While this weekend was the end of the 2014-15 Serie A season for 19 teams, Juventus players were hanging at home with their feet up and relaxing on Sunday thanks to one final day of rest. Monday was a bit different. It was the beginning of the build-up to Saturday's Champions League Final. That meant droves of media members made their way to Juventus Stadium, packing the field and the media room to get a look at one of the two Champions League finalists.
They weren't there just to admire Fernando Llorente and Claudio Marchisio as they ran laps around Juventus Stadium (as tempting as that might be to some). Nope, it was the official Champions League Final Media Day in Turin, with everybody making their way to Juventus Stadium to watch and then write about Juve's first trip to the biggest game European football has to offer in the last 12 years.
The main two folks in front of the microphone were Juve manager Max Allegri and the always dapper-looking Marchisio, who took a quick minute after Monday's training session to throw on a slick suit. They answered questions, they said actual words, even cracked a couple of smiles. It was, for all intents and purposes, a good experience for everybody who was involved in such an event.
First, a word from Juventus' first-year manager, Mr. Allegri himself.
"Preparing for a game like this is enjoyable. Everyone dreams of doing so and I consider myself very fortunate to coach players who have brought great joy over these past four years. It's been an extraordinary season that will go down in history, and winning the Champions League would make it even better."
As I watched the press conference live online earlier in the day, I could tell that Allegri really does seem to enjoy this moment where maybe some other managers might start feeling the pressure of it all. Ever since he was named Juventus manager, Allegri has been a smooth customer when sitting in front of the press and talking into the microphone, but it's especially true now. He's been humble and honest, simple and nothing close to overreactive. That s a good thing — especially from your manager just a few days out from the biggest game Juventus has played in since the 2003 final.
"We need to appreciate that we'll be in for some difficult spells but also moments that go in our favour. We're not travelling to Berlin to make up the numbers. It's the final and taking on the world's best players is something that's perfectly normal, but this shouldn't make us anxious as we have great character."
Attempted translation from what Allegri said here: We know Barcelona are going to attack — why would they with Suarez, Messi and Neymar? — and we need to weather the storm each and every time. Allegri went on to add that man-marking Leo Messi is "an impossible task," which seems like a pretty understandable thing when you think about just how well Messi is playing this season.
So, what did Marchisio have to say? I'm glad you asked!
"I saw Juventus lift the title in 1996 and unfortunately also witnessed the defeats since. We know how much the fans want it, but also the club itself. We need to be aware that in a final the chances of winning and losing are 50/50, but we want to give it a good go, right until the end."
Yes, that is your reminder that of any player on the Juventus roster right now, Marchisio has been associated with the club for the longest amount of time. Nope, it's Gigi Buffon, who is the only Juve player around to appear in the 2003 final against AC Milan. It's Marchisio, the Turin-born boy who has become such an integral part of this team in so many different ways.
While the Juventus website didn't post it, I personally think this is the best interaction between
Journalist: "Is it more difficult to beat Barcelona on the PlayStation or beat them live?" Marchisio: "I'm not playing PlayStation anymore."
— BWRAO (@JuventusNation) June 1, 2015
Maybe Claudio is just a Football Manager kind of guy. That would have been such a good follow-up question.
Here's a couple of quick hits from media day:
I guess we can consider Giorgio Chiellini a fan of Leo Messi. But he also thinks the overall quality of defending in Serie A are a lot better than those in La Liga. (Insert your typical "Italians know how to defend stereotype right here if you feel so inclined.)
"Messi is now the God of football. It's difficult to compare him with Maradona, Pele and co., but he's probably the best player of the last 30 years. His goal against Athletic Club? It was certainly a great goal [but] I don't think Messi would be able to score a goal like that in Italy, where the defending is much better than in Spain. There's better football in the Spanish League but worse defending."
Like Buffon, Andrea Pirlo is one of the few Juventus players who have experience in a Champions League final. Many of them, to be exact. So when he talks about the experience of playing in a final, you're probably going to listen — or in this case read — what the bearded maestro has to say about it.
"This is my fourth final, but it doesn't matter. It's a unique and special game, and it's always different. We all know what we have to do. Barcelona are favourites, but anything can happen."
And since I'm feeling nice, here's one more quote from Max. A big-picture kind of quote, too. I like those kind of quotes simply because it shows the person who says it understands that there's more than just a game to played on Saturday night in Berlin.
"This season will go down in history. It's not often a team gets to this point in three separate competitions. Winning the Champions League final would be a more than extraordinary feat. It'd be the perfect way to round off a magnificent season."
Historic, yes, it definitely is just that. It doesn't happen very often because that's just the nature of the beast. Having the chance to win the treble is even less of a common occurrence. And regardless of the result, we should cherish what is going on this week. This is Juventus getting back to the elite of the elite in Europe, and it should be a fun week even if the game itself will give us nothing but heartburn and massive amounts of stress for a couple of hours at the very minimum.