A new dawn is upon us: Pirlo’s debut as Juve coach in 3-0 win over Sampdoria

Somehow unable to shake the ludicrous notion that the complete absence of any managerial experience could well lead to the players running around like headless chickens- basically a catastrophe. No chance, though I suppose it is prudent to at least harbor some doubts when diving close to fully and deeply into the unknown. And yet this unknown, which so many pundits have spoken and written of, is more a concept, than a logical appraisal.

All of the players in the squad know how to play football. They have long been trained by various managers, in various systems and all understand the flow and tactics of the game. None of them need to be filled with precise instructions on the eve of each game, to ensure they know where to run and what to do when they reach the point of contact with the action.

This would only matter if Pirlo had the ill sense to expect them to learn afresh a complicated system which had never been applied anywhere but the manager’s head. No, he is far from arrogant or stupid enough to make unreasonable demands. And instead – in the short time he has been with and had the squad together – he has effected some small but significant adjustments to a basic 3-5-2, pretty much kept the players in the positions where they are most comfortable and mainly focused upon building the enthusiasm and belief, the revival of hope and hunger, which came about merely from the departure of Sarri and arrival of Pirlo.

Perhaps that is a little too simplified, as we do have some new players in the squad, and yet largely this was the same group of players as Sarri was given to work with last campaign. Which is not meant to reduce the praise and value of the new recruits, more making a case for the the position that our issues last term – which I covered in depth and with steady despondency – were not solely or even mainly rooted in a lack of quality…

Player ratings

Szcescny: Hardly more than a spectator for the first half but was very much called into action late on in the second, making a series of decent saves, one of which was incredible, when a deflection of Bonucci was pawed off the goal line. His ability as a shot stopper from close range has never been in question. Would like to see him show more command of his box and regain that unerring concentration of the 18/19 season. 7/10

Gianluca Frabotta: A surprise starter with many including myself pleading for Pellegrini who seems set for Genoa and assuming that our old friend De Sciglio would be found on the team-sheet…but no, Pirlo pulled a surprise in selecting the 21 year old left-back who had made last season twenty appearances for the U23s in their league campaign and six in the march to Serie C Coppa Italia victory.

He began not gingerly but carefully, a little stiff perhaps to the occasion, as to be expected when making his full bow in such an important game. And yet as the match wore on he grew in confidence, began to get forward with more determination, put in a few decent crosses, even tested the keeper one on one. A steady and impressive performance 7/10

Leonardo Bonucci: I have long been a detractor of using Leo in a back four, adamant that his finest form has always shown in a back three. And whilst it would be wrong to suggest he was instantly back to his very best, this was a strong and positive step into the new system.

The goal he scored helped his cause and balanced out a fluffed clearance when he bizarrely aimed his head at a ball he could have chested and of course the unfortunate deflection which almost resulted in an own goal…other than that he was comfortable throughout, looked a considerably better fit with two other defenders in the rearguard when stepping forward and I swear I saw him get up the field and stay up the field as our highest player briefly! I up his rating from a 6.5 to a 7, not so much for the goal, but for a flick over a players head then lay-off which brought a smile to my haggard countenance! 7/10

Giorgio Chiellini- It’s superb to simply see him back and physically able to perform. I will retain my expectations of his body proving unwilling to perform week in, week out and be happy whenever we see him involved and in fine form as he was throughout this tie 7/10

Danilo: The Brazilian receives far too much criticism from people when he rarely does much wrong. Operating as a hybrid CBR he was solid, even threatened on goal and did not leave us short on any forage of the opponent into our read third. 7/10

Cuadrado: Preferable to see him higher up the field where he can be more comfortable and dangerous, Juan fared well enough. Nothing special and I remain hopeful that we can upgrade that position as he is our best there and his best is often well below what any elite side seeks to find on the flank. 6.5/10

Weston McKennie: As Pirlo mentioned in his press conference, ‘the american’ misplaced a few passes early doors, but regardless, put himself about brilliantly, tried to support and worked damn hard to defend the center. Was also a menace in aerial combat, made a few lovely tackles and for a debut, this was very promising indeed. 7/10

Adrien Rabiot: Happy to find the Frenchman picking up where he left of last season. Bossed the midfield along with Mckennie, the double pivot working well, made a few stray passes but seems to have such momentum, if a pass goes to an opponent, he is soon upon them to win it back. As good as we have seen him, clearly like every other player, enjoying the early reign of our new mister 7/10

Aaron Ramsey: The best player on the field from start to finish. Unbelievable transformation from lackluster, unfit, lost soul of last season to a world class attacking midfielder who was ubiquitous, absolutely outstanding in every area of his game. Combative, creative, dynamic with as much flair as grit…Even when clearly losing his legs after 60-70 minutes, he still managed to put on the assist for Ronaldo. It is a huge IF…but IF…we can keep him fit, he adds world class talent and technique and experience to our ability to create from deep, connect midfield with attack. 8.5/10

Ronaldo: Worked hard as always and was perhaps a little surprised to have so much of a supporting cast in the final third and whilst taking his goal very smartly indeed, as was the case often last year he missed a fair few chances. The argument of course is how many of those chances does he make himself? Still, hardly a stellar outing yet far from poor. 7/10

Dejan Kulusevski: I have been lauding this kid for months now, even going so far as to suggest he might prove as potent a signing as Zidane…not to suggest he has the same level, but similar in terms of for many a relative unknown, no fanfare accompanied his signing. And yet…clearly from last season and his form before at various youth levels, Dejan is a special talent. Operating as a CF with license to roam, he opened the scoring with a well placed pass of a shot into the box, then carried on creating openings, charging deep to make tackles, retrieve and move the side up the field intelligently and swiftly. This was a splendid debut for the kid who is likely to improve and can play across the front line and in midfield. Great head on his shoulders and wonderful technique in those big feet 7.5/10

Substitutes:

Mattia De Sciglio: Hard to judge but did manage to test the keeper and avoided any glaring errors – usual story with Mattia 6.5/10

Rodrigo Bentancur: N/A

Douglas Costa: Quick mention on Little Doug, who I saw lose the ball in our half, and just walk off in the opposite direction to the ball without any care of what developed behind him, as his team mates then picked up the chase to retrieve. I hope Pirlo noted this as it was in stark contrast to every other player who was involved and indicative to me of Costa’s attitude since joining the club. I felt it was insulting to the fans, to the club, to the new boss and to the rest of the squad

Merih Demiral: N/A

Overall I was very happy with the opening game against a tricky opponent. Far more reasons to be cheerful and to remain excited than to worry.

The new lads all showed definite promise. We still have Sandro, Dybala, Demiral, Arthur, Bentancur and now Morata to include in the mix so will likely only get stronger as a unit.

It is important however to note that without some last ditch defending and top notch saves we could have drawn this 2-2. For Samp had their chances in the second period, they had their period of pressure and forced us back and what I saw resurface was just a hint of calamity a step away in defense when hit with speed on the counter.

This is to be expected. We have not become a completely different team just by changing coach and with a week or two of training together. A period of adjustment is to be expected and there will be disappointing results. This is as important for the team and Pirlo to learn and build from as the victories and strong performances.

What I feel strongly confident of suggesting however is that the change in coach has made a significant difference already. In the energy, enthusiasm, confidence and freedom of the side. And this cannot be down to Pirlo proving already a tactical genius.

Yes, we must take into account the new players involved – Kulu and Mckennie gave much to gain this result – but 12 of the 15 involved had played under Sarri last season.

The importance of a positive human connection on emotional and mental levels is rarely given enough value in discussion. Many of these players love Pirlo, most seemed to despise or in the least dislike Sarri…Character is essential to lead. This difference has already helped us become a better team.

Briefly on Morata…

I was not particularly excited to learn of our interest in Suarez. Concluded Dzeko would be fine if a stop-gap measure when my focus is more inclined towards building a new side and identity. In short, I was very happy indeed to learn of Morata’s return.

The move has many critics which I can understand, to some degree, though do question what player these frowning Juventini expected us to bring in. There is no guarantee of a starting place (but surely the likelihood of considerable playing time) in a side which has a coach with no experience and was very much in a shambles late last season. Also, there is Dybala to consider alongside the heavy preference of Ronaldo demands in regards to his playing time and role.

With all these considerations, to bring back Alvaro, still at a great age, for a 10m loan fee and reasonable wages seems a great piece of business to me. I remember feeling saddened by his departure as he always gave his all, scored some important goals and ever proved a man who works for the team brilliantly. He loved the club and seemed devastated to depart.

His form for the other sides he has featured for since – Real, Chelsea, Atletico and of course Spain – is high level. He is nowhere near the failure some are making him out to be. Add to this his emotional and sporting bond with the club and I remain very pleased with the move.

Still feel we have need for a stronger RWB than Juan and the hapless (of the last TWO seasons) Freddy Bernardeschi, yet this may well be addressed. There is also the lingering rumors of Aouar amid further departures. The Mercato is perhaps not yet finalized.

Essentially, we have made some very positive acquisitions, began to move out the dead wood and have plenty of talent to come into the reckoning as fitness and sharpness is gained.

Our new adventure under Pirlo has begun strongly. Leaving me still bubbling with more youthful excitement than I can remember at this early stage of the season for many moons.

Forza Juve! And remember to follow Daniel on twitter @thegutterpoet

Juventus aiming for a magical tenth Scudetto!

They say that the more things change, the more things stay the same and although the world around us is evolving with each passing day, there is still a constant feature that comes from within the confines of Italian football.

A constant that is found at the Allianz Stadium with Juventus racking up a ninth successive Serie A title last season. Now there is a question that sits on everyone’s lips – can the Old Lady go on and make it ten in a row?

Clearly, there is no doubt that Juventus have been the dominant force in Italian football over the past decade. Although some have come close to bloodying their nose, the status quo has remained since the 2011/12 season with Juve being crowned champions at the end of every single season.

Depending on where your support lies, Juve’s continued dominance has either been a great thing or some scene out of a horror movie. Anyone who supports the Bianconeri be grinning at the prospect of a tenth consecutive league title.

Unfortunately for the anti-Juve crowd, another winning season for the Old Lady would mean more bad news for the rest of the top division in Italy. When you consider that last season’s edition of the Bianconeri was hardly a vintage offering, there is indeed room for the Italian champions to improve this time around!

With potential changes still on the horizon, Juventus remain the favorites to win another Serie A title. Former legendary midfielder Andrea Pirlo is now at the managerial helm- and his name could be etched into immortality at the end of the season.

It’s been a rather tumultuous summer for both Pirlo and Juve- one that has seen the 41-year-old earn a career promotion far quicker than he or anyone else for that matter, could have ever envisioned.

Although they are by far the superior squad on the domestic front, the Bianconeri have yet to return to the top of the continental scene with another disappointing offering in
the Champions League last season. This meant heads would eventually roll.

Even though Maurizio Sarri led the club to their ninth successive and his first-ever Serie A title, it was deemed as not enough by the powers that be. With their European exploits falling short, the former Chelsea manager was shown the exit door.

A decision that meant a replacement for Sarri had to come from within and even though Pirlo had only been appointed as manager of Juventus U23 nine days previously, he soon found himself taking charge of the first team instead.

While the appointment seemingly follows a recent trend all over Europe and one that has seen club greats return to take the managerial reigns and where the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United have blazed a trail, Juventus have now followed.

This means Pirlo either has the easiest job in world football or the hardest because this is a team of talented stars that some claim almost picks itself. On the flip side, it could also be far too big a task for the man who won 116 international caps for Italy.

Even though he was considered one of the greatest deep-lying playmakers of all time, his managerial nous is yet to be trusted and although immortality is perhaps waiting, his coaching career could be over before it has already begun.

Pirlo’s one overriding objective is to make sure the championship link continues. Should it break then whoever oversees the lapse in dominance in Italy will have to carry a huge burden for years to come. Nothing less than the Scudetto is expected. Probably more convincing and entertaining performances are expected as well.

Sarri was brought in to improve the club’s performances and to provide entertaining football because his predecessor Max Allegri had been a serial winner with the Bianconeri yet his last two seasons were marked by dull and unconvincing football.

The rest of Italy’s football fraternity is hoping that Juventus’ luck finally runs out and that this is the season when a new club is crowned king. At the same time, it is unfair to say that the last nine Serie A titles have been won by luck and nothing more.

Quite simply, this is a team that is superior and deeper than all the competition can provide. The fact that the Bianconeri keep winning, may suggest that the man in charge is not all that important as he acts as nothing more than an interchangeable entity.

Antonio Conte then Allegri and Sarri have all won the league title when in charge of Juve. This means Pirlo is up next and if he can secure the tenth consecutive Scudetto with some convincing performances on top of that, a bright future beckons for
both him and the club.

If Juve do get into double figures in terms of successive titles then who knows
at what number the streak will finally end!

Will Sarri’s first success at Juventus come in the Champions League?

Maurizio Sarri has suffered cup disappointment once again as Juventus were beaten in the Coppa Italia final by Napoli on penalties around a week.

Juve were favorites among the betting firms going into that tie at the Stadio Olimpico where it was Sarri’s former side Napoli who held their nerve better in the penalty shootout. The defeat in Rome marks the second straight season that Sarri has lost a cup competition in the final on penalties. In the 2018/19 campaign, his Chelsea side were beaten by Manchester City at Wembley by the same outcome.

Although the betting suggests Sarri’s best chance of silverware this season may come in Serie A, where Juve are locked in a battle with Lazio for the title, the Italian club could still win the Champions League.

Juventus 16/1 To Win Champions League

Sarri’s side are 16/1 to win the Champions League this season. If he were able to deliver Europe’s premier trophy, it would be an impressive opening campaign at the Old Lady.

Juventus have not won the Champions League since they were successful in 1996, beating Ajax in the final that year in Rome. They did reach the final recently in 2015 and 2017, losing 3-1 to Barcelona and 4-1 to Real Madrid respectively.

The Turin-based club’s odds will be much shorter if they are able to overcome Lyon in their last 16 tie in the competition. Juventus trail 1-0 after the opening leg in Lyon. Without an away goal at the Groupama Stadium, they have a lot of work to do when the two sides meet again.

Bayern Munich and Manchester City top the betting for European crown

Bayern Munich are the 11/4 favourites in the Champions League outright betting at this stage of the tournament. They recently recorded their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title so they can fully concentrate on Europe now.

The German club lead Chelsea 3-0 following the opening leg of their last 16 fixture at Stamford Bridge. Barring a huge comeback from the English side, they should reach the quarter-finals.

After a slow start this season, Bayern have been in excellent form in the second half of the campaign. Robert Lewandowski is the top scorer in the Champions League this season with 11 goals to his name.

Manchester City are next best in the betting for the trophy at 3/1. They are bidding for their maiden Champions League win in what may be their last season in Europe for two years unless they overturn their ban from UEFA. The English champions have Premier League odds available of 5/6 to go the rest of the season unbeaten as they have red-hot form since the return of the Premier League.

Guardiola won Europe’s main competition twice when he was in charge of Barcelona. He was hired by the English club to try and deliver the most prestigious trophy in European football.

UEFA have announced that from the quarter-finals onwards this year’s competition will take place in Lisbon in August. The final has been scheduled for the 23rd of August.

Fan Zone: Enrico returns to discuss Juventus transfer targets

Enrico Passarella is back to discuss Juventus but this time the focus is on the transfer market and the club’s potential targets. Enrico is well versed in Italian football and he methodically covers Calcio, in particular from the fantasy football angle. You can follow him on social media here.

Feel free to discuss the names linked with a transfer to the Bianconeri as well as other news pertaining to Juve with both Enrico and Rami Soufi. Check below for Enrico’s preferred choice among the summer targets (plus the names linked) as well as his take on who may turn out to be the club’s bargain signing.

1) Would you rather sign Erling Haaland or Mauro Icardi? How about Jorginho, Houssem Aouar or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic? Achraf Hakimi or Ricardo Pereira? Who would you pick from all of them?

Haaland just looks to me as a more complete player than Icardi and he is also much younger. He appears to be the perfect modern striker. Icardi would likely score a lot for Juve, but I never particularly liked him or his style of play to be honest.

Among the midfielders, while Jorginho would make most sense under coach Sarri, my choice is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who is the type of player that is currently missing at the club. It would also weaken a direct opponent and reaffirm the recent era’s tradition of acquiring the best players in Italy.

For the right-back position, I have been impressed with Hakimi when watching BVB, so I would pick him over Pereira. However, for some reason, I sense the Leicester player would likely work out better in Italy. He is still working hard to recover from a serious injury back in March 2020, but is expected to be ready for the start of the new season- whether in England’s Premier League or in a different league.

If I am to pick just one then I like Haaland the most as Juve definitely missed out when they had a chance to get him for relatively cheap although signing a striker was not really a priority in January and it would have been difficult to integrate him.

2) Juve built a reputation signing players for free or for a bargain. Who is potentially the next bargain signing by Juve?

I can see Juve’s management making a run on at one of the PSG fullbacks who are on expiring contracts, meaning Thomas Meunier or Layvin Kurzawa or perhaps both.

3) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? His stats are decent despite Pep Guardiola using him as a substitute in most games. Would you sign Jesus or Harry Kane if you’re in charge

Gabriel Jesus has ton of potential- unfortunately for him he has Sergio Kun Aguero ahead of him. He has everything in place to fully blossom once he becomes the unquestioned center-piece of the attack, either at Manchester City or elsewhere.

No doubt though, I would sign Harry Kane, who, with his physical attributes and skill-set, would have an easier time adapting to Serie A. I consider him one of the best all-around strikers. Having said all that, I do not see Juve pulling off such a mammoth transfer this summer.

Fan Zone: Enrico covers many Juventus topics including legends Buffon & Del Piero

In the latest Q&A, we welcome Enrico Passarella, a writer who covers diligently the Italian league, in particular fantasy football and transfer news. If you want the latest injury news as well as other updates regarding Serie A then you should give Enrico a follow on Twitter @Guardalinee. You will not regret it.

Check out the Q&A’s first segment below and read what Enrico has to say about legends such as Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and others. Feel free to reach out to both Enrico and @RamiSoufi on their respective Twitter account. You should scroll below and look for Enrico’s take on Juve’s all-time best player!

1) Name your 3 favorite Juve players, and tell us why?

Gianluigi Buffon: This is a particularly easy one. I was a goalkeeper when I was a kid and that plays a huge role. It is very simple, I always looked up to him and felt a strong
connection because of playing in a similar position on the field despite of course the gap in levels.

Alessandro Del Piero: This is another simple choice. He is an undisputed icon for all things Juventus. He is one of those star players who brought endless joy to the Juve fan base.

Giorgio Chiellini: I always loved his grit and charisma. I absolutely admired the way he went toe-to-toe with the best opponents while still setting the tone for the whole squad, particularly in key matches.

2) From the current squad, list your favorite players per position & state why? 

Among defenders, I am going with Chiellini again for the reasons I just mentioned a short while ago. I feel confident Matthijs de Ligt can and will fill the void once the captain retires.

In midfield, Rodrigo Bentancur is my choice. Juve can always count on his contribution, including his fair share of yellow cards, and he has shown exponential growth since joining the club. He already has about 30 caps for Uruguay.

In attack, it must be Paulo Dybala. He is truly a joy to watch when he is able to express himself and when he is in good form. I would add that he is a true difference-maker and I strongly believe he can still improve to get to another level.

3) Name the most important Juve triumph in your lifetime, and explain why?

The first Scudetto under Antonio Conte back in 2011 because it meant Juve were finally back where they belong after several difficult years. It was also an incredible achievement as the squad was inferior when compared to other title contenders. At the end, the players pulled it off, with much of it thanks to their drive and perseverance.

4) Choose your favorite Juve match. Why?

No doubt when talking about this one. It is Juventus-Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League in 2003 with the Bianconeri winning 3-1. Juve performed a remarkable comeback against a legendary team and the best Bianconeri players, Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved scored while our number one Buffon saved a penalty. So all the key players from that squad chipped in on that memorable night. I cannot stress enough how it was a truly magical night.

5) Choose two from Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal for your midfield, and state why?

I am definitely picking Pirlo and Vidal -both unique contributors. There is really nobody like Pirlo, who remains unmatched for the way he was able to pull the strings and dictate the tempo with his class and vision. Vidal was an animal in his prime, he embodied the fighting spirit of the club and it was a gut punch when he decided to leave.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Many focus on the midfield while some say it is the lack of creativity when Dybala is not playing. Your thoughts?

The current fullbacks are not great but the biggest issue lies in the midfield- an area that is too dependent on Miralem Pjanic from a creative standpoint. To make matters worse,  Pjanic has been subpar this year, and does not provide much scoring in any case.

Summer signings Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot were supposed to fix that, but the former has been too injury prone and the latter has yet to really settle in. It is another cautionary tale when it comes to signing free players as it can backfire too. I can see a major investment coming in to fill the gaps in midfield if Juve plan to compete regularly in Europe.

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

In the modern era I would confidently say a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. His achievements speak louder than all the words of praise any of us can give. In the past, I’d single out Michel Platini. The Frenchman achieved a lot on both the individual and team level while with the Bianconeri. Still, Buffon’s standing in the history of the sport should not be underestimated so his is a name we must always keep in mind. I am not going to single out one name, so I would let my fellow Juventini ponder on this point.

Alberto and the Striped Hearts Apparel: the story with a good cause behind it

At www.eurofantasyleague.com (EFL) we put emphasis on not only providing professional, prompt and quality customer service, but also trying to spread word, promote and contribute to beneficial projects to society. One such good cause has been initiated by Alberto who can be reached @AllJuveCast and who has previously discussed in brief some of his project’s key themes with Rami Soufi. Previously, Alberto participated in an engaging and interesting Q&A back in April which you can check out here.

Al2

The cause is linked to Italian giants Juventus and is the fruit of Alberto’s love, labor and ideas. While this may sound like a straightforward purchase of shirts having various Bianconeri legends on them, the reality says otherwise. It is a much more involved process with Alberto involving Juve supporters in picking which designs go to production and become the beloved shirts now being proudly worn by many Juventini.

AL5

The biggest positive though is the greater good behind this project. Not only does Alberto show his love and support for his favorite club by creating and promoting designs displaying legends of the Bianconeri but he also donates the proceeds to charities of his choosing.

Al1

Again, we cannot speak high enough about Alberto’s objective and efforts. Simply visit Striped Hearts Apparel and contact him to pick the designs you like. For a moment, this appears as if it works almost exclusively for Juve fans yet maybe some of the Azzurri fans would like to see their heroes such as Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo as well as some of the other legends who represented both Juve and Italy.

A big salute to Alberto! We encourage similar projects with a good cause and a positive framework. Keep going Alberto because those with the right attitude and noble objectives will most likely end up with the desired outcome. Forza Alberto!

Alberto returns to talk about his latest project born out of his love for Juventus

There is no doubt Alberto is a massive Juventus fan yet that is not what makes him a popular and well-loved person. It was a pleasure to have him in a two-part Q&A back in April 2020. In fact, just over a month ago Alberto discussed in an initial Q&A Juve legends from Roberto Baggio to Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon.

Alberto is also involved heavily on Twitter and social media in general. You can follow him on his Twitter handle @AllJuveCast. He not only focuses on promoting Juve and sharing his stories as well as trying to give a voice to other Bianconeri fans but he also has great giveaways including historic Juve kits from his tremendous collection.

Al1

In recent times, Alberto has taken his love for the Bianconeri a few steps further and mixed that passion for the club with his thoughtfulness and generosity. Alberto has helped design a plethora of shirts- obviously with a strong Bianconeri theme. When asked about his newest project, Alberto happily took time from his busy schedule to briefly discuss @Striped_Hearts and what the project stands for.

Even the designs which finally make it to the production phase are chosen carefully and are made available to the public- well, Juve fans to be specific- after a nod of approval from the Juve faithful. In Alberto’s own words: “the designs are voted for by Juve fans worldwide and only the most popular ones are then taken to production.”

This highlights what kind of person Alberto is. He is not only loyal to the club and a very ardent supporter, but he is also heavily involved in spreading word and sharing fabulous stories about the Bianconeri. However, as great as Alberto’s work has been to give a vote to the Juve supporters who at times feel disengaged or left out, his finest work is the fact this project is also a for a good cause on top of being a labor of love.

Alberto mentions that: “Proceeds of all sales go to a rotating carousel of charities I support as well,” and this in itself highlights his giving nature and his willingness not only to give the time and effort to further promote Juve and other club-related aspects but also a strong desire to help in every possible way. Politicians carry an agenda, Alberto carries the Bianconeri colors in his heart but also seeks to do good in the name of the club he loves.

Al2

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: 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.