Maurizio Sarri was much-maligned for saying Juventus directors would be ‘amateurs’ to judge him on one Champions League match, but he was ultimately right. The decision to sack him had already been made, regardless of the result with Lyon. That’s just as well, because the 3-1 victory over Manchester City proved Juve were hardly the only victims of Rudi Garcia’s ruthless side. That same Pep Guardiola who Bianconeri fans have craved for years, the one they maintain will end the Champions League curse, has wasted millions on the transfer market only to see Max Allegri twice get closer than he did.
Juventus are obsessed with winning this trophy, but they’re not the only ones, they are simply insulted more for failing. Have they done any worse in the tournament than PSG, a side that scraped past Atalanta in stoppages for their first semi-final in decades? Or Manchester City, with Guardiola unable to get them into the final four throughout his extremely expensive tenure? How many more times are Guardiola’s fans going to excuse him with talk of bad luck when the quarter-finals are always his downfall?
The arrogance of the media in Italy and England when drawing Lyon came back to bite them. This side finished seventh in Ligue 1, but only after changing their coach midway through and being without Memphis Depay for most of the season. It would be like comparing the Milan that ended the campaign with the one we saw lose 5-0 to Atalanta in December.
How do you think Kylian Mbappé knows what ‘Farmers’ League’ even means? It’s because he saw it so much on social media from arrogant twerps who wanted to make themselves look good to their mates. So when he tweeted that out after Lyon eliminated Manchester City 3-1, it was the perfect response to months of childish insults based on nothing.
The top four teams in the Champions League are from France and Germany, the divisions most often referred to as ‘Farmers’ Leagues’ by people who also confidently claim Aston Villa could beat Bayern Munich and genuinely believe it. People who say Kalidou Koulibaly is over-rated, but also that Virgil van Dijk is better than Paolo Maldini ever was. You know the type.
The Champions League has always been a bit of a lottery, by no means always rewarding the best team throughout the competition, but rather those that finish the season with the most gas in the tank. That has never been more evident than after a pandemic that saw French and German teams get significantly more rest compared to the Spanish, English and especially Italians in the weeks before the European fixtures resumed. Without home and away legs, it takes on the added frisson of a World Cup tournament, where one bad day can destroy everything and there’s no making up for it. Get your tactics or starting XI wrong, and you’ve wasted at least half the tie. How many times would Bayern Munich have to play Barcelona again to get another 8-2 result?
Nuance has been almost entirely eradicated in the age of social media, so it’s no surprise to see it have the same effect on football. Allegri was not a failure for reaching the Final twice, yet he is far more harshly judged than Guardiola, largely by Juventus fans who so badly wanted Pep to replace him last summer. Imagine the Bianconeri keeping Guardiola during his recent Champions League track record, having spent a fraction of what he did at Manchester City. It just wouldn’t happen.
Italian football fans of other clubs constantly bring up the lack of European success at Juventus as if it were some sort of ‘proof’ that they only succeed in Serie A because of help from referees. That is nonsense. In that case, how do you explain Manchester City and PSG struggling to progress past the quarter-finals every single year? Some clubs are simply better suited to the long drag of a league format, rather than the more focused knockout round approach. That doesn’t negate everything they’ve done in other tournaments, nor make their entire season a failure.
I even read some claim it’s irrelevant how well Atalanta played, all people will remember is that they lost. In that case, why bother watching football at all? Just check the results, make your judgment, and move on. That feels like what some people are already doing, anyway, and it’s not what sport is about.