the first attempt showed us a glimpse of the mercilessness the pre-Calciopoli Triad regularly showed. Could lightning eventually strike twice?
Let us not forget, it wasn’t easy to regroup since the events of that fateful summer in 2006, with players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta all moving on, added to the subsequent demotion and shock 30-point deduction – so the management had to take stock. High wage earners who could command huge transfer fees were sold, and in return, free-transfer buys were brought in to play alongside those who stayed to fight Juve’s corner. Promotion was achieved at the first attempt, and they more than exceeded expectations when they finished third last season. Having failed to meet their target of winning a trophy this season, Coach Claudio Ranieri has come under increasing pressure to win games to at least finish second in Serie A, and according to rumours in Italy, it appears the management will wield the axe, despite numerous statements of faith in him. The question is though, will they stick or twist?
Expensive purchases (Tiago, Almiron and Amauri) aside, the ‘new’ Triad has worked hard to minimise costs, and in doing so, announced plans to build a new multi-purpose stadium on the existing Delle Alpi site and in the last week Sporting Director Alessio Secco announced that a vast amount of money has been set aside to make two ‘expensive’ purchases to build on the success of the last three seasons. In their efforts to remain prudent, they have shown faith in youngsters, and have been rewarded with some exceptional displays – Paolo De Ceglie and Claudio Marchisio have shown themselves to be more than ready to mix it with the likes of Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero. However of these youngsters, Sebastian Giovinco has been the brightest spark. For all the talk of bringing in a world-class attacking midfielder, Giovinco is ready-made to make that role his own, and in time could replace the talismanic Del Piero. The caveat is that it may yet take a couple more years for Juve to be realistically challenging for honours. The Juve management, inspired by the Arsene Wenger-model at Arsenal, seem more than happy to wait, but ambition and success go hand-in-hand, and there are fears that this lack of ambition will fail to yield success for a while yet.
We can see the new management are happy to bide their time in building a fresh and vibrant Juve, free from controversy and rumours, playing the media game, and gracefully accepting refereeing decisions that the old guard would have never tolerated. However, with FIAT’s increasing involvement in the club it would be hard to imagine they would be given much more time. Calciopoli put Juventus back five years in both sporting and financial terms, and while FIAT, the fans and the Press understand how far they have come since 2006, one must realise that football is a cruel game. Will the current trio survive long enough to see through their vision of a great Juventus built on modesty and trust, or will they be ruthless enough to make decisions in the inevitable pursuit of success? Time will tell if similar comparisons are to be made between the two sets of management – but we all know they couldn’t be further apart. The demotion to Serie B and initial points reduction not only brought Juve to its knees, it almost put them out of business. Decisions made by the current trio have been vindicated by the club not only surviving, but by their grand visions for the future.
Juve secured success on the back of established names and a power-hungry management, yet given time, the Old Lady’s youngsters may achieve far greater. Perhaps the clearest indicator to Juventus’ future lies in its name.