It Ain’t Over Till The Old Lady Sings; Bring On Barcelona
The most successful club in Italian football history, the most followed club in Italy.
‘The Old Lady’ as they are called by fans have won thirty two league titles, the most in Italy.
Juventus could complete a treble this season when they face Barcelona in the Champions League final, having already won the Seria A and Coppa Italia.
This at a time when Italian football is going through the worst phase in its history.
2 Italian giants AC Milan and Internazional struggle to even qualify for European football, the fans of Italian football not just in Italy but around the world look to Juventus with hope.
A hope that it will rejuvenate the brand ‘Seria A’. Once the top most league in Europe, now number 4 in Uefa’s league ranking list.
On 4 July 2006, the Italian Football Federation’s prosecutor, Stefano Palazzi, called for all four clubs at the centre of the scandal to be thrown out of Serie A. Palazzi called for Juventus to drop to at least Serie C1 and for Fiorentina and Lazio to at least Serie B. The prosecutor also called for Juventus to be stripped of its 2005 and 2006 titles.
Though Juventus climbed back upto Seria A the following season, but lost on some key players Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, and Zlatan Ibrahimović.
But it marked the end of Italian dominance over European football.
Juventus re-invented themselves in 2011, when they moved to the Juventus stadium, but Milan and Inter didn’t.
How did this happen? As recently as 2010-11, these were the best two teams in the country, Milan nudging Inter into second place as they ended their rivals’ run of five consecutive domestic titles. One year earlier, the Nerazzurri had become the first Italian team ever to win the treble.
For Internazionale, that was the beginning of the end of an era. The side that won the 2010 Champions League had an average age of close to 30 years old, and would bid farewell to their manager, José Mourinho, immediately afterwards. Over the years that followed, the likes of Javier Zanetti, Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder would move on or melt away into retirement.
Poor management by club owners, short-term gain over rivals.
No attention was paid on improvement of infrastructure, match-day-revenue was ignored and over reliance on sponsors led to the decline in cash flow.
The owners of Italian clubs in this era tended to treat the clubs as an accessory and not as a business. The clubs rarely owned their own grounds.
And just when the world thought Italian football was all but dead, Juventus became the saviour.
Stripped of the previous 2 Serie A titles and relegated to Serie B because of their involvement in the worst fixing scandal to have hit football till date, Juventus looked down and out in 2006.
Their revenue became negligible compared to other European superpowers, and it was proving to be difficult for them to even pay wages. Some players did leave. But the core of the team did not.
Juventus won the Seria B, and finished 2nd in the Seria A the following season.
Antonio Conte was appointed as the manager. And the revival started. With young players like Claudio Marchisio, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini maturing, and Buffon, like all great goalkeepers getting better with age, Juventus had a base. Add to that a few brilliant signings in Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez and Andrea Pirlo, and suddenly Juventus became the team to beat in Italy.
Juventus have won 4 league titles in a row, and still being undermined by experts, the sleeping giants out-played Real Madrid for 180 minutes in two legs.
All said and done, ‘The Old Lady’ could very well turn the tides on the mighty Barcelona on June 6.