So, the group stage of Champions League is underway, the competition that is also known as the one trophy Juventus can’t win for the better part of the last three decades. The team can do everything right all season and somehow, come the knockout stages, everything falls apart at some point in time. This is in no way a knock on Max Allegri; he’s gotten his team to two finals in the last four seasons, just coming up short both times around.
This can all change this season, mainly due to one man: Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 15 goals in the Champions League last season, his sixth consecutive season of being the lead goal scorer in European competitions.
If there has to be one reason Beppe Marotta and Co. brought in Ronaldo it’s to win the Champions League, plain and simple. Obviously, there are so many reasons to sign a player like CR7 and the news outlets have been saturated with how Ronaldo is a brand and an instant increase in capital — which is true. However, I’m not here to discuss what has been repeated over and over since July.
I’m no expert but I’m almost certain that Ronaldo was not signed to score braces against Sassuolo on Sunday afternoons. It’s a bonus but the team needs him to be scoring goals against the likes of Barcelona, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and so on in March, when it matters most.
As for the rest of the team, I think it’s safe to expect performances similar to the last few seasons — which isn’t bad. Anybody who has watched Juventus in the Champions League can admit that they have been good, but not great, and definitely not their best in previous years. A backline with Giorgio Chiellini is automatically up there with the best in the world and a midfield with Miralem Pjanic is formidable, to say the least. The attack has struggled at times, but there is a new motivation in the team and in Max Allegri to find new ways to move the ball forward and see the back of the net. Since Ronaldo arrived in July, there have been new relationships forming, ones that will carry over to the field. In the previous years Juve has retained the same key players and the results have stayed the same. This year there have been significant additions, forcing Allegri and the returning players to find new ways to play and make changes, especially when it comes to the Champions League.
It’s foolish to think that just because Ronaldo scores goals, Juventus are going to succeed in Europe. The team needs to step up just as much as their new star man. As I mentioned, the core players are here to put in similar performances as the last few years. The difference is that now with the addition of Ronaldo, they are forced to build that new relationship and develop trust. This means the style of their play will be altered slightly. If these alterations can be made effectively then this will be what pushes Juve out of the runner up position and into the title spot. These changes have to be made cohesively, similarly to the play, all eleven players on the field have to be on the same page and aware of what they need to do to combine all these adjustments and make a complete team.
This new trust and even the slightest of adjustments can be the X factors that allow Juventus to take the next step in cementing the Juve legacy into modern European history.
This Champions League campaign will be more of a team effort than most for Juventus, and hopefully the squad shake up and arrival of Ronaldo is enough to spark a change in the style of play and even the mentality of Juventus in Europe.
All of this seems very nice and exciting, but it isn’t going to happen with a flick of Ronaldo’s foot. While they’ve won their first two European games this season, Juventus have a tough group … again. There will be struggles and triumphs, but if Allegri and the boys can find the change that needs to happen, the ever elusive European title will finally be Juventus’ for the taking.
This is not Madrid, weekends are not the time for rest as Ronaldo learned in the season opener against Chievo Verona two months ago. In Madrid, Ronaldo was the engine of the team, most of the play was run through him, and when it wasn’t he was complaining that he needed the ball at his feet more. Juventus is different, there is more than one engine, if Juve played the way Madrid did then Ronaldo would be worn out every midweek. I can’t remember the last time a Juventus side was run solely through one player and I don’t see that happening under Allegri anytime soon.
I think Ronaldo has realized this and is ready to be part of the team to help wherever he can. Ronaldo knows as well as anybody that the place he can help Juventus most is in the Champions League.