Moments after Nicola Kalinic unintentionally glanced a header past Gigio Donnarumma to give Juventus a four-goal lead in the Coppa Italia Final, a shot of Milan Coach Gennaro Gattuso flashed across the television screen.
He was standing on the touchline, hands on hips, looking utterly crestfallen. It’s impossible to know what was going through his mind, but to hazard a guess, it must’ve been something along the lines of “How can anyone topple this?”
It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by millions of fans around the Peninsula and further afield. How can anyone stop this all-conquering machine that The Old Lady has morphed into over the last seven years? With four Coppa Italias, seven league titles in a row, four consecutive domestic doubles, and financial muscle that leaves all would-be challengers eating dust. If Juve were a superhero, they’d be Thanos from the latest Avengers movie.
It’s a dynasty never before witnessed in Italian football, in statistical terms surpassing everything that’s come before them: the mythical Il Grande Torino, Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan, Maradona’s Napoli, the Inter of Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho, and even the Juve sides of Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi all pale in comparison. The longevity of their dominance is staggering.
What has been lost by many, or willfully ignored - be they fans of rival teams or onlookers who merely see Juve racking up titles like they’re going out of fashion - in the narrative of this Juve-dominated landscape is that their success isn’t fuelled by Qatari or Emirati petrodollars, or by a Russian oligarch or an American conglomerate.
Their success can be put down to shrewd, strategic planning, forward thinking and perhaps most crucially, all boats rowing in the same direction. They’re the antithesis to the way PSG rode roughshod over Ligue 1. Juve have earned this supremacy.
What has set Juve apart from everyone else in Serie A has been the sheer level of organisation within the structure of the club. To be a little more specific, the proficiency at the top of the sporting hierarchy, from club President Andrea Agnelli down to general manager Beppe Marotta to sporting director Fabio Paratici, they all sing from the same hymn sheet.
It might sound absurdly simple and rather logical, but the trio all work together, along with first Antonio Conte and later Max Allegri, to work out a financial budget and identify transfer targets at the end of the season for the following campaign. Hardly rocket science.
Maurizio Sarri constantly bemoaned the strength in depth of the Juve squad throughout the season. Whilst it’s true Juve are now in a position to spend €90m on two wingers, it must be remembered this wasn’t always the case.
Cast your mind back to the summer of 2011. Milan had just won the Serie A title and Juve had finished seventh for the second consecutive season, and revenues were down to €150m. Club owners Fiat issued Juve a €100m loan to reboot the franchise, so to speak, in a bid to regain their position in the upper echelons of the league. Their most expensive signing was Mirko Vucinic for €15m, but their most important was Andrea Pirlo, who cost nothing.
Milan spent twice that amount last summer, and failed miserably at even cracking the top four, let alone challenge for the league. They signed Leo Bonucci from Juve for €42m, a figure the Bianconeri wouldn’t reach until signing Paulo Dybala in the summer of 2015, after four consecutive titles.
Inter spent just shy of €90m on Stevan Jovetic, Joao Mario and Gabigol less than two years ago, and none of them currently reside in Milan. Money is not the issue, being intelligent with its usage is.
Surveying the decimated Italian football scene, who’s in a position to dethrone The Old Lady? It makes for a depressing sight. Roma and Napoli in recent times have tried and failed – the latter admirably so – ultimately flying too close to the sun before getting burned. The two Milanese giants stagger from one disastrous season to the next, each taking turns in outdoing each other on the embarrassment scale. The city of Milan hasn’t seen Champions League football for the better part of five years, and both look aeons away from a serious title tilt.
What we are left with is one club that’s pulling further and further away financially, which in turn consigns everyone else to also-rans. Calcio’s best hope is for Roma and Napoli to build on, rather than dismantle, all of the good work that was achieved this season. Yet Roma still may not be out of the entangled web of FFP, and you get the sense that the Sarri era at the San Paolo is reaching the endgame, with players also leaving in tow.
One would be very brave to bet against the Bianconeri winning a fifth domestic double next season on Betting Sites. With rumours swirling around Turin of a mini purge of the squad in order to keep Allegri on the Juve bench, they could well be stronger than ever in 2018-19.
There’s always the relegation battle to look forward to.
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