“Juventus were the team of gentlemen, industrial pioneers, Jesuits, conservatives and the wealthy bourgeois.” –Mario Soldati
La Vecchia Signora, or the Old lady if you like, confirmed their circuitous route to the upper echelons of Europe’s premier and exclusive football clubs via Serie B by putting up a sterner fight than many had dared when confronted by the juggernaut that is Barcelona.
Europe has a strict code of conduct for its elite clubs much like Wimbledon, no new money or lack of a sobering, blood and thunder history, a snobbish bunch, blue bloods only. Juventus, Barcelona, Milan, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munchen, Real Madrid, Ajax. No new members permitted beyond the lobby. All these clubs have employed a variety of methods to always stay at the top or near as possible, as football clubs, brands and storied institutions. Real Madrid, the wizened and gloriously wealthy king of the bunch have thrown money at any thing that moves and has a pretty enough face for the modeling of its brand.
Before the band of Qatari-money totting criminals led by Sandro Rossell and Bartomeu and internal power strifes jimmied their way into town and gas chambered La Masia Barcelona brandished its youth model and Sainted their way to the top. Manchester United, commercial behemoth sustained by the sheer genius and wizardry of one man dined at the top table in the most unstable model of all the elites. In short, each of the big eight had a model that assured that it retained its G8 status; Juventus’ may yet be the most astute.
Serie A met it’s waterloo in it’s complicated Calciopoli and Calcioscommese scandals and the unsustainable approach of not owning stadia outright, leasing was only going to go so far. The men walking the corridors of power at Vinovo saw the sign of the times and Juventus stadium amazingly became the first stadium to be owned outright by a football team in the Italian top flight. Revenues in comparison to the trickle of before have been staggering and the jump in revenue and pulling power of elite players jaw dropping, from signing Davide Baiocco to Mario Mandzukic. The decision makers have been spot on and the signings augur well for the present and future.
Andrea Agnelli, Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici as a triumvirate are very under rated outside of the Peninsula, credited as the brains behind the stirring of the slumped, sleeping, snoring and covered with a thick woolen blanket for good measure institution that is Juventus. These three men have been very shrewd in balancing out the blowback from relegation and consecutive seventh placed finishes and trying to rapidly ascend the proverbial falling ladder, they had a very tiny window and they took it.
A cocktail of loyal, world-class albeit demotivated and demoralized stars like Gianluigi Buffon and Del Piero and low risk astute buys like Simone Pepe, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli and the appointment of pit bull manager and former Captain Antonio Conte resulted in an unbeaten, title winning season. The famed five year plan was on, having moved into the newly constructed Juventus stadium too the future was blindingly bright. They only went and won a hat trick of Scuddetos plus another one for good measure.
To sustain this familiar but new found success the transfer detail has greatly see sawed and followed a certifiable and intelligent curve, the deadwood like Milos Krasic and Felipe Melo were shipped out and the latest transfer window has seen greater and more expansive spending. Ready made world class players like Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira have arrived for a pittance, Marotta’s ability to sniff out a bargain and free transfer not tainted by the rosy nature of success on pitch. These high quality, low spending and expected big rewards signings have been mixed with promising albeit high performing young stars like Paulo Dybala and Simone Zaza with a very high ceiling for sell on value.
These are the workings of years of pre planning and intense strategy, the primavera isn’t the most productive but it isn’t required in quite the same way it would have been if Juventus had continued to be mired in the squalor of mid table and the ugly dog fights that ensue as a result. Turin is now an attractive destination for a dynamic, even deceptively young cored team going places under a manager many laughed out of town while it turned out he had not only the key to the chocolate factory but also the recipe to making Toblerone and Kit Kat with the existing ingredients at the club.
Noberto Neto, probably the best young(25)- ish keeper in Serie A alongside Mattia Perin and Marco Sportiello, bullish and eccentric, highly talented and a ready made Buffon replacement, should have reached the required maturity to take the number one jersey off of the best Italian goalkeeper since Dino Zoff. He’ll sleep easy knowing that the hesitant Angelo Ogbonna won’t be lining up in front of him as his first line of defense but the composed, surgeon like in his precision Daniele Rugani will instead take his place and at only twenty years old too. That Stefano Sturaro will be the gate keeper to this defense inspires comfort for the former two, a man possessed once he steps on playing turf he will run through brick walls for the cause, plays as if the spirit of Rino Gattusso inhabits his soul, you will not hear any Juventini asking for an exorcism.
Alongside him the long limbed Pogba, transfer promises from Barcelona presidential wannabes permitting will bring the class and power to that midfield. The mercurial Frenchman aptly named Kingsley Coman should make either wing his home or the trequartista position his own with no fuss. Paulo Dybala, if he weren’t a sublime footballer he’d be starring in a telenovela but meanwhile Juventus snagged the most highly sought youngster in Europe (after Pogba) and a triumvirate with the Cappocanoniere in waiting Alvaro Morata and Coman should lead Italy’s most fearsome attack.
The old lady looks like a hag in time scorched garb but underneath the Victorian façade lies the most titillating, spanking new spine of any of Europe’s G8, La Vecchia Signora is a disguise, infant genes course through those time worn cells.
Written by Cabral Opiyo
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