Asked what winning six Scudetti and three Coppe Italia in his first seven years at the helm meant to Juventus, Andrea Agnelli quickly looked to shift the vantage point. “The true significance of what has been accomplished will be understood in many years time,” the club President told Tuttosport. “For me it is the foundation, a base on which to build for the next seven years.”
It was a response that said much about the Bianconeri and their entire focus; dedicated to winning now, but also on sustaining that success in the future. Mr Agnelli has clearly charged Beppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici with that mission, the two men building an impressive squad whilst simultaneously acquiring a plethora of talented youngsters who will hopefully be able to ensure that the team remains a dominant force as time marches on.
Yet for all those domestic victories, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Old Lady craves Champions League glory. And rightly so. Lifting that trophy would mark a major achievement given where Juve were a decade ago (in Serie B for those with short memories), but it would also raise their profile exponentially, catapulting the Turin giants into the truly elite group of clubs which in recent years has shrunk to just three sides.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are the benchmark, with the Bianconeri arguably currently stuck in a tier below that by themselves. They are better equipped to compete with that group than the likes of Borussia Dortmund or Atletico Madrid, but have seen their involvement in the Champions League ended by one of that trio in each of the last three seasons.
Back in 2015, Juve beat Real Madrid in the semi only to lose to Barcelona in the Final, while this past season Max Allegri’s men delivered a phenomenal performance to eliminate the Catalan side before capitulating in Cardiff at the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo and co. Sandwiched in between was the 2016 quarter-final loss to Bayern Munich, meaning the question of what the team needs to truly succeed in Europe remains unanswered.
The first requirement is undoubtedly stability, something which it seems they may finally have this summer. While it has been frustrating to watch each of those defeats, they have also been compounded by high profile departures as Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal left in 2015, followed by Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata 12 months ago. However, barring a ridiculous offer from Chelsea for Alex Sandro, it seems the current team will remain largely intact ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.
On top of that, Marotta appears determined to add the kind of attacking threat needed to unlock the best defences, reports over the past few days indicating that he is working to sign both Douglas Costa and Federico Bernardeschi. Those acquisitions would be a real signal of intent, and the limitless combinations Allegri could muster with that pair as well as Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Marko Pjaca and Mario Mandzukic would undoubtedly help push Juve closer to their lofty target.
The next item on the Old Lady’s to-do-list would surely be to add steel to the midfield. Claudio Marchisio and Miralem Pjanic are highly intelligent players who can work together, but they perhaps lack the muscle needed to knock those elite teams off their stride. Blaise Matuidi is a name continually linked with a move to Turin and he could certainly help, particularly as Sami Khedira looked out of sorts playing in the two-man midfield last term.
Lastly, once all those pieces are in place, it is a question of belief. Ronaldo’s second goal in Cardiff seemed to suck all hope out of the team, and Allegri needs to ensure that does not happen when they reach that stage again. Marotta and Paratici are working to ensure every other tool will be at the disposal of the Tuscan Coach, but without the right mindset, victory will continue to elude a team that now needs to cement their legacy as history makers.
So close to glory, this is a side that cannot continue to fall short. The Old Lady needs an injection of attacking options, a powerful midfielder and the kind of mental toughness she exudes when taking on a domestic opponent. Then and only then can Juventus hope to deliver the Champions League trophy to a hungry fanbase.