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The story of ‘Il Capitano’ del Piero: 700 down and just 7 to go?

The final goodbye?

Zoom back in time. It’s summer of 1993 and  a dreamy eyed boy’s been signed up by the Turin giants Juventus from Serie B minnows Padova. That boy was Alessandro del Piero, right at the start of his great football journey with Italy’s most successful club through some incredible highs that  included a Champions League victory to some utterly infernal lows, none more so than the forced relegation of Juventus for the first time in their history as a direct consequence of the infamous Calciopoli. That boy has since progressed into a demi-god like existence for the fans having been the club’s greatest protagonist for the best part of two decades.

The legacy of Alessandro del Piero has already been defined at the Bianconeri, and his trademark runs drifting from the left and curling the ball past the hapless goalkeepers from the ‘del Piero Zone’ is sure to be a part of Juventus folklore for generations to come. Not that any of these seven remaining games- six in the Serie A and the Coppa Italia final would in any way affect Il Pinturicchio’s standing on the fans in the Curva Scirea or on the fans worldwide, but his recent form against direct rivals should warrant an extension if one deploys sane worldly logic, like the goal against Inter to seal the Derby d’Italia or the goal versus Milan to seal Coppa Italia progression and none more so than his performance against Lazio last gameweek. Each one of these contributions has been crucial in defining Juventus’ season this term.

The Legends: del Piero and Nedved.

It’s difficult to find words to describe Del Piero. He has been playing for Juve for about 20 years ‒ he is the history of this club.When anybody in the world says the word ‘Juve’, they have a picture of Del Piero in mind. I think that says it all.

-Pavel Nedved

Against Lazio, Juventus had earned a lion’s share of possession and had been the more dominant team on the pitch but the scoreline still read 1-1 as the Bianconeri seemed headed for another dreaded draw and that familiar sinking feeling. That, until Alessandro del Piero was brought in from the bench for his 700th appearance in the black-and-white of Juventus and in the cameo that he played, del Piero guided home a trademark freekick from just outside the area into the bottom left corner of the goal to break the stalemate and put the Bianconeri firmly in control of their own destiny of winning the Scudetto, what would be their first after the Calciopoli nightmare.

Il Capitano’s future has been in discussion among the Bianconeri faithful ever since Andrea Agnelli declared the news of this campaign being the last for del Piero, but never has there been a greater need of a contract extension for a Juventus player as there is now. Andrea Agnelli might bank on the ‘Agnelli’ in his surname or the presence of club favourite Antonio Conte as coach to evade the wrath of the fans if he does indeed gets rid of del Piero, but if performances were used as a retort, Agnelli is losing the battle and del Piero should be allowed to leave on his own terms in his own time and what is certain that that time is still a bit away as ADP continues to provide a fruitful contribution to Juventus.

That statement by Agnelli might have been a case of misplaced judgement and a too premature, and as the calls for the club to reconsider their decision regarding Alessandro del Piero grow louder, the very least the fans deserve is to know the reason as to why such a hasty announcement regarding del Piero was made in the first place. And even though, Beppe Marotta has refuted rumours about the signing of Milan duo of Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta in recent weeks but if at any point during the season these two were considered as potential signings despite being 36 years of age, why hasn’t del Piero figured in Agnelli and Marotta’s plans for next year?

I know him as a person and he is a great guy. He would still be very useful for Juventus, even if he doesn’t always play. The Juve directors have to understand that he still has plenty to offer.

-Luciano Moggi

It might be worth arguing that Alessandro del Piero might not be the same player that he was a decade ago, nor does he have the legs to play 90 minutes week in week out. But what he does have is the class that has helped him get at the very best defenders for the best part of two decades while playing for Juventus. Among a crop of profligate strikers, where none barring Matri are into double figures for the season, del Piero is that one impact player that can be effectively and efficiently used for making an impact by creating or scoring a goal late on in a game. His ability with the ball at his feet is what has still not been taken away from him despite his age, and that is exactly what Juve requires in the Scudetto run-in and would need in the Champions League next season, of which del Piero is a proven master.

 

As time passes by towards the start of next round of fixtures, the match between Juventus and Roma might be the last time that Francesco Totti and Alessandro del Piero, two galacticos of Italian football, are seen on the same pitch strutting their stuff, a shuddering thought for all concerned with the Calcio. As for Juventus and del Piero, come the end of the season they could well be lifting a famous double of the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia in seven games’ time, their first pieces of silverware since Calciopoli and should they look back, the man who turned the tide back in their favour was none other than their immortal hero Alessandro del Piero.

It would be del Piero who shall lift the trophies should they be won, and there would be no one who’d deserve to win it more than him for leading Juventus’ revival from the dark realms of the Calciopoli and the very least he deserves from the club’s hierarchy is to be allowed to retire on his own terms unlike other Calciopoli heroes- Cameronesi,Legrotagglie and Trezeguet who were all shunted out. Surely it’s time for Agnelli and the club to accept their mistake and let del Piero continue on his own terms for atleast another season.

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January calling, so what do you need Juventus?

Not many Juventus fans even in their wildest of dreams foreseen the kind of impact Antonio Conte would have at Juventus, at the start of the season.  Cut over to the festive period and Juventus are in a dog fight not for Champions League places but in a race for the Scudetto, at joint top in the standings, still to lose a game in the league.

The summer gone by was a vital time for Juventus, for it was a club trying to get back to its lost glory and several names were brought in to begin afresh after the disappointments of the last couple of seasons, the likes of Stephan Lichtsteiner, Arturo Vidal, the play making genius Andrea Pirlo and none more important than Conte himself who vision for a Juventus of old is seemingly heading for fruition. However, with a few holes still to cover and the impending Financial Fair Play(FFP) regulations coming into effect next summer, January is going to be a busy period for the Bianconeri. So who could Juventus buy in January?

In the current Juventus setup, if there is one area of immediate concern for the club, it is the left back situation. Paolo de Ceglie doesn’t quite seem cut out for the role after having returned from his injury which has resulted in arguably Italy’s best centre half Giorgio Chiellini being played as a left back. Not that the system hasn’t worked, but playing your best defender out of his natural position is not a long term solution. Sevilla’s Martin Caceres is the odd’s on favourite to be brought in for the role, albeit on loan or a permanent deal,  for his second spell at the club. The Uruguayan’s previous spell was quite eventful and the ambidextrous fullback still enjoys popular support among the Juventus faithful and would be heartily welcomed back to put Juventus out of it’s left back paradox and as a valuable add on, he would also provide an alternative to Lichsteiner should the marauding Swiss fullback ever need a rest.

Could Caceres’ return resolve the fullback paradox?

Staying with the defensive side of things, another name linked with the Bianconeri lately has been that of German international center back Mats Hummels, not that Juventus urgently need a centre half, but Hummels could prove to be a vital cog in the Juventus machinery should Conte wish to predominantly use Chiellini as a leftback and not as a central figure in defence. Hummels has only recently stated his feeling of being honoured about Juventus’ interest in him. Should a move be made for the German, it would be a long term solution  but would come at quite a steep cost.

The cheaper alternatives to a potential center half signing would that of the Brazilian pair- Rhodolfo and Alex. The former was continually linked with Juve during the summer and is rated as one of the best center backs playing his trade in Brazil, while the latter is much more established in Europe and currently on the transfer list at Chelsea after having falling out with his manager Andre Villas-Boas and would certainly play no more part for the Londoners.

The need for a center back is not immediate and certainly is not a pressing concern for the Bianconeri but a cut price deal for Alex especially who is quite experienced in Europe could be in the offing and one that would provide a vital and experienced alternative in the Juventus backline as well as the room for maneuvering to Conte.

In central midfield, Juventus has some of the best players in all of Europe with summer signing of Andrea Pirlo proving to be a master stroke and fellow new arrival Arturo Vidal adding the much needed bite and tenacity to the midfield. To complete the trio, Claudio Marchisio has sounded his arrival as one of the best players in Italy. However, the situation around the backup of the trio is more dodgy, currently only Michele Pazienza and youngster Luca Marrone serve as back up and at a club where three in midfield is a norm an addition should be vital for a title push.

Time to get your big move Montolivo?

The rarely accurate and widely off the mark rumour mill has linked Juventus with two midfield players in particular – Angelo Palombo and Riccardo Montolivo. Both are quality and both would be heavily involved in the first team action should a move be made but one potential hinderence for Palombo could be his reluctance to leave Sampdoria. He stayed loyal to them despite relegation last season and a big bid and contract could be needed to turn his tide towards Turin.

Montolivo meanwhile is not only a more viable option but also a more long term one. The Italian international would be available on a free in the summer and with no maneuvering available to Fiorentina his price would be low. In midfield, Montolivo would be a good alternative to Pirlo with his passing range and would with equal ease fit alongside him and the quartet in midfield would essentially be base on which Juventus’ success shall be built.

And finally, in terms of the attacking options, this ‘mercato’ might finally see the end of the much derided Amauri in Turin and former Italian internationals Iaquinta and Luca Toni both seem headed for the exit door as well, while Quagliarella’s fate hangs in the balance. Quite naturally Juventus would be interested in acquiring reinforcements to shore up their attack. Man City’s Carlos Tevez was briefly linked and would have been a key mix of creativity and finishing ability to lead the Juventus attack but with  the Argentine seemingly headed rivals Milan, Juventus seem to have their sight set on Roma’s Marco Borriello. How Boriello would be an improvent over the current options at Juventus is baffling but as the reports suggest, he might be the closest to signing for Juventus.

The season has gone rather well for the Bianconeri thus far, better than what most would have imagined and a few key additions in the January mercato could help give Juventus the vital push towards elusive Scudetto.

Simon(e) says, get me some super Pepe!

The name? Simone Pepe. His game? One that is based on team work, using his bundles of energy, staggering  work rate and the never-say-die attitude than on flair, fancy footwork  that you’d associate with a run-of-the-mill winger in Europe’s current  footballing climate. It is these attributes that he possesses that has often made him the ‘Jack of all trades’ for Juventus and for the Azzurri, but at the same time, he’s been a ‘Master of none’ in the eyes  of most Bianconeri, well until this season started that is.

In what was a summer of radical change at Juventus that saw a former footballing hero Antonio Conte take charge at his old stomping ground in Turin and with him began a new era of trying to return Juventus to her former glory. Pepe was signed permanently for €7.5 million as a part of that plan, something that was met with derision among Juventus fans and out rightly ridiculed by some rivals for paying too much for a player that seemed far from the quality desired in a Juventus winger, while some others saw him as a potential bargain tool to get a world class player to Turin. However neither of the two scenario’s have come to fruition though as Pepe has gone on and established himself as a vital cog in Conte’s Juventus.

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Big Match Breakdown: Juventus 2-0 Milan: Marchisio double sinks the champions in Turin

Juventus

  • Marchisio 86,90

2 – 0

AC Milan

  • Boateng s/o 89

The match had been tipped as one between the two sides that shall contend for the title this season, and despite the fact that the match might not have a decisive impact in the larger scheme of things, the anxiety before the game was for all to see, and it was a game that saw Milan’s prodigal son Andrea Pirlo(and also Alessandro Matri) play against his old team while as many as 6 Milan players- Abbiati, Zambrotta, Ibrahimovic, Nocerino, Aquilani and Inzaghi faced their old employers. Th clash was billed to be heavy duty and it was exactly that, but the result was just like the match had been, heavily one sided where in Juventus dominated Milan for large parts of the game with the ‘grinta’ that had been missing in the Juventus camp in the previous seasons now evident for all to see.

As for the match itself, Juventus came out aggressively right from the get go in a match that was the first realistic test of their title credentials and to reverse the trend of consecutive Milan victories on their home turf. The match began at a frantic pace, with both Milan and Juventus trying to seize the initiative but it was Bianconero Stefan Lichtsteiner who was the first to fire a shot at goal and Abbiati barely managed to turn it over before Abbiati denied Pirlo off a free kick just before the half hour mark.

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Serie A roundup: Juventus & Napoli dominant, Milan rusty while Roma & Inter bite the dust!

The much awaited Serie A season finally began at the weekend, couple of weeks later than originally scheduled due to a player’s strike and the subsequent international break. It was the champions AC Milan who kicked off the new campaign but had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Rome based Lazio.

Calcio Returns!

Elsewhere, there was enthusiasm and a massive sense of joy in Turin as Juventus welcomed Parma to their newly inaugurated stadium for the first game of the season.

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Juventus: New stadium, New warriors and a return to old glory?

A season of massive disappointment for the Turin giant’s last campaign resulted in what was a summer of inclement change, full of transfer activity inwards and outwards of the club. Last season was every bit as disappointing as the one before it, despite the radical changes that had been made in the upper echelons of the Juventus management. The fabled Agnelli name returned to Juventus last summer with the arrival of Andrea Agnelli as the chairman who appointed Beppe Marotta as the Director of Sport.

Antionio Conte- A Juventus Legend. Can he lead the Old Lady's Renaissance as a Coach?
Antionio Conte- A Juventus Legend. Can he lead the Old Lady's Renaissance as a Coach?

But it was far from a rosy story for the ‘Old Lady’ who endured another year of pain and despair failing from Scudetto contenders to Champions League hopefuls to Europa League seekers to eventually missing out on Europe altogether. However, this summer was Beppe Marotta’s shot at salvation, to correct all that had been wronged at Juventus all this while and to cover up the numerous chinks in the Old Lady’s footballing armor. What Marotta had failed in doing last year was to set up a base for Juventus’ future endeavors and after having been back to square one, that is what he set out to do once again in this season’s ‘mercato’.  His task was simple, find solutions to the incredibly evident flaws in the team and to buy world class players to take Juventus to the next level and try to challenge the Milan twins and Napoli for the Champions League places.

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Juventus: In the Shadow of Greatness of the Immortal Gaetano Scirea

Football, a sport in which the result of a match hinges entirely on the number of goals that a team scores and yet as the popular saying goes, that while striker might win you games, it is the defenders that win you the titles and the trophies. And when it comes to the defensive side of football- it’s all about Italy and their long line of fabled defenders. Hence, it is anything but surprising that the greatest defender the world has ever seen came from the land of the greatest defense in football- the Italian peninsula.

Still in his shadow of greatness?

The name? Gaetano Scirea, a legend so great that he’s been revered for generations and his shadow of greatness touched upon nearly every Italian defender who has since donned the colours of the ‘La Nazionale’, so much so that Paolo Maldini, a legend in his own right, grew up idolizing Scirea. As a player, he was as calm and collected as they came, yet so incredibly talented and strong in the challenges that the best of forwards would wish to avoid playing against him. What made him even better was his affection for fellow players, never wished anyone any ill luck or made any rash tackles like his partner Claudio Gentile. There was a reason why he was arguably the football’s greatest gentleman. He lived for Juventus, loyal to the core, fighting and giving it his all on the pitch, and he achieved some astounding results too. But it was on this sad day, September-03, that he died 22 years ago in an unforgettable tragedy just months after his retirement. He died just as he had lived, for Juventus, as he became a victim of a car crash in Poland while scouting Juventus’ opponents for a UEFA Cup match.
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Player Co-ownerships and how they work in Italian Football.

There has been for long a sense of bewilderment among people from outside the Calcio circles about the co-ownership of players, very prevalent in Italy’s Serie-A, actually work. The recent blooper by Bologna’s Director General Stefano Pedrelli during the blind auction to settle the co-ownership of Italian NT’s no.2 goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano has served to bring back a bit of limelight on the confusing rules regarding co-ownerships in Italy.

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