A beast is rising in our midst. A black and white beast. A hydra that brings memories back of days past. Juventus is on the rise again and there are several reasons for the rest of us to fear it.
The last two seasons have seen Juventus plummet into seventh spot. The giant was languishing and both Italy and the rest of Europe looked on in disbelief. Now however the tide has changed, and while the rest of Europe might still think they look at a slumbering Juve, we who know calcio see that the slumber is long gone. That the giant has been awoken.
Juventus is a glorious club, but their ways to success have rarely been glory, trickery, and magic. Players like Platini, Laudrup, Baggio, Zidane, Ibrahimovic may lead people to think differently, but the true success of Juve in the last 30 years has rested on the sturdy shoulders of players like Conte, Ferrara, Montero, Pessotto, Tacchinardi, and Torichelli. Even two of the clubs biggest stars in recent years Del Piero and Nedved is and was humble workmen – albeit in Del Piero’s case are rare blend of workman ethics and star quality.
What we witness now is a return to those days. One thing is that Juve have a player like Simone Pepe, who’s heralded for his never failing lust for battle, his ”grinta”.. Another thing is that the whole Juve team seem like they have turned into frigging Simone Pepes. Gone is the cheese of Cannavaro, Amauri, Motta, and Diego, even if some of them are still lingering in the club, and extra Pepe(roni) has been added. The pizza has become much more tasty for Juve fans and slightly more bitter for everyone else.
We were almost getting used to see Juventus collapse massively. Down 0-1 (or up 1-0 for that matter) the players seemed to lose all faith in what they were doing. Balls were lost, in many ways, at rapid speed and nothing seemed impossible for even the most humble teams playing La Vecchia Signora. Now, with the arrival of old midfield warrior Antonio Conte as a coach, things are completely turned around. I think a lot of people underestimate who important mentality is in football on any level – Conte doesn’t. Everyone that saw Napoli lose a 2-0 and a 3-1 lead against Juve a couple of weeks ago can attest to that. There is absolutely no way Juve would have gotten a point in that game last year or the year before that.
Conte is installing faith in the players. Suddenly they don’t have to remind themselves and everyone alse that they are Juventus. No one in their right mind and with the smallest amount of calcio knowledge will doubt that any longer. Suddenly Juventus is more Juventus like then ever. Gritty, humble players like Chielini, Barzagli, Lichsteiner, Pepe, and Matri bring back memories of a not very distant past. Seasoned with some flair in the shape of Andrea Pirlo we have Juve of old. The player might not be just as good as Zambrotta, Davids, Nedved, Trezeguet, but the mentality is there.
While Juve are indeed glorious they are and have always been hard working men. In some ways Juve are the more succesful cousin of the Pro Vercelli team that won so much in the years around World War One. They are not the Fausto Coppi of calcio. They are the solid and long lasting Gino Bartali. Bartoli won Le Tour both before and after World War II. Not even the biggest war the world has even seen could stop him as he came back more seasoned and more dedicated. Juventus are about to do the same after a scandal and crisis that saw the club’s infrastructure demolished. It took a while, but now it seems like Conte, Agnelli, and Marotta know how to rebuild the much needed networks of steel and grit. Juve’s Charles de Gaulle seems to has arrived.
Unless something dramatic happens and Conte’s Juve suddenly falls to pieces as his former team mate Ciro Ferrara’s did, and this to me seems highly unlikely, this Juve is the real deal. There’s no Zidane, no Platini, no Zlatan, and even club legend Del Piero is parked on a side track, but there is Lo Stilo Juve.
Milan, Inter, Napoli, Lazio and any other team aspiring for Lo Scudetto cannot count on Juve’s downfall just because the players are Pepes instead of Platinis. With a wonderful new, and smaller, stadium and a dedicated home crowd this Juve is strong enough to win Serie A. Gino Bartali and a host of Pro Vercelli players will from heaven look on with pride. This is their Juve. The rest of us feel this growing unease of another Juventus dominance beginning.
Photo by superbriu