Banned from Europe. CR7 suing. Endless debts racking up. This wasn’t meant to be their year but Juventus just might stake a claim …
It’s May 2023. Massimiliano Allegri’s trophy-less side have just finished 7th in the Serie A, their worst since the 2010-11 season. Fines and a 10-point deduction have already been issued by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), pushing them out of Champions League places.
UEFA are in the midst of their own investigation. The Bianconeri are marred by financial scandal. Accused of providing fictitious information on player sales and underreporting salaries and spending during the Covid period, allegedly inflating the club’s capital by €700 million. Yes, €700 million.
Following huge losses due to the pandemic, the club were accused of boosting profits in relation to 42 player transfers and claiming players had sacrificed four months of their salaries for the club when in reality they paid three of those months back at a later date.
UEFA would eventually follow the FIGC by banning the club from Europe for a year and fining them €10 million with the possibility of another €10 million dependent on meeting financial targets. It hardly seemed a recipe for success …
A Juventus defensive masterclass
Yet, after a 97th minute winner against Hellas Verona last Saturday, the Torino club sit 2nd in the Serie A, only a point behind league leaders Inter Milan.
Allegri’s side have a 2.3 points-per-game average, far above the 1.89 figure they achieved last time out and only just behind Napoli’s 2.37 total that topped the 2022-23 league.
No Europe and low expectations, after two trophy-less years (their first such experience since 1988), is a blessing for Juventus. Allegri, previously heralded as Juve’s greatest manager, could be about to become a hero once more.
The side’s defence has the solidity of Allegri’s best teams. Five clean sheets in a row. Seven in the opening 10 games. This despite a short-term injury to defensive stalwart Danilo. Centre-backs Bremer and Frederico Gatti stepping up to the plate in his absence, providing a wall difficult to penetrate.
They have given fans hope that the defensive dynasties of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci could finally be emulated. Allegri’s previous stint in charge from 2014 to 2019 resulted in four successive domestic doubles, five straight Serie A titles overall and two Champions League final appearances.
His 70.48% win percentage in that period is the highest of any Juventus manager in history. Since his return in 2021, that total sits barely above 55%. It has been far from plain sailing.
Covid-19 hit the Bianconeri harder than most, the club’s debt rising from €19m euros in 2018 to €389m euros by the end of the 2022-23 season.
Not only did this result in their own financial manipulations but also a desperate search for cost cutting. Their wage bill was cut by 16% in the 2022-23 season, operating expenses down by 9%. This reduced their pre-tax loss to a still lofty €117m but under half that of the previous year.
On top of this, Allegri lost his chairman Andrea Agnelli and the entirety of the club’s board of directors due to the financial scandals. Agnelli is now banned from Italian football for 10 months for fraud.
Juventus back in the mix
So, back in May, it all looked likely to be coming to an unfortunate end for the club legend. Corrier Della Sera reported in April that players were on the edge, “physically, we are in pieces.” This was blamed on Allegri’s increased demands.
How things have changed. His demands are now being met. A less packed schedule possibly reducing this intensity, allowing players to buy in. It is what they are demonstrating. A belief in the system.
After scoring the last-gasp winner against Verona, Andrea Cambiaso as well as several of his teammates posted the club’s motto “Fino alla Fine” (fight until the end) across their social media accounts.
A team united and increasingly daring fans to believe. If they can sort things out going forward – for instante, the club is currently only 7th-best in goals scored in the league – it might be more than just a flirtation at the top.
For a club with the likes of Frederico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic up front surely it will only be matter of time.
Then maybe, just maybe, Juventus’ players will no longer stand in the shadows of the giants of the club’s recent history …