Remember that glorious night in Rome? A high, bouncing ball that Fabrizio Ravanelli controlled before slotting into the back of the net from a tight angle? The silver haired striker certainly enjoyed the goal, wheeling away with his shirt over his head in trademark fashion. Remember the penalty shoot-out? Four flawless spot kicks from Ciro Ferrara, Gianluca Pessotto, Michele Padovano and Vladimir Jugovic? What about those two incredible saves from the ultra-reliable Angelo Peruzzi?
Even if you forgot all that, do you remember what happened next? Luca Vialli taking the giant trophy and lifting it above his head, the sheer joy of the entire Juventus fanbase etched across his gleeful face. All around the skipper, his team-mates rejoiced. Many had been robbed of their shorts and socks by supporters at the Stadio Olimpico, keen to get their hands on as many mementoes as possible of a match that finally saw them triumph as Champions League winners.
Given that the only other occasion the Bianconeri had won that cup came at Heysel, it was a moment of validation for the perennial Serie A winners.
When Juve reached the final again in each of the next two seasons, it seemed the Old Lady would not be made to wait too long for her next victory, only for a stunning loss to Borussia Dortmund and a harsh 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid seeing her leave empty-handed both times. Pavel Nedved’s suspension from the 2003 Champions League Final then saw Milan win on penalties after a 0-0 draw, before Calciopoli sent the Turin giants into the worst kind of purgatory.
But from the hell of that relegation, a new dynasty appeared, one led by an Agnelli. Son of Umberto and nephew of the great Gianni, Andrea was born to steer Juventus to success and he quickly set about doing just that. Antonio Conte restored the club’s reputation on the domestic front, Max Allegri continuing that work while also making the Bianconeri a force to be reckoned with in Europe once again.
Just as Marcello Lippi did in the 1990s, Allegri has reached the UEFA showpiece while winning domestic doubles, clinching the Serie A title and the Coppa Italia in each of his four seasons in charge. Playing the Champions League Final twice in that time, he has found his team lacking in a one-off game against Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, an outcome that should not really surprise anyone given their continued dominance of football at the highest level.
Yet as impressive as that duo of Ballon d’Or winners might be, enough is enough. By the time the 2018-19 Final gets underway at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano, it will have been 23 years since Vialli’s magnificent night in Rome. That’s too long, and it’s time the Old Lady ended a trophy drought that began back when Gigi Buffon was a precocious teenager at Parma and has continued into his semi-retirement at the age of 40.
The iconic goalkeeper will not be the man to follow in Vialli’s footsteps, his time in Turin coming to an end this past summer and Giorgio Chiellini is now the club Captain. He is also one of just three players who have remained throughout this current era of domestic dominance, one which will forever be seen as a strong team steam-rollering weak opposition at home if it isn’t underlined with continental glory.
The time has come to end this wait, to be brave, to be bold and to believe. After a summer which has seen some truly surprising World Cup results as the traditional superpowers like Germany have been overthrown, anything is possible.
Of course, they still need some key additions, particularly in midfield, but there can be no doubt that this season is one in which they must truly aim to be great. It’s been too long.
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