Ronaldo, Pirlo and the Problems at Juventus

Rohan Mathew

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After splashing out over 100 million euros on Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2018, the goal was simple for Juventus Football Club to win the UEFA Champions League or bust. The Italian giants had won seven consecutive Serie A league titles before the arrival of Ronaldo but had fallen short of continental glory including two final losses to Barcelona in 2015 and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid. 

Following a disappointing quarterfinals exit suffered at the hands of Ajax in the 2018/19 season, Juventus got rid of former manager, Max Allegri, who had led them to both Champions League finals in 2015 and 2017 whilst winning five league titles. His successor, Maurizio Sarri also failed to deliver the holy grail and was sacked a year into his appointment despite delivering league success. 

Juventus have a former player at the helm of the coaching team in Andrea Pirlo, and after their disappointing Champions League exit to FC Porto last week, it might be time to consider that perhaps their problems extend beyond the manager. Read full story at Kora Football News (Arabic).

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Failures of Agnelli and the current board

Juventus Football Club is owned by the Agnelli Family and Andrea Agnelli sits as the chairman of the club. Since his appointment in 2010, Juventus have won nine consecutive Serie A league titles, returning to the summit of Italian football after their relegation to Serie B in 2006 in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal that year. However, his leadership of the club alongside former club legend, Pavel Nedved has been brought to questioning in recent years. 

The decision to get rid of Massimiliano Allegri due to a perceived pragmatism in his style of play has turned out to be the wrong one. The former AC Milan manager masterminded Juve’s route to UEFA Champions League final appearances, where he lost to better teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid. Allegri however Dominated the local scene winning league titles and cups. His replacement, Maurizio Sarri was brought in from Chelsea after winning the UEFA Europa League with the Blues to bring a more attacking philosophy and perhaps, Champions League success. But after a disappointing second-round elimination at the hands of Olympique Lyon, Sarri was let go at the end of the season despite winning the Serie A. 

The entire Juventus board has yet to cover itself in glory in the hunt for Champions League success and must look at themselves if the club is to move forward.

Paratici and Bad Recruitment

Just beneath Andrea Agnelli and Pavel Nedved in the hierarchy of the club is Fabio Paratici. The former scout is Juventus’ current sporting director, and the recruitment of players into the club appears to be going in the wrong direction over the last few years. Juventus have failed to make the right signings in terms of supporting Cristiano Ronaldo in taking the club to the next level. Other than the arrival of Matthijs De Ligt, who’s one for the future, the additions have been subpar or average at best for a club hoping to conquer Europe. Juventus lack creativity in the midfield and can’t seem to find the right combination of players in the middle of the park to support both their defence and attack. The club has failed to properly replace the craft and guile Paul Pogba brought to the team before his departure to Manchester United. Although there are rumors of a return to Turin for the Frenchman. The dynamism of Sami Khedira along with the creativity of Miralem Pjanic, that saw them get to the final of the 2017 UEFA Champions League, are also non-existent at the club. 

There’s also the issue of an aging defence led by Giorgio Chiellini who turns 37 in August, and his longtime partner Leonardo Bonucci (33). But with the return to fitness of Matthijs De Ligt and constant improvement of Merih Demiral, Juventus might not need surgery at the heart of defence but a few additions especially in both full-back positions.

If Juventus are to get back amongst the best teams in Europe, better recruitment of players especially in the middle of the park is of utmost importance.

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Ronaldo and the conundrum of rebuilding

Cristiano Ronaldo might be the current top scorer in Serie A with 23 goals and still one of the best players in the world, but age isn’t on his side anymore. The Portuguese superstar turned 36 in February and would love to win at least one UEFA Champions League for Juventus before moving on from the club. Ronaldo’s win-now mode doesn’t offer the Juventus tone opportunity to do a full rebuild of the entire team. The Italian side can’t afford to waste the remaining time he has left with them on a long-term project, hence the need to go for Champions League glory at least one more time.

There’s also the lack of finances due to the ongoing global pandemic to consider. Juventus can’t appoint a new manager to embark on a total rebuild of the club’s playing personnel, as that would entail a lot of finances which is something they can’t afford right now.

The “Pirlo” Project

It came as a huge surprise to the football world when Andrea Pirlo who had earlier agreed to become the manager of the club’s Under-23 team was named the new manager of Juventus following the dismissal of Maurizio Sarri. The former Italian midfield maestro and World Cup winner in 2006, has yet to stamp in his mark on the team in terms of identity and style of play. And with Juventus struggling to defend their Serie A title this season, it’s safe to say the decision to hire Pirlo wasn’t the right one. Firing Pirlo won’t change the fortunes of the club instantly, but failure to win a tenth consecutive league crown might be the excuse the board needs to get rid of a former fans’ favorite.