Fan Zone: Giuseppe is back with focus on Juve’s transfers & European chances

Giuseppe Bognanni is back for the second segment of the Q&A discussing everything Juventus from club legends in the previous part to the Bianconeri’s transfer targets as well as European dream in the section below.  Feel free to share your opinion and ask us any questions you may have on Juve’s potential European run as well as the upcoming transfer campaign by connecting with us on Twitter @RamiSoufi and @BognanniG.

1) Juve built a reputation signing players for free. Who could be the next bargain signing?

How about Paul Pogba in July 2021? That’ll be a funny scenario. A full circle for a player Juve signed for free (only a small fee was paid per rules) several years ago. Just imagine Juve signing Pogba for free twice and both times from Manchester United! That would be hilarious!

Another possible name could be PSG’s Thomas Meunier. He is a useful player since the right-back sport is a weak one. No doubt Juan Cuadrado has given his best as a makeshift right-back but still it should be one of Juve’s priorities this summer transfer campaign to sign a full-back.

2) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? He has decent stats despite mostly being used as a substitute. Would you sign Jesus or prefer to pick Harry Kane?  

Both are quality players. It is difficult to choose between them as their game is very different. They bring different qualities to a team. With Douglas Costa leaving or consistently injured, we need to add a player who has the skills and technique to create something out of nothing. I think Gabriel would be a nice addition.

3) What’s your take on BVB’s Erling Haaland? Would you sign Haaland, or Mauro Icardi? Would you sign Barcelona’s Arthur or Lazio’s Milinkovic-Savic? And who’d you pick from BVB’s Achraf Hakimi and Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira? 

I wanted Juve to sign Icardi before they signed Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli. That’s how much I wanted Mauro at Juve as I believe the guy is strong, still young and a proven scorer. Still, Haaland is an upgrade on Icardi with at least 8 years more in the game than the current PSG striker. I go with the young BVB man.

For Juve’s midfield, I would love to see Pogba, Rodrigo Bentancur and Arthur holding the fort and combining together. If this is not possible then I’d choose Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fondly known as SMS. He knows Serie A, is just 25-years-old and still has tremendous potential. So I am going with SMS.

For the right-back spot, I think it’s impossible at the moment but I’d go with BVB’s Hakimi- he is reportedly heading back to Real Madrid. If I must pick one position to improve then considering Higuain is leaving, we need a true 9. Out of the 6 players discussed above, and this is going to shock many since Juve’s midfield is weak but I would still invest in Haaland.

4) Will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

Before the stop I was not confident at all. The Lyon game was awful and despite the quality game win against Inter, I’m not sure Juve was mentally strong enough to win.

Today it’s difficult to predict any result. France stopped Ligue 1 what means Lyon will not play any official game before the return match against Juve. It is hard to predict.

5) One team you want Juve to avoid meeting in the knock-out stages of the Champions League?

Juve and the Champions League is a crazy love-hate relationship. Juve were able to beat Barcelona and Real Madrid in the knock-outs in the past few years but not in the final! Something about playing a single-match to determine the trophy winner I guess.

Juve lost to a young Ajax team last season- that’s how unpredictable this Bianconeri side is. I would for sure like to avoid Atalanta. They know Juve, they are fast and have nothing to lose. Also, it would pain me a lot to eliminate them before the final because they have been this season’s true Cinderella story in the Europe.

6) Which team would you like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Juve have lost 7 out of 9 finals. It’s not the opponent that scares me. It’s Juve and the mental barrier the squad must overcome- not just the psychological aspect for the current players but also the history of the club failing in one final after another. It’ll depend on how we enter the pitch. If we are confident enough we can beat any opponent.

Fan Zone: Giuseppe on Del Piero & Trezeguet plus Juve’s weaknesses!

In the latest Q&A, Giuseppe Bognanni- a massive Juventus fan- shares many of the highlights as a supporter of the Bianconeri but also brings up one of the lowest points summed up by the serious injury to club legend Alessandro Del Piero against Udinese.

Giuseppe provides some expected answers but he also raises some intriguing points. Without any further delay, let us get to the main topics discussed in the Q&A.

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players. Why did you choose them? 

Alessandro Del Piero – Much of this has to do with this unique connection I’ve built with Del Piero. Now looking back, I can confidently say it is because we both entered the serious phase of our football at the same time. Del Piero as a professional Juventus player, and myself as a true and committed supporter.

I grew up with his skills, “alla Del Piero” free-kicks and goals. I remember wearing laces around my football socks as he did. As strange as this may sound, I felt pain when he was injured against Udinese. Seeing him fighting to come back was an example for me during my youth. I cried tears of joy when he scored against Germany in World Cup 2006. A few weeks later he proved himself again as a man of values, leading by example and staying at Juventus despite not knowing if we would be relegated into the third or second division.

David Trezeguet - Quando gioca segna sempre Trezeguet” which translates to “When he plays, Trezeguet always scores”… David is the foreign player with most goals for Juventus. I loved seeing him paired with Alex. When both were starting, I always felt reassured and I was confident goals would arrive. He could disappear from the game but as soon as the ball was in the area or let me just say “his” area, it was a moment of panic for the defenders. He was elegant and humble but also a real killer in front of goal.

Edgar Davids –  If it hasn’t become clear by now, let me just say Alex and David are above all the rest in my opinion. A third pick is always tough- Juve featured the likes of Zidane, Pavel Nedved, Marchisio and Paolo Montero… but if I am forced to choose then Edgar Davids makes it to the podium. He was an absolute beast. He had the Grinta of someone like Gennaro Gattuso but was way more technical. Remember the Nike promotions? Davids with his glasses on, his swagger… How could any young Calcio fan resist?

2) From the current team name your favorite Juve player by position (One each from DEF, MID and ATT).

First, let me just say that my chosen players are linked to each other despite not being from the same country and despite playing in different positions. All three arrived young at the club yet came with great potential- particularly the Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt and of course La Joya Paulo Dybala. Don’t forget Rodrigo Bentancur who represented Uruguay during World Cup 2018 and then in Copa America 2019 when he was entrusted with and duly converted his penalty-kick in the shootout (Peru would eliminate Uruguay on penalties).

DEF: Matthijs de Ligt. I am going to start off by saying Matthijs is my boy! He is the young and talented defender several of the big clubs wanted to sign. Without hesitation he preferred Juve over those elite teams. He’s already learning Italian which is also a sign he’s a smart young man who does everything possible to adapt to his new reality. Being so young and receiving so much criticism after his debut for Juve were hard enough to knock down many others but not him

MID: Rodrigo Bentancur. The young Uruguay midfielder was called the new Zinedine Zidane by my father. That should be enough, onto the next pick Dybala! He’s probably exaggerating a bit but the idea is there. I was at the stadium against Udinese and I noticed Rodrigo was impressive. Against Udinese (something about that team and Juve) he played his first game as a Regista instead of Miralem Pjanic. What a game. What a player. Bentancur showed the vision, defensive skills, forward thinking and fast thinking too. Overall, he rarely ever complains and he has accepted the fact he arrived young and needed to learn and work hard to be in the Starting XI yet he has not given up. He is taking his chances and impressing!

ATT: Paulo Dybala. Paulo has been at Juve for five seasons now and while he has had his ups and downs, no one can deny his immense talent. A times, he was not placed in the ideal position to shine. He may not have a great right foot, but La Joya more than makes up for it with an incredible left-foot. Most importantly, he showed many times how much love he has for Juve.

3) Most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Being a Juventus fan is great because you have a lot of victories to choose from. To my great misfortune I’m a Libra and when the choices are too many I start doubting. So as  a Libra I get extra allowance and therefore I am picking two victories not one!

Udinese – Juventus 0-2 on May 5th, 2002- It is so important because it represents our famous motto “Fino alla Fine” and more. Can you imagine Lazio beating Inter 4-2 but Juve not believing in a comeback and failing to beat Udinese? That would have been tragic! Luckily, we not only have famous catch phrases but we believe in them too- as a club, a squad and as fans!

Juventus – Parma 4-1 on September 11th, 2011- The wind was changing. A game plan executed so well that as a Juventino- and after two consecutive 7th places- you truly felt the club was entering a new era.

4) Name your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

I am definitely going with Juventus-Milan on October 2nd, 2011. The final result was a memorable 2-0 win.

It was my first time at the Juventus Stadium with my father, brothers and other family members. We played incredibly well against the title holders. Everything was perfect. The late Claudio Marchisio brace was crazy. What a remarkable game on all levels. Simply put, Juve’s back!

And seeing my father jumping from his seat and finding him 5 rows below, celebrating with Juve fans we never met before was crazy but unforgettable.

5) Pick two from Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, and Arturo Vidal for your midfield, and why?

People who follow me on twitter or YouTube know how much I love Paul Pogba. When you read Marchisio, I read Juventus. Still, if I must choose only two for a perfect 4-4-2 than I go for Pirlo and Vidal.

Pirlo’s vision, ability to find impossible passing lanes, his greatness at short and long range passing, his leadership and free-kicks are unparalleled. He gives you that sense of security and you know he’ll invent something out of nothing. He will come up with a genius move.

And what about Vidal? I say Vidal because the genius needs a protector. A beast, a player you always want on your team. Vidal has great understanding of football, is a fighter, the perfect box-to-box midfielder and on top of that he will give that 110% for you. He is the poster boy for Fino alla Fine.

6) What is Juve’s main weakness? Is it the right-back or left-back position, or the  midfield which is often mentioned as the squad’s Achilles heel? 

From the moment our midfield was dismantled it became one of our persistent weaknesses.

I also think we have great individuals but not a great team. Our squad has a mix of skillful and physically strong players but they have often looked incompatible together. One of the major problems we have since last year is the Dybala and Pjanic tandem. It just doesn’t work. Miralem can’t play in a two-man midfield. He’s not fast enough and misses the physical attributes needed to pull his weight on the defensive end. He needs to be protected by two other midfielders.

Dybala can’t play in a 4-3-3 if he’s on the right side of the field. He’s lost there and tends to wander and then veer towards the center instinctively a lot during the game. When he plays as a Falso Nueve or in a 4-3-1-2 it’s even more clear how the two can’t play together. As we miss creativity and contribution from the midfield, Dybala goes back to start building and creating himself. That means Pjanic remains in the back without any offensive duties- they create an automatic overlap in duties.

Look at this season, when did Pjanic play extremely well? At the start, when Paulo was benched. When were Dybala’s best games? Inter, Udinese, etc all games where Pjanic was benched or injured. That in my opinion is also the reason why both names are always rumored to be on the way out- perhaps one must go?

7) Who is the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

I think this one is a given and you should know by now that I am sticking my neck out for my “football career partner” Alessandro Del Piero! The Del Piero pre-Udinese injury (the dreadful date of November 8th, 1998) was the goat. The real goat. Remember at the time Serie A was the best any elite player could dream of.

Fan Zone: Elio returns to talk Juve in Europe, coaches and CR7

Elio Salerno is back for the second segment of the Q&A. In the initial Q&A, Elio discussed club legends Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero as well as current icons Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini.

This time around the focus is on the Champions League as well as Juve’s coaches and Cristiano Ronaldo. As we have witnessed from the first Q&A and earlier exchanges, Elio is generous with his feedback and he talks in detail about his beloved Juventus. Will this be the season Juve win the Champions League? And has Cristiano Ronaldo impressed enough at Juve? Elio discusses all the points above and more in the sections below…

1) If European competition returns, will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

Now that French football has been suspended I guess it is hard to say how this will play out. If football does return, will Lyon play the game? Will they be in a position to? I think so much has changed between the first leg and now. You would have to say Juve would do it because simply put they have to.

2) One team you’d like Juve to avoid meeting in the Knock-out stages of the Champions League?

I would have said Liverpool but they are out so I’d certainly go with Bayern Munich and perhaps PSG because of their pace going forward. They both appear to have the proper balance in their starting lineup, particularly the Germans. Aside from that, I do not think there is a standout candidate and again it will come down to circumstances- what team is in the best condition at the right moment.

3) Do you believe Juve will win the Champions League if they make the final?

Once they get there, of course they can win it. We all know Juve’s record in the finals. We have reason to be critical of their final performances in years prior to the most recent two. Reality is they were beaten by superior teams in 2015 and 2017- there weren’t any teams at the level of the Barcelona and Real Madrid teams at the time and even today.

4)  If the fee, club rivalries, availability etc are not an issue, who’s the one player you’d like Juve to sign?

What a question! I am torn between my personal preference for central midfield players like Frenkie de Jong and Toni Kroos. However, I would have to go with Kylian Mbappe. He is a phenomenon, a frightening match winner who still has years to come at the top of the game.

5)  What do you make of Ronaldo’s career at Juve so far?

If we say anything other than great then we are being too picky. It is easy to look at his transfer fee and wages etc. I expect the most but the reality is not even Ronaldo can make up for the gaps in this team. He has delivered on every front- on and off the pitch he has given the club what they need. There can be no complaints about CR7, it is a pleasure to watch him wearing the Bianconeri shirt.

6) Would you pick Antonio Conte, Max Allegri or Maurizio Sarri as coach, and why?

I would pick Mister Allegri every day, he is the complete package. He is the ideal representative for a football club, professional in his manner and an intelligent communicator.

As a coach he is adaptable, a winner and knows how to get the best out of a group, even if there are significant changes from year to year. He was unfairly criticized by many Juve fans, but he did what he had to do to win despite fundamental pieces being taken away from his squad.

In this first year at Juve, with a near complete team they played good football- enjoyable to watch and beyond that season he never had that luxury again. Instead, he was forced to adapt, yet still maintained a competitive edge across all competitions. He was an excellent coach.

7)  Who is your captain and his backup from among Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Paulo Dybala, Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic and why?

Chiellini is the captain and should remain the captain as I mentioned previously he is the ideal person and player to lead the squad. Next should be Dybala, I think too much has happened with Bonucci for him to have that privilege while Dybala has invested himself in the club, wants to be a Juventino and I think this resonates with the fans.

8)  Who is the best foreigner to ever play for Juve?

I would have to go again with Nedved for all the reasons I mentioned before. He dedicated many years to Juve and still has a special place and an important role at the club.

If we are talking all-time, then it is hard for me to assess the likes of Omar Sivori, Michel Platini & of course John Charles. I was never privileged enough to experience any of those legends and without having that connection with them I couldn’t separate them.

Fan Zone: Elio on Nedved, Pirlo, Marchisio and of course Del Piero!

In the latest Q&A, Elio Salerno- a football writer and contributor- discusses his love affair with Italy’s Old Lady, Juventus. Elio talks in detail about legends such as Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved as well as current stars like fan favorite Paulo Dybala.

Some of his answers may surprise you but Elio methodically proceeds to explain why he made certain choices- particularly that of Blaise Matuidi. Below is the first part of the Q&A:

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players, and why?

Alessandro Del Piero – This is the obvious answer for me. Del Piero is probably the name the majority of Juve fans would choose. Watching him when I was a young boy inspired me. He is the reason I support Juve. The person and the player were truly iconic and one of a kind. Obviously, the career he had also speaks for itself.

Gianluigi Buffon – This was a close call between Giorgio Chiellini and Buffon. I really cannot separate them. However, Buffon’s longevity and ability to play through different eras of the game while staying in the conversation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers sets him apart. It is an incredible achievement. He has brought so many qualities to the club over the years on and off the pitch. He has collected a large number of trophies and showed unquestionable loyalty even during the darkest of times.

Pavel Nedved – What a player! The level of intensity and ferocity at which Nedved played were admirable. He was a winner and a fighter but also had boundless quality with not one but both feet. A creator and scorer of wonderful goals, he is a timeless player & would be at home in the modern game. The Bianconeri could do with a player of his versatility now.

2) From the current squad, name your favorite Juve player by position (DEF/MID/ATT).

DEF: Chiellini – The captain, the leader and the squad’s foundation. It is a pleasure to watch the passion he defends with. The enjoyment he takes out of thwarting attacks puts a smile on your face. As a fan, he is the example you want at the top of your squad. I say enjoy him before he retires.

MID:  Blaise Matuidi – It is not easy to pick a midfield player out of the current group but, and surprisingly so, I am going with Blaise Matuidi. I am sure very, very few fans would pick him. On face value, Blaise isn’t the type of player I’d enjoy watching. I would not even choose to have him on my team but you cannot belittle what he does and what he brings to the table. Yes he has the obvious flaws but he is arguably the only Juve midfielder who offers consistency- he isn’t going to let you down and at the moment it is undeniable that Juve are better when he is in the starting lineup.

ATT: Paulo Dybala – La Joya has been a favorite of mine from the day he arrived. Yes he has had his problems in recent seasons but his love for Juve is apparent and it is a trait we all want from our number 10. Dybala’s name in the Starting XI always bring joy to my heart. The way he controls the ball so smoothly and can change the course of a game in one magical moment is the reason why we watch football. I hope Juve can build a more complete team because Dybala has more to bring.

3) Name Juve’s most important moment in your lifetime, and why?

It has to be the first Scudetto of the current historic run- it came under Antonio Conte. After everything that happened and everything that has followed this was a pivotal moment and a welcome, much needed success. It felt like the beginning of something special and it has turned out to be the case.

4) Pick your favorite Juve match, and why?

The return leg of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in 2003. Everything about that night was perfectly scripted except for the Nedved yellow card!!! Where to start? The Delle Alpi was on fire. That Juve team, the Del Piero & Nedved goals and of course the Buffon penalty save on Luis Figo’s attempt. The game had it all.

5) Pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

It has to be Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. Pirlo is unique, there won’t be another Pirlo. To watch him in full flight is football poetry. As for Marchisio, aside from what he means to Juventus and the fans, he was an underrated and superb midfield player. He was the glue in almost any midfield set-up, his versatility and ability to adapt allowed for others to shine and he was a huge asset to the coaches and the team.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Is it the right-back position or the midfield which is under constant scrutiny? 

The glaring weakness is in midfield and it has been since 2015. It is the primary area that needs addressing and needs an injection of youth and energy. Juve need midfielders who have a more complete game combined with strong physical characteristics.

Beyond that, do the full back areas need an upgrade? Yes but it isn’t a significant problem and there aren’t many great or available full backs in Europe so I would not waste time in that area unless it is to sell one who is already in the squad.

I also would add that Sarri must decide what formation he will be using going forward. Since it is obvious Sarri favors 4-3-3, I would say a creative attacker/wide player would be a welcome & important addition. A fit Douglas Costa is that player, but we all know his injury problems.

Juve must also sign a versatile striker to replace Gonzalo Higuain- someone such as Timo Werner who can play wide or centrally. Werner would allow room for Ronaldo to be Ronaldo.

7) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It is really tough for me not to say Del Piero. I can only comment on players that I have been fortunate enough to watch in my lifetime & Del Piero succeeded in every way. He has the trophies and the stats to back this up. He was a complete forward, scoring & creating goals, able to link up the game and take on defenders with a sharp turn or a piece of skill. Del Piero was strong physically and difficult to dispossess and he gave you a chance to win whenever he was on the pitch.

8) Who is the one player you would sign from Erling Haaland (STR), Arthur (MID) and Achraf Hakimi (DEF)?

That’s a tough choice. I don’t particularly have a strong feeling towards any of the three names. I would favor Haaland for the simple reason he is a player set to take Europe by storm. He has everything you would want from a modern center-forward and more importantly he knows how to find the net.

9) Juve built a strong reputation signing free agents. Who will be Juve’s next bargain signing?

I feel this is something Juve should move away from unless it really is a deal they cannot afford to pass up. These free players come with a heavy wage, older age and are not always a big enough improvement to really help the team. I would like to see Juve invest more in Italian youngsters but keep them, perhaps even allow room for players currently at the club such as Hans Caviglia, Nicolo Fagioli and Manolo Portanova.

10) What do you make of Mauro Icardi? His stats are decent despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you sign Icardi, Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane

I would go with Gabriel Jesus, for the reason I mentioned earlier with regards to versatility, a player that is not a typical 9 and can allow for Ronaldo to express himself. Harry Kane is a fantastic player, arguably the best in his role but similar to Icardi. I don’t see them at Juve whilst CR7 is still on the books- it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Fan Zone: Gregory returns to discuss Juve in Europe, Higuain, Tonali & more

Gregory Caltabanis- who covers European football and is part of the team @FantaCalcioGame- is back with the second part of our Q&A! This time Gregory focuses on the Champions League but also talks about potential transfers and Juve’s reputation as a top destination for free agents (this June- or whenever FIFA/UEFA decide the contracts ending in June 2020 will now end after the pandemic).

Let us get straight to the answers by Gregory!

1) Juve have a great reputation signing players for free or at a bargain. Who is the candidate to be the next Juve bargain?

Tough to say. I’m not a huge fan of the players available on a free transfer this summer, but I wouldn’t be against making a move for Thomas Meunier. We need a right-back and he would come free. I recently saw Bayern Munich signed Charles Aranguiz, which I think will be the Bosman move of the summer.

Beyond that, bringing back Rolando Mandragora could be cost-efficient. I also like Bologna’s young prospects such as Jerdy Schouten, Nicolas Dominguez and Andreas Skov Olsen. Riccardo Orsolini is definitely one to keep an eye on, but I don’t think he would come cheap.

2) Would you rather sign Erling Haaland (striker), Sandro Tonali (MID) or Achraf Hakimi (DEF)? Who is your choice and why?

If I must pick one, then I would have to go with Tonali. If we don’t sign him and he joins a rival, I get the feeling we’ll regret it for the next ten years. He is exactly what we’re missing in the midfield. Eventually, I’d love for us to sign Haaland, but he’s not a priority right now as there are plenty of strikers we can sign.

Hakimi is an interesting one as well, but I see him returning to Real Madrid this summer or next. If I had to throw in another name for the right back spot, I would go for Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira.

3) Harry Kane’s stats are decent despite being sidelined due to injury. Would you be for signing Kane?

He’s definitely a top ten striker in the world right now, but I would stay away from him if I were Juve. I just don’t think he’s a good fit with the current roster. His scoring record is very impressive, but I feel like he’s lost a step over the past few years. Considering the price tag he would command, I would look elsewhere.

4) Do you believe Higuain has proven he’s worth the 90m fee paid to sign him?

Higuain has given Juve two very good seasons and has scored some important goals, but I can’t help but feel 90M was a bit excessive. That being said, he was playing for a direct competitor and the only way we would have signed him was by triggering his release clause. Ultimately, we didn’t win a Champions League with him, but he’s been integral to our domestic success. Bit of a mixed bag.

5) If European competition returns, will Juve overcome Lyon? How confident are you?

100%. The first leg against them was our worst performance of the season, but I’m absolutely confident we will overturn this narrow deficit. All we need is one goal and the whole tie will change. We pulled off a bigger comeback against Atletico last season and I don’t see why we can’t repeat the feat against a Lyon team without Memphis Depay.

6) One team you’d like Juve to avoid meeting in the Champions League?

It may come as a surprise but Red Bull Leipzig. The Germans press intensely and are incredibly difficult to break down. While I think we would beat them over two legs, we match up pretty poorly against their style of play and would have difficulty keeping up with the pace. They’re deadly on the counter and I fear Werner could hurt us.

7) One team you’d like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Right now it has to be Bayern Munich. Before play was suspended, they were in incredible form and looked like the Bayern of old. With their European pedigree and deep midfield options, I get the feeling they’re favorites to win it all.

Atletico is another interesting one. We got the better of them this season, but I wouldn’t want to play against a Simeone-led side in a one-off final. We all saw how they eliminated Liverpool and could be extremely dangerous if play resumes.

Fan Zone: Gregory on Nedved, Buffon, Dybala & more Juve talk

Gregory Caltabanis is an established writer and reporter who covers extensively European football, but what matters for the purposes of this Q&A is Gregory’s unfaltering allegiance to Italian giants Juventus.

Gregory is part of the @FantaCalcioGame team as well! They run the most popular Fantasy Serie A Game, but for now let’s go straight to the Q&A with Gregory offering lots of interesting takes on legends such as Pavel Nedved and Gianluigi Buffon.

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Juve players (ranked by preference) and why?

Pavel Nedved: My all-time favorite Juve player is undoubtedly Nedved. One of the first games I saw as a kid was Juve against Milan in 2005 and all I remember seeing was a player with blonde locks run effortlessly down the left wing. Of course, it was Nedved. From that point forward, I always watched Juve and became a fan. The rest is history.

Gianluigi Buffon: After Nedved, I would have to say it’s Buffon. Buffon has been with the team since I’ve followed them and is the main reason I’m a goalkeeper to this day. Beyond saving countless goals, he’s a class act both on and off the field. I’ll never forget his save on Zidane’s header in 2006.

Paulo Dybala: The last one is a bit difficult, but I have to go with Dybala. I know he’s not up there yet with Alessandro Del Piero and other legends, but Dybala is one of the reasons I’m still passionate about the team today. He’s always respected the shirt and is arguably the first worthy number 10 we’ve had since Del Piero. I hope he stays with Juve for the long haul.

2) From active players, pick your favorite Juve player by position: one each from defense, midfield and attack. Why did you pick them?

DEF: My favorite defender is 100% Merih Demiral (Gregory says it emphatically!). Since he’s joined, I always thought he would be very important for our success. It’s a shame the serious injury halted his progress, but I’m confident he’ll come back stronger. Demiral embodies everything that Juve should seek in a player. He’s confident, plays with an edge and has that fighting spirit. I’ll be ordering my Demiral jersey very soon.

MID: It has to be Rodrigo Bentancur. I’ve had my doubts about him over the years, but he’s stepped up this season and looks to be evolving into an important player for us. Like Demiral, he plays with an edge to his game which I feel we lack sometimes. I’m looking forward to seeing him make further progress when play hopefully resumes.

STR: It’s an obvious one- Paulo Dybala. You really get the sense that he loves Juve and fights for the shirt every time he steps onto the pitch. It goes without saying, but his left foot is incredible. It’s just amazing to watch him play. Now, if only Fabio Paratici shared the same opinion, we’d be better off.

3) Your choice for most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Without a doubt, when we knocked out Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in 2015. While the win against Inter in 2018 was huge, for me the Real result announced Juve’s return on the world stage and showed the rest of Europe “we are back.” After all, we just took out Real Madrid. The final didn’t go our way, but I can’t recall a win I’ve celebrated more.

4) Choose your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

Against Inter and on their home turf just over two years ago. At times, it felt like the game and the title were slipping away but as soon as Dybala stepped onto the pitch, it changed everything. I’ll never forget Gonzalo Higuain’s goal to complete the comeback. Made it that much sweeter that it was against Inter at the San Siro.

IMG_1556

5) Where do you rank Sarri among the current generation of Italian coaches? How about among coaches worldwide?

I’d put him in the top five, but I wouldn’t rank him in the top tier of Italian managers at the moment. Conte is in a class of his own, in my opinion. Other than last year, I’d put Allegri in the same tier as Conte. Beyond them, I rate Gasperini highly but it would be interesting to see how he does outside of Atalanta.

Worldwide, I think he’s a top ten manager. If I had to rank them, I’d say this is my top ten: Klopp, Guardiola, Simeone, Conte, Zidane, Allegri, Nagelsmann, Sarri, Tuchel, Gasperini.

6) What’s Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League, or both?

Definitely both. When you have Cristiano Ronaldo on your team, the objective always has to be the Champions League. While I don’t think the team is well equipped for a deep European run, a player like Ronaldo can make the difference in a big game. It would be a waste of his final years if Juve didn’t push for European glory.

7) Perhaps a tough one here but pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

I love Marchisio and it’ll be hard to leave him out, but I have to go with Pirlo and Vidal. Pirlo is the ultimate Regista and is needed to dictate play. Obviously, it helps he can score a free-kick from just about any angle. As for Vidal, he’s your classic box-to-box midfielder and is not afraid to jump into tackles. Few midfielders impressed me more than prime Vidal and let’s not forget, he could score, too. Juve’s current midfield is really lacking his type of profile.

8) Where are Juve’s weaknesses? Some say right-back, others say left-back, or many mention the midfield. Your take?

It has to be the midfield. This may anger some, but Miralem Pjanic is a complete liability both in and out of possession. Juve can do much better in his position and I think they’ll look to replace him this summer. Blaise Matuidi is necessary to press and offer defensive support, but ultimately he’s far too limited. Remember his turnover against Napoli?

I think this Juve side needs at least two signings in the middle of the park and should arguably offload two or three guys (Sami Khedira, Pjanic and perhaps Adrien Rabiot) As I said before, this midfield lacks fight and demonstrates zero Grinta.

Of course, our depth at full-back is worrisome particularly with Alex Sandro slowing down, but for now, I think Sandro and Juan Cuadrado can manage the situation. Hopefully, Pellegrini comes back in the summer and competes for the left-back position.

9) In your opinion who is the best player (not necessarily your favorite) to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It has to be Del Piero. Record goalscorer and record appearance holder, few match Del Piero’s resume with the club. He’s won it all with us and has inspired many to support Juve over the years. At the height of Italian football, he was one of the best and led Juve to many trophies.

Del Piero set the standard for our number ten jersey and raised the bar for everyone after him. Perhaps Buffon is in it with a shout, but I have to give this one to Pinturicchio.

Fan Zone: Isak on Ibrahimovic, Romagnoli & other Milan topics

Despite his young age, Isak Möller is a knowledgeable and well-seasoned Milan fan. He is an integral part of www.sempremilan.com and you can find him on Twitter @Isak_Moller.

Below is the latest Q&A with Isak- again I cannot highlight enough how much of a big Milan fan he is! The club is struggling to win trophies but it does not mean the fans have disappeared! Here we go:

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Milan players (ranked by preference) and why?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: As a Swede, it would be impossible not to choose the big striker. I started following Milan (and football in general) in 2010, meaning the first season I watched in full ended with us winning the Scudetto! Zlatan was a huge part of this and we really missed him when he left. Even at 38 years-old, arriving for his second spell at the club, he has made an incredible difference.

Paolo Maldini: Although I never got to see him in action before he retired, it’s an obvious choice. The greatest players are never forgotten, and the defender is certainly one of these. Ever since I started following the Rossoneri, he has been the symbol for the red and black colors, keeping the club’s reputation intact.

Alessio Romagnoli: As mentioned, I wish I had followed Milan back in the day. But since that isn’t the case, it would be silly not to pick a player from the more recent years. Joining from Roma in 2015, Romagnoli has been one of our best players, keeping us from crumbling completely. He has certainly become a fan favorite, giving his all while wearing the captain’s armband.

2) From the current team, pick your favorite Milan player by position. Pick one for DEF, one for midfield and the same for attack, & why?

DEF: Obviously, I have to choose Romagnoli for this one as well. Although this season has been tough, the 25-year-old has continued to perform on a consistent level, which isn’t exactly easy given the number of changes made throughout the course of the season.

MID: Hakan Calhanoglu. Yes, I’m one of those fans. If there is one player that has divided the Milan fan-base in recent years, it’s the Turkish midfielder. You could argue that he’s inconsistent, but in my opinion, he’s a very important player even when he isn’t performing at his best level. Hopefully, Ralf Rangnick can help him improve further next season, should he arrive.

STR: Of course, Ibrahimovic. It’s no coincidence that the Rossoneri have performed a lot better since his arrival in January, seemingly elevating the likes of Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Ismael Bennacer. Hopefully, he will stay for next season as well, although it looks unlikely.

3) Most important Milan victory in your lifetime? Why?

I would probably have to say the Champions League win against Liverpool in 2007, getting revenge on the English side. And since it’s the last time we won the competition, it obviously makes it a bit more important.

4) Your all-time favorite Milan match? Why? 

It has to be the Supercoppa Italiana final against Juventus in 2016. After beating the Bianconeri a few months earlier in the league, courtesy of a Manuel Locatelli rocket, we managed to do it again against all odds. It was also the first trophy in quite some time, and although I watched the 2010/11 Scudetto season (I was very young), this win meant more to me.

5) What’s Milan’s objective for this season? Is it making the Europa League, or perhaps the Champions League?

As always, the objective is to reach the Champions League. However, looking at the current standings, it becomes pretty clear that the Rossoneri will have to fight for the Europa League.

6) Where do you see Milan’s weaknesses? Is it the midfield or are the issues defensively?

At the beginning of the season, I would have said the midfield, or perhaps even the attack. However, since Pioli changed the formation to a 4-2-3-1, everything has worked a lot better. I think it’s just a case of getting better players, which obviously is something that Milan will work on this summer.

IMG_1556

7) Different from ranking your favorite Milan players in Questions 1&2, who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Milan jersey?

I think it has to be Paolo Maldini. In addition to being an icon of the club, he has also become an icon of defending. I don’t think it needs further explaining, really, as he’s known all over the world as a spectacular player.

8) Who is the most critical player for this Milan team? Is it Rebic, Ibra or Theo Hernandez?

For the time being, I think I speak for the entire Milan community when I say Ibrahimovic. Sure, you could argue that both Hernandez and Rebic have done better on the pitch. However, you can’t deny the Swede’s incredible impact on the team, turning things around after a poor first half of the season.

9) Who should Milan sign realistically? If you can pick 3 players to strengthen the squad ahead of the next season?

If I can only pick three players, it would have to be one for each department. Milan desperately need a centre-back, in my opinion, and signing a player like Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic would make it interesting for the future. For the midfield, the choice is obvious: Sandro Tonali. The competition is fierce, but I don’t think we should rule out the Rossoneri. Up front, there has been a lot of talk about Gianluca Scamacca, who certainly is a name for the future. However, if we need to replace Ibrahimovic, I’d say Arkadiusz Milik.

10) Why did Bonucci and Higuain fail to impress at Milan?

I think it was a combination of many things. Let’s just put it this way, Leo Bonucci wasn’t the only disappointing player that season, although it must be said he was very good under the guidance of Gennaro Gattuso. In the end, he clearly just got homesick. As for Gonzalo Higuain, he’s no longer the goalscorer he used to be. In half a season at Milan, he got 8 goals and 3 assists. This season, with Juve of course, he has 8 goals and 8 assists. Considering he has played more games with the Bianconeri, it’s not much of a difference if you ask me.

11) Based on the above, would you sign another player from the current Juve squad if he’s made available? 

I wouldn’t mind someone like Daniele Rugani, although he isn’t a personal favorite of mine. Merih Demiral would obviously boost our squad, but the price tag is simply too high. That’s about it, though.

12) When football resumes, do you see Milan with any realistic chance of making 4th to qualify for the Champions League?

Not at all, but you never know! I’m afraid we’ll have to settle for the Europa League.

 

Fan Zone: Alberto returns to discuss Sarri, Higuain, the market and more!

In the second part of our Q&A, Alberto- you can follow him here @alljuvecast- discusses Juve’s weaknesses, coach Maurizio Sarri, Gonzalo Higuain and a few other topics! Without wasting more time. Here goes:  Continue reading

Fan Zone: Alberto on Baggio, Del Piero, Buffon and more!

As a big Juventus fan, Alberto is known for his extensive collection of Juve kits and for being extremely active in promoting Juve related events and podcasts on social media, specifically Twitter.

You can follow Alberto @alljuvecast and don’t forget to check out @striped_hearts too! Let’s not waste too much time and get to the exciting part with the Q&A below:

1) Who are your THREE all-time favorite Juve players, and why? 

Alessandro Del Piero: He really solidified my love and passion for Juve. He mesmerized me with his play and scored so many captivating goals and was an absolute pleasure to watch. With time he repaid the club with incredible gestures of loyalty- a value that is fading in the modern game but one that I admire a lot.

Roberto Baggio: He is the one who began my love for Juve. An absolutely and incredibly talented player- arguably the best Italian to ever player the game. My dad used to rewind his goals and watch them over and over in disbelief. I remember sitting there with him and then beginning to pretend I was him when I played in the yard.

Gianluigi Buffon: I was over the moon when we signed him and the rest is history. So many matches. So many memories. The absolute best goalkeeper in my opinion and one hell of a man. Another whose loyalty shall never be forgotten, specifically when he could’ve gone anywhere to play. So many incredible saves and his unforgettable reactions to defenders making a stop or our team scoring a goal! All of them are embedded in my brain forever. He is top class. We are incredibly fortunate as Juve fans to witness all three of them wearing our kit.

AlbertoCollection

2) From the current squad, please rank your favorite Juve player by position (DEF, MID & STR), and mention why for each pick?

DEF: My pick would be Chiellini. He still has this presence that is yet to be matched by someone when he is out of our lineup. The team did well while he was out but it’s not the same. We have done great by signing de Ligt as well as Merih Demiral but currently for me in defense Chiellini would be a go to in a crucial match if healthy. I can see Demiral as the closest one today to having the same type of presence and the one defender that forwards will dread having to face.

MID: Going with Bentancur. I really enjoy the way he plays. Head is always on a swivel and he is always looking to advance the play. Has a great engine and gets stuck in tackles too. He has the occasional sloppy fouls leading to cards but he is still very young and I feel his ceiling is quite high and I’m excited about him.

STR: Dybala is my pick. My personal favorite in the forward lineup as amazing as it is to watch Ronaldo in our lineup and to see him scoring goals (still surreal at times), I would still go with Dybala. He is so talented and fun to watch but even more importantly he loves the club and is proud to wear our kit, represent Juve and also the number 10.

3) Now onto a question many would like to hear your answer to: Would you pick Roberto Baggio or Del Piero for your team, and why?

This is killing me… and there is no wrong answer with these two, but if I could have Del Piero pre-injury I would pick him because I feel he would’ve been the one the upcoming greats would always be compared to. If you watch him before that injury- took him a year to recover from- he was a different animal. He had it all. The acceleration, pace, agility and he could kill you with creativity and distribution as well as scoring himself on top being an absolute master of free-kicks. A pre-injury Del Piero at a time when Serie A was stacked with talent, particularly defenders, was an absolute menace and I would take him.

IMG_1556

4) Dybala is having a solid season after a disappointing 2018/19 campaign. Where do you see him finishing this season in terms of total goals & assists in the league? And how important is he to Juve’s success?

I think Dybala would finish somewhere around 16 or so goals and close to same or just a bit higher on assists depending on game time. I’m not really sure what he needs to do to get in the starting XI on a regular basis. Dybala in my opinion is highly important to Juve’s success. We know our midfield has been a work in progress so Dybala’s ability to switch play and link up with the midfielders and other attackers is crucial as well as his own ability to finish given the opportunity.

5) Name your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

My favorite match has to be the second leg of the 2002/03 Champions League semi-final vs Real Madrid. This is one of my absolute favorite Juventus squads ever. That 02/03 squad had it all and could hurt you in so many different ways. That Juve side had to face an incredibly talented Real Madrid side on top of being behind to Real after the first leg.

Still, Juve’s players were not intimidated or going to go down without a fight and as talented and strong as a team the Bianconeri were, I think of how dominant Lippi’s team was on that night. It was still a little bit surprising. I knew my Juve could do it but to dominate them like that was unbelievable. That win in Turin. The goals and the celebrations were iconic and I still get goosebumps watching it 17 years later. Just an absolute must watch for any new Juve fan.

6) Which Juve win is the most important one in your life-time? And why?

For me it is the 1996 Champions League win. Despite how many times we’ve made it to the Champions League finals, you just can’t take it for granted and getting to see Juve win one is something that will stay with me forever.

7) What is Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League or both? 

I would say both and I think it has to be when you are that dominant domestically naturally the next step is Europe.

8) If football resumes, will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

There’s no doubt in my mind Juve will turn it around. 100% confident we are moving on.

9) Which one team would you like Juve to avoid meeting in the knock-out stages of the Champions League before reaching the Final?

I would like to avoid Bayern Munich. They were playing some electric football before the shut down and they’re scoring a lot of goals. They’ve found their groove and are scoring at will and have Lewandowski on fire. I’d like to avoid them.

10) Which one team would you like Juve to avoid playing if the Bianconeri make it to the final?

Not a single team. The next final Juve make, they are winning it all! Fino alla Fine, Forza Juve!

Five greatest football clubs of the past decade starting 2010

As football understandably lays low for a while let’s take a look at the most successful club sides in Europe’s top leagues over the past decade.

There are different ways of doing so, points gained for example in a league, trophies won, games won, etc. This list will look at the trophies won for the most successful teams starting from 2009/10 season until the 2018/19 season, to determine which team has been the most successful.

You may have a few contenders but may also be surprised by some teams on the list, so is the club you think is the best the number 1 on this list?

Points system: Champions League = 12pts, League title = 10pts, Europa League = 8pts, Cups= 5pts, all other cups =2pts

5th: Juventus 112 pts

After being forcefully relegated in 2006, Juventus have made up for that during the past decade in Serie A winning 8 league titles in what could be described as a total domination. They have added some domestic cups too but they have failed to win the big prize in the shape of the Champions League since 1996. They will be hedging their bets that Ronaldo can finally deliver that missing piece of silverware. Still they are far and away the most successful team in Italy. Even though Inter Milan were the only Italian team to win the Champions League in the 2010s, Inter only finished our ranking with 30 points!

4th: Real Madrid 116 pts

Real Madrid were amazing in the 2010s which included winning an incredible 4 Champions League and winning 3 of those in a row. That had not been achieved since Bayern Munich in the 70s! So it was odd that Madrid sit only in 4th place and only four points above Juventus. The reason is that for all of their European glory they haven’t actuallly won many domestic trophies in the 2010s. True they still scooped up two league titles, but for their standards you take out what they achieved in Europe and you almost get the feeling of could have done better.

3rd: PSG 121 pts

Despite PSG having no wins in Europe they have dominated Ligue 1 in France winning every title since 2012 except one where Monaco surprised them. They have won countless domestic cups after they were bought in the earlier part of the decade and have dominated the league ever since. They also have an abundance of very good players who are genuinely eyeing winning this years Champions League.

2nd: Bayern Munich 140 pts

Bayern did reach 2 Champions League finals and after losing on penalties, at home to Chelsea they made up for it the year after. They have dominated the league title in Germany winning every year except one and scooped up a few domestic cups also. For a club their size they would like to add more European trophies of course but Bayern still come out as the 2nd most successful club in European football of the past decade despite this.

1st: Barcelona 150 pts

Barcelona may have played second fiddle to their rivals Real Madrid in Europe in the 2010s. But they still won 2 Champions Leagues. They also have won 7 La Liga titles which is impressive given how they have had to fend off not just Real but also Atletico Madrid who enjoyed one of their most successful decades in the history of the club. Barca fronted by Lionel Messi one of the greats of the game have been the best team in Europe trophy wise finishing with over double the points of the most successful English team which goes to Manchester City.

Notable mentions: Manchester City 71 pts, Chelsea 68, Manchester United 51, Atletico Madrid 42, Inter Milan 30.