A ground breaking season followed by the loss of key personnel may signal the end of Juventus’ winning cycle, but as Luca Persico points out, they are not ready to be pushed aside.
Can anyone stop them? It’s a question that has no obvious answer. After four consecutive Scudetti, a run to the Champions League Final and a first Coppa Italia in 20 years, Juventus remain the benchmark.
The pieces that make up this seemingly immovable force have evolved over the past two summers, but the collective is strong as ever.
When Antonio Conte departed one day into pre-season last July and was replaced by Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus finally seemed vulnerable after three years of dominance. The change only led to an improvement however, with two trophies secured and a 17-point cushion in Serie A.
If the loss of Conte - a key architect of Juventus’ renewal - was a test of their endurance, then they have been pushed even further this summer. The departures of Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal leaves the squad short of some of the lynchpins of this run of dominance, even if an imperious defence remains intact.
To replace those players directly would be impossible and with Inter, Roma and Milan strengthening, maybe Juventus could finally crumble. Some mixed pre-season results offered evidence to strengthen that theory, but come the first official game of the season - Saturday’s Supercoppa Italiana against Lazio - Juventus reinforced their position.
Goals from new forwards Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic sealed a 2-0 win and for midfielder Claudio Marchisio, it was a timely reminder for those questioning Juve’s credentials: “It was a response to the noises that there were around that we were a team that could be at the end of its cycle.”
Juventus’ director general Giuseppe Marotta has worked smartly to help cover the losses and ensure the team’s renewed, but still retains its principles. Dybala, at a reported fee of €32m, is his only real gamble. The 21-year-old managed 13 goals last season, but his stint at Palermo suggests he may need time to settle, even if his debut strike suggests otherwise.
The Argentine’s fellow scorer in Shanghai, Mandzukic, is more proven. The onus is on him to be the main goal getter, alongside the promising Alvaro Morata.
The 29-year-old has hit 20 goals [in all competitions] in each of his last three seasons and is as much as a guarantee as can be secured for his €19m fee.
Simone Zaza further helps cover Tevez’s departure, while Sami Khedira - another of Marotta’s famous free signings - is an experienced and proven midfielder, who will give a different interpretation to Pirlo of the deep-lying midfield role. The only concern is his fitness - he's already injured.
Kwadwo Asamoah and the emerging Stefano Sturaro can cover him and the other midfielders who departed, but Juventus will hope to be able to rely on Khedira.
Elsewhere, goalkeeper Norberto Neto has arrived on a free from rivals Fiorentina. He will be Gianluigi Buffon’s heir, or eventually sold for a profit, while left-back Guilherme Siqueira is expected to be signed from Atletico Madrid and a trequartista - Schalke’s Julian Draxler is possible - is a priority.
Perhaps, Juventus’ best business has been retaining Paul Pogba. The France international has been handed the No 10 jersey and is the symbol of the team.
With the added responsibility, it’s hoped he will thrive and ensure the Old Lady remain on top - a position they won’t easily relinquish.
From despised to revered in 12 months. Not even Allegri himself could have envisaged having a better debut campaign. Now, the tactician must continue to succeed. Matching last season’s exploits will be almost impossible, but retaining the Scudetto is surely a requirement, as is remaining a force in Europe.
Wearing the symbolic No 10, Pogba is almost the difference maker by default. Touted as the next €100m player, the 22-year-old must now show that he's a leader. With Sami Khedira injured, the onus is on him and the excellent Claudio Marchisio to dominate through the midfield.
Paulo Dybala and Julian Draxler (if he arrives) may ultimately be more revered, but Mandzukic was a necessity. Carlos Tevez scored 50 goals across two seasons for Juventus and the Croat must cover that deficit. His record suggests he can, while he's proven in both Germany and Spain.
Brought back from Empoli, it seems Rugani will be given a chance at Juventus. His composure and elegance is a throwback to Italian defenders of old, while he rarely makes a mistake. With other options ageing, he may be drafted in earlier than expected at both club and international level.
Probable line-up: Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; KHEDIRA; Marchisio, Pogba; Pereyra; MANDZUKIC, Morata
Juventus remain the pinnacle. Those around them have strengthened and should ensure a tighter top six, but Allegri’s men will seemingly have to be overthrown, rather than collapse.
Keep up to date with all the Serie A transfers with Football Italia's summer 2015 transfer table.