Sometimes I hear/read the term "Juve is not competitive enough" thrown around as though the club was still managed by Blanc & Co. This is generally said in the context of the Champions League. Now, I will be the first to admit that Bayern Munich destroyed us, but was Juve really not competitive enough?
I am going to venture to guess that had Juventus encountered any other team except for Bayern, we wouldn't have looked nearly as bad. And who knows, we might have made it through. I will go as far as to say that our chances against both Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barca, were 50-50. I am solely basing this on the whooping that Barcelona received against Bayern Munich. In my opinion, last year's Juve was one of the Top 5 clubs in Europe. To call Juve not competitive is a little bit exaggerated.
Juventus are starting to be recognized by coaches as a legitimate threat in Europe. This is in large part due to their own manager, but the work of the management cannot be discarded. If Alessio Secco was still assembling the team, Antonio Conte would be trying to avoid relegation. Coach and management have made it clear that to be kings of Europe, Juventus will need a lot more than the current transfer market.
But are these statements really true, or are they meant to lower expectations ahead of next season?
Juventus are said to be looking for a left back, a center back, and if the price is right, Stevan Jovetic. The left backs of interest are Juan Zuniga and Aleksander Kolarov, and the center backs are Angelo Ogbonna and, to a lesser extent, Andrea Rannocchia. In addition, Juventus are likely to sell Mauricio Isla, one or two of the strikers, and will consider offers for anyone that is not the starting defenders and midfielders of last year, and Buffon.
So, the main question is: Bearing in mind that other European clubs are also reinforcing, will Juventus be more competitive in Europe next year?
Let's assume the best case scenario that Juventus signs Ogbonna, Kolarov, and Jovetic before the end of the transfer window. With those players, Juventus will become a chameleon, able to play 4-3-3, 3-5-2, and with some second string players 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. With such flexibility, the Bianconeri would be unpredictable, a useful trait in Europe to say the least. In terms of quality, Jovetic, Fernando Llorente, and Carlos Tévez would be a major improvement over last year. With Ogbonna, the speed of our backline will be improved, and Juventus will boast about having a capable replacement for the most injury prone defender of the starting back three — personally I think Caceres would fit that role just fine, but I digress. If all these deals come to fruition, Juventus 2013-2014 would be by far the most competitive team in Turin since Calciopoli.
But is that enough?
On paper I would say it's not. Bayern Munich had a great team last year, with a solid defense and a powerful attack — if you are unsure, ask Barca fans. The addition of Gotze makes them that much more powerful going forward. And let's not forget the Guardiola effect. Neymar seems to be ready for the big European stage, and although I think he is too light, he will undoubtedly help Barca next year. Real Madrid have a new coach who knows how to win the Champions League, and a team that is used to play big matches in Europe. Even if Juve bring all their targets to Vinovo this summer, they will not be favorites to win the big eared trophy.
But that is only on paper. In his first year in charge of Juventus, Conte had the team playing better than expected. If Llorente and Tévez gel, the partnership could be an amazing one. Both of those players have thrived when called to lead the attack. When Tévez was asked to carry Boca Juniors to glory almost 10 years ago, he showed his best footbal winning the Copa Libertadores de America -—South America's equivalent of the Champions League. And when he was tasked with leading West Ham United to avoid relegation he brought the team to a higher level. By giving Tévez the No. 10 and making him the marquee signing, the management has put him in a position to deliver. a position in which he will thrive. On the other hand, Llorente has shown that he has no problem being the main target in attack bagging 134 goals for a team that has not broken the top five in La Liga for over five years. Lastly, if Jovetic were to arrive, his motivation alone will make him play better than he has for the last three years.
Juventus may not be the most competitive team in Europe, but there is a point in which motivation can improve skill. Conte's superb tactical acumen, and his above par motivation can make the whole more competitive than the parts, and may allow Juve to deliver in the Champions League. What we are missing now, is for Marotta to continue his excellent work in the market so far and bring the pieces we are missing.