Before the Juventus players had even set foot on the tarmac at Turin’s Caselle airport, talk had already turned to what the club would do on the transfer market this summer. While it is saddening to think that the historic accomplishments of Max Allegri’s men became a footnote to their defeat in the Champions League Final, that is the harsh reality the Bianconeri must face over the next few months.
“You're only as good as your last game” is a common sports cliché, and against Real Madrid in Cardiff, the Old Lady was found to be desperately short of match-winners. Eventually, becoming the first side to win six consecutive Serie A titles will see this team lauded, but right now that is the past and Juventus must focus fully on the future.
Thankfully, the men charged with making the decisions that will shape that future are aware of just how close they came to sealing ultimate glory. Allegri was quickly tied down to a new contract, a three-year deal that reiterates the club’s faith in the Livorno native while simultaneously ensuring that there will finally be some stability at Vinovo.
Indeed, it must be remembered that the last three years have seen Juventus endure incredible upheaval. In 2014 Antonio Conte walked out on the second day of pre-season training, while Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez followed suit just 12 months later.
Last year it was Alvaro Morata and Paul Pogba, but 2017 will see the management team allowed to adjust the existing side rather than rebuild a new one. That is perhaps reflected by the lack of activity thus far, Juve taking a methodical approach to a transfer market they must negotiate perfectly if they are to propel themselves into the European elite.
For a fanbase still tortured by nightmares of an unmarked Cristiano Ronaldo tapping home two goals at the Millennium Stadium, rumours linking them with names like Marco Verratti, Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi are exactly what the doctor ordered.
That kind of superstar acquisition will be essential if Juve are to go one step further next term, but so too is keeping hold of every major player from the current group. Leonardo Bonucci has dismissed any talk of a move to England, the 30-year-old having already committed his future to Juventus when Pep Guardiola came calling last summer.
With their big names all under long-term contracts, the only likely exits appear to be among the fringe players. Neto seems set to be replaced and will move on in search of increased playing time, his move to Turin at the age of 25 never truly making sense given the overshadowing presence of Gigi Buffon.
A midfield signing or two means that one or both of Stefano Sturaro and Mario Lemina will be surplus to requirements. The latter is reportedly closer to the exit, but neither have developed and improved the way their early showings promised they might, and Tomas Rincon has proven to be a more reliable and consistent role-player in the middle of the park.
There may also be new surroundings for two homegrown players at very different ends of the spectrum. The potential arrival of Douglas Costa and Patrik Schick should allow Moise Kean to spend 2017-18 out on loan, the talented young forward hungry to prove he is able to live up to the immense hype that has already built up around him.
Perhaps Paolo De Ceglie offers a note of caution on that front, the left-back set to turn 31 in September and finally ending his 22-year association with the club as his contract ends later this month. Few tears will be shed when his departure is confirmed, his career a study in disappointment, injury and seemingly endless spells out on loan.
De Ceglie’s debut came during the Calciopoli-induced campaign the Bianconeri spent in Serie B, a time that supporters will never forget, but one that the club has unquestionably moved on from in every regard. The future is bright for Juventus, who finally seem ready to enjoy a summer celebrating the players they sign rather than lamenting the ones they have lost.