Smack on the heels of a new season, it appears that Juventus are well prepared to tackle the rigours of the upcoming ten months. August has only just begun and new signings Medhi Benatia, Marko Pjaca, Dani Alves, Miralem Pjanić and, last but not least, Gonzalo Higuaín have joined up with the Italian Champions. These acquisitions clearly point to a statement of intent and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that manager Massimiliano “Max” Allegri has his sights set on the holy grail of Europe, the Champions League. What are the chances of Juve reclaiming a trophy that has eluded them for 20 years?
Off the bat, the Serie A is a non-entity. 5 years with 5 trophies on the trot simply means that there is nothing left to prove where Juventus’ domestic dominance is concerned. After what we can call a hiccup following the departure of key players in Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo, Juventus endured staunch growing pains which saw challengers Inter Milan and Napoli take the reins at the top of the Serie A table early on. Upon the steadying of the ship, Juventus became an unstoppable force amassing an unbeaten run of 26 games and ultimately leapfrogging their rivals and putting any arguments of a different champion to bed. They go into the 16/17 season as favourites by a landslide given and only a madman wouldn’t bet against them defending their title.
Turn the attention to the Champions League and the narrative changes. In assessing Juve’s previous years in the Champions League, one can see it’s been a mixed bag…literally. In the past five years, they’ve come short at each hurdle from the group stages to the final of last year. It would be harsh to downplay such an achievement as Juve deserve credit but if anything, that final stands out in mind for showing the gulf in class between Juventus and the European heavyweights. Anyone who tuned into that match against Barcelona knows how second best Juventus were as the Spanish team dominated proceedings and ended up 3 – 1 winners. This recent quarry of signings should do well to address such an issue but will they be enough to get Allegri across the line?
Benatia’s time at Bayern Munich may not have been as fruitful as he’d imagined but should he shrug off injury troubles then great things may be in store for a defender known to be top class when on form. Though former loanee Juan Cuadrado’s return from Chelsea is not guaranteed, the acquisition of young talent Pjaca looks to address the problem of a lack of wingers in the squad. Dani Alves needs no introduction as he still remains one of the best right-backs in the world at 33. Gonzalo Higuaín’s record haul of 36 league goals adds a potency up front of epic proportions as he teams up with the 19-goal young prodigy in Paulo Dybala.
Higuaín’s record £76m Juventus move may be the highlight but in this writer’s humble opinion, Miralem Pjanić may just turn out to be the most important player coming in. The Bosnian’s goal threat, vision and passing nuance will be vital against tougher European opposition and will lessen the chances of that lethal attack being starved of service. The icing on the midfield cake would surely be if a certain Frenchman of record-breaking value remained at the club. Should Paul Pogba go, which seems an inevitability at this point, then Juve would have missed out on an opportunity to tout a starting XI that virtually goes toe to toe with Europe’s best. Otherwise, it’s safe to say the fans and Max will be pleased with the squad at his disposal.
In the grand scheme of things, the answer to the question is a strong maybe. On paper, the Barcelonas, Real Madrids and Bayern Munichs of this world are still superior to Juventus but football is rarely played on the flimsy material. Little ol’ Atletico Madrid managed to brush aside two of those colossal names and Juventus has more than enough quality in their team now to do the same and go the distance under the right guidance. The ball is in your court, Allegri.