On Thursday the 18th of March thousands of Juventus fans gathered outside Craven Cottage. The reason, they’d just been thrashed 4-1 by Fulham and dumped out of the Europa League. One of many lifeless, lethargical performances of their season resulting in a 7th place finish.
This display came four years after Juventus’s relegation and five years on from their last Serie A title. Juve contained few stand out individuals at Fulham, and a large amount of veterans. Compare this with the 2005/2006 crop, and it’s not nice reading. Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Emerson, Pavel Nedved, Zlatan Ibrahinovic, David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero, and managed by Fabio Capello. All were at their peak, and would have got in any team in the world.
Only seven months on from the SW6 scenes, The Old Lady appears reignited. A change in club president, manager, and several players have sparked a positive transition. Their 2-1 victory over AC Milan on Sunday has suggested Juve are to be taken seriously again. The soul is back within the camp. Alberto Aquilani claims he has “found a home” at Juventus, and it shows. But his midfield partner Felipe Melo gave the most insightful account of the club’s resurgence. “Del Neri’s Juventus is like a family, we are all united, on and off the pitch”. Personally, music to my ears.
As a football fan, seeing a clubs off field problems dominate the back pages feels like an injustice and defeat of the sport. Especially considering the history and tradition of Juventus. Portsmouth have been in that bracket, Liverpool more recently, and Manchester United’s ongoing case. The farcical events of May 2006 saw Juventus relegated in a match fixing scandal, and was European giants darkest hour. Melo’s words portray the camp is settled and happy, characteristics that they could only dream of whilst playing in Serie B in front of miniscule crowds.
The main instigator in this seasons revival, Luigi Del Neri. The former Sampdoria boss has ditched experience for traditional Italian blood. Pavel Nedved joined the boardroom, Alberto Aquilani was loaned as a creative cog in the midfield. David Trezeguet’s aging legs were replaced by proven Serie A goalscorer Fabio Quagliarella. Add to this club legend Alessandro Del Piero’s new lease of life, and you’ve got a fine balance of experience and youth. Oh, and a number of them are Italian.
It seems that playing for Juventus is no longer a luxury. You’re not just there to see out your career. Or have the name of a big club on your chest. Del Neri has installed a grafting atmosphere, where team spirits carries you through the hard times. If you’re not up to it you’ll be out without the sympathy. Just ask David Trezeguet.
As with any club, a transitional period takes time. Faces come and go, and there are undoubtedly successes and failures. Considering the standard of the Italian League, victory doesn’t arrive easily. Evidently Juve don’t have the talent they once did, and they probably can’t attract the talent they once could. But they’re taking positive steps to becoming a force again. It’s been a long time in coming, but I for one am delighted that this Old Lady is beginning to roll back the years.
Written By Rob Edwards