Understanding Del Neri, questioning Buffon

Despite Juventus’s recent surge up to second spot in Serie A, Gigi Del Neri has come under scrutiny this week following comments he made about injured first-choice goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
“We await Buffon with open arms, but let it be very clear that nobody at Juve is indispensable, because the group is more important than any individual,” uttered the Coach at a press conference. His words have not only angered the goalkeeper’s camp, but also fans, journalists and even ex-goalkeepers.
Silvano Martina, Buffon’s agent, demanded that the Coach be fined for his comments as they demonstrated “a lack of respect towards Buffon”, and even Michelangelo Rampulla was shocked:
“We are talking about Buffon, who one cannot question. I do not understand the words of Del Neri,” Juve’s goalkeeping Coach commented.
Beppe Marotta moved quickly to clarify Del Neri’s remarks in the hope of starving off excessive media attention but did the latter’s words warrant such an incensed reaction from the public? One should arguably try to look at the big picture. Del Neri has created a solid and winning team out of individuals who have often been described as merely ‘average’, and he owes it all to the power of psychology.
What makes this Old Lady side effective is that her strength lies in team unity and cohesive play. This and this alone is the reason why a squad void of Milan’s technical ability and Inter’s strength has become a genuine title contender this season. Having Buffon back in the squad will surely add even more experience to an already overachieving team.
The goalkeeper is considered the best in the world, not only for his ability but also his human qualities. The Juve icon is a leader, a man who knows how to rally a team, how to organise his defence and how to rescue his side when the players ahead have failed him.
However, since his injury, both Juventus and Del Neri have been forced to make do both without the player and, more crucially, the person. He has shown little support for the team, taken little time to enhance his relationship with the Coach and failed to show up for the Club’s team photo opportunity. But the manner in which he has taken apparent offence to Del Neri’s comments perhaps forces one to question his own attitude towards Juventus.
Del Neri has been misunderstood, as his statement was only meant to strengthen the group and encourage better play and higher motivation. Surely the critics should understand that being part of a team means engaging in politics, and that a Coach must do his best to satisfy everyone by emphasising the concept of meritocracy.
How would it have looked if the manager who built his team based on this concept was to guarantee Buffon a starting role despite the hard work of Marco Storari? Moreover, what impact would that have had on the goalkeeper who currently occupies the position between the sticks?
Storari may be a fine replacement as he has rescued Juventus from several sticky situations but his decision-making and positioning at times also mean he can never hope to match up. As such, Buffon’s camp should have welcomed the challenge by supporting the Coach and letting their hero do the talking on the pitch upon his return.
Being part of a team means engaging in the Club’s philosophy and accepting your role within it, so let Del Neri say what he needs to say if it means giving Storari a vote of confidence while keeping Buffon and the squad as a whole on their toes as Juve enter a critical period in their season.

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