"Dal Paradiso all’Inferno e ritorno in Paradiso…". As put by the President of Juventus FC Andrea Agnelli, what was achieved this morning was more than just a 28th (30th) title. It was a redemption. An ascension to the rightful position at the top of Italian football; an ascension done in the identifiable Juventus way.
Since the 2006 Calciopoli scandal until the beginning of this season, Juventus have suffered through their worst period in modern history. Stripped of her Grand Old Lady aura of class and dignity after being embroiled and scapegoated in what was a systemic and widespread scandal (this story isn’t over), Juventus played a season in Serie B in 2006/2007, the first such time this has occurred in over a century of history.
Even though players remained loyal (Nedved, Trezeguet, Camoranesi), there was something different when they made their return to Serie A. They lost credibility, respect…and the impregnable arrogance that served i bianconeri extremely well for nearly 110 years.
Coupled with the closure of our (the only club in Italy to own their own) stadium for renovations, Juventus was forced to play in the former 2004 Winter Olympic Stadium, sharing with Torino FC. The stadium was small, never reconciling with the underlying Juventus mentality of excellence. If anything it was the perfect symbol of the lost years…years sans a trophy and without any significant achievement.
A string of coaches after promotion back to the top flight failed to bring success. The football department struggled to find resources, with money funnelled to the building of the new stadium and recouping the losses of revenue sustained after the year in second division. Well known Italian football identities Ciro Ferrara and Luigi Del Neri failed as managers.
Under the former, Juventus spent big money on poor players (Diego, Amauri and Melo). The game plan was narrow, unimaginative and ultimately cost the Juventus legend his job.
There was little improvement under the latter. Yet he came with one important addition: Giuseppe Marrotta. A shrewd businessman and successful football director; it took him two seasons to balance the squad, the books and purchase players that were finally able to challenge.
If winning the titile was the ascension, the opening of Juventus Stadium at the beginning of this season signified the resurrection. A new era had begun. A 40,000-seat masterpiece…the best stadium in Italy packed to the rafters week in, week out. The aura had returned. Understatement never suited La Vecchia Signora…it was time for some swagger!
New money flowed in, and with the appointment of club legend Antonio Conte, a man dripping with the values that run deep as a club, optimism followed. The Gospel according to Juve found a man willing and able to communicate it.
All Juve needed was a catalyst. That was Andrea Pirlo. Cast aside by his long-time club AC Milan, the most creative player in Italy found a new home…and if the on-field direction of the club needs an attributive factor, it is him.
Flare, vision, creativity and width, backed with a solid back 4 that never stopped working. 4-3-3. The old attacking Juve. Constantly pressing, constantly harassing, constantly with the ball.
From the tireless work of Stephan Lichtsteiner, to the hard nosed Arturo Vidal and the best goalkeeper in world football, Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus were a thrill to watch…and from the outside looking in, they enjoyed playing with each other as well.
Finally there was Alex Del Piero. The captain, the legend…if anything personifies the club, it is him. There is no doubt Marrotta must give him one last contract. There are simply no words.
So it comes that Juventus have returned to where they belong, to the top of the tree…with a Coppa Italia final in two weeks to boot.
They are Serie A Champions of 2011/12, undefeated. Pure paradise!