Can Juventus return to the top of European football?
Juventus will head to the Westfalenstadion with a 2-1 lead over Borussia Dortmund next time out in the Champions League, but may yet regret the wastefulness and lack of concentration that saw them miss the opportunity to build a bigger lead.
Speaking recently iconic Old Lady midfielder Alessio Tacchinardi stated: “I know the ferocity with which Juve chairman Andrea Agnelli wants to return to the highest level. In terms of history, tradition, stadium and results, Juventus are behind only Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid.”
If the Turin team (10/1 with Coral to reach the Champions League final) are to retain their prestige in the face of falling Serie A attendances, they must make bigger waves on the European stage.
Set to lift a fourth successive league title after establishing a nine point lead over closest rivals Roma, winning the Scudetto will not satiate the club’s hunger for much longer if they are to regain their place amongst the elite.
The potential for Champions League success will be key for Juve to keep attracting top talents, but the Old Lady have not lifted Europe’s premier cup competition since 1996.
It is a situation that needs improvement, but how can the Italian giants keep pace with Premier League and La Liga clubs of greater resources?
Juve may boast evergreen Gianluigi Buffon in goal, but Europe often provides faster and more physical tests for the Old Lady’s defence than Serie A sides. In that sense, rearguard recruitment could certainly do with an overhaul.
Luring veterans such as Patrice Evra to the club is not sufficient, and Juve should consider their backline as deserving of blockbuster signings as their offence.
Without Giorgio Chiellini, whose uncharacteristic slip allowed Dortmund the chance to briefly draw level last time out, Juventus lack real power and are susceptible on the break. Perhaps investing in top young talents and competing for the likes of Raphael Varane and Aymeric Laporte should rise up the Old Lady’s list of priorities.
Keeping hold of superstar names
There’s no escaping the fact that Serie A is not the draw for top players that it once was, back in the league’s 90’s heyday.
However, Inter Milan have shown in recent seasons that Italian clubs can still compete for the Champions League.
That famous Nerazzurri side subsequently lost key draw Jose Mourinho, however, and fell away from the pack. Juve must do better and resist the temptation to become a selling club.
Snapping up Paul Pogba from Manchester United was a real coup, but the biggest challenge will be to cling on to the France international, as other sides start circling.
The Old Lady boast two exciting and complete midfielders in powerful Pogba and excellent Arturo Vidal, who are understandably coveted by other clubs.
It is the powerful partnership of Vidal and Pogba, in tandem with evergreen Andrea Pirlo, that has seen Juve take Serie A by storm over the past few seasons and losing either would be a huge blow.
Tacchinardi also weighed in on this issue, stating: “Juve have dire need of Pogba, just like they do of Carlos Tevez. When you take them out the team, the whole team suffers.
“You don’t win games with the Tacchinardis of this world, but with those like Zidane. At just 21 years old, Pogba’s already doing stellar things. If Juventus can get enough money to buy three top players, selling him may be okay.”
This over-reliance on the likes of Pogba, top scorer Carlos Tevez and Vidal illustrates that Juve may need to become more of an ensemble, lest one of their big names have an off-day.
Champions League finalists and winners of recent years, including Inter, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid highlight the need for Juve to adopt an ‘all for one’ team-focused approach. Unless they have the money for a Real Madrid-style splurge.
A real top-drawer forward or attacking midfielder to partner or support Tevez, which is no slight on the reliability of Fernando Llorente or promising Alvaro Morata, could really provide the Old Lady with an extra edge in attack.
Should Kevin De Bruyne become available this summer, the Belgium star could prove a perfect fit, but Juve (outsiders at 22/1 to win the Champions League) would have to pull out all the stops to land such a talent ahead of their richer rivals.