Friday 22 April, 2011 – Juventus were seventh in the table with little chance of Champions League qualification, Luigi Del Neri was the Coach and everyone was looking ahead to the next season and the possibility of a ‘new’ Juve.
So too was that day’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport. They ran a feature entitled ‘The future of Juve in six questions’ which, as the title suggests, asked fans what they wanted to see from the Bianconeri for the following season. In view of the results they published that day, let’s give a thought to where the club might be now if the fans had their way.
1. Luciano Spalletti would be the Coach
Fans were given five choices – Spalletti, Antonio Conte, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Mancini or stick with Del Neri.
Spalletti was the comfortable victor, with 33.7 per cent of the vote and Villas-Boas was second with 25.4 per cent. Conte – the man who did get the job – was only third with 15.5 per cent. Man City boss Mancini was fourth with 13.7 per cent, with Del Neri unsurprisingly last at 11.7 per cent.
At the time Spalletti had already won the Russian Premier League and Russian Cup with Zenit St. Petersburg. Villas-Boas, meanwhile, was on his way to completing a treble winning season with Porto.
2. Andrea Pirlo would have gone elsewhere
The man most instrumental in securing Juve the Scudetto in 2011-12 would not have joined the club had the fans’ views been accounted for. A huge 71 per cent would have preferred the outfit to find a younger player, with the rest voting to take Pirlo.
As it turns out, both sides have probably got their wish, with Paul Pogba looking Pirlo-esque at times this season, ensuring that the 33-year-old’s absences have not hit the team too hard.
3. Italy’s No 1 would not be Juve’s No 1
Incredibly, given that Gianluigi Buffon is possibly the greatest goalkeeper of all time, 59.3 per cent of voters thought it was best to focus on Marco Storari and invest the money from a Buffon sale elsewhere.
It is important to note that it was a season where Buffon was struggling with a number of injuries – he started only 17 games – and Storari put in some outstanding performances in his absence. Nevertheless, the lack of faith in a man whose ability has never been in question was surprising.
4. Alessandro Matri – the main man
A substantial 64.3 per cent believed the team did not need a ‘champion’ striker, instead thinking that Matri was the man they required up-front.
It was not completely unjustified – Matri joined the club in January of that year and scored nine goals in 15 appearances, and the purchases in the summer meant he was not conclusively ousted as one of their main guys, starting 23 games in 2011-12.
5. Neymar in Europe
A fantasy question, but given a choice of four players – Neymar, Karim Benzema, Javier Pastore and Alexis Sanchez – Neymar was the one fans most wanted to see the club move for, gaining 30 per cent of the vote. Benzema was second with 24.3 per cent.
In the end they did not see any of the quartet arrive that summer, but €15m Montenegrin Mirko Vucinic from Roma instead.