After achieving so much and with more success on its way, Jeremy Lim ponders whether Juventus can take the next steps to remain top of the pile.
The dates are slowly but surely being struck off the calendar as Juventus continue their inexorable push to a memorable finish at the end of the season. As things stand, the Bianconeri are well underway to clinching a historic treble of Scudetti and lofting their first European trophy in almost two decades.
Fires lit in the team by Antonio Conte still inspire feats well into a third term in charge, as the Italian champions single-mindedly collect win after win. Exhaustion and injuries have not diminished the 44-year-old’s ability to draw on the individual heroics of his players to great reliability either, even when the 2-0 victory at Udinese was Juve’s 48th game this term.
Adversity just seems to drive the club on. In fact, the Turin juggernaut so emphatically threaten to do the double that no one has felt inclined to ask yet - what happens after?
On the heels of the current campaign’s epic heights, risk of stagnation is a consideration that has failed to infiltrate the minds of many of the club faithful. Whilst it is remote, given the current crop of players residing at Vinovo, their latest triumphs could mean a tipping point in terms of their growth. Can they cement their transformation into a member of Europe’s elite here on? Or will they lament falling by the wayside as Inter were guilty of at the turn of the decade, after years of domestic dominance and the last hurrah that was the treble?
Signs are encouraging, however. Even in the midst of a milestone season, Conte sees fit to stress how Juve cannot take their foot off the pedal, citing their dismal record before he took over: “Anyone who thinks everything is easy just because we are Juventus is deeply wrong. There is always a journey to go through. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground and not forget three years ago this team wasn’t even in the Europa League.”
Present or future, he’s rightfully aware of the dangers a dip in appetite, regardless of silverware, poses. The message that the outfit must never grow too used to being on top is best heeded. Were Conte to lose the ability to will his men to their successes or the squad less than completely ingrained with his winning mentality then they may have faltered by now, as Gianluigi Buffon confirms.
“He has brought a lot this year on a motivational level, because it can be argued that after two Scudetti, the third is not so clear cut, because in some groups there can be a sense of fulfilment that can only cause issues,” the goalkeeper said.
While the Coach’s input is fundamental in that regard, so have latest imports Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente turned out to be. Securing new blood has been vital to boosting the competitive edge enjoyed in recent campaigns and ensuring Juventus maintain the drive to move on to new plains. It is the reason Buffon also places unreserved faith in the management’s ability to navigate what may be the biggest close season of upheaval in recent times - a period that may even see the departure of Paul Pogba abroad in a mega transfer deal.
“I also say that the directors at Juventus, together with the President, have always made very prudent decisions and have hardly put a step wrong. That will again be the case this time,” the captain insisted. If the club can likewise transmit such assurances when it comes time to bestow Buffon’s and Andrea Pirlo’s heirs at the end of their illustrious Turin careers, then transition to the future will be made all the more smoother.
There is certainty the Old Lady’s resolve will be tested incessantly on the transfer front and on the pitch in the months following this remarkable season. Yet there is equal assurance resting on her laurels is not part of Juventus’ agenda ahead, and that will prove to be their strongest tonic moving on. Their climb does not stop here.