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September’s Monthly Juventus Thoughts: Perfection?

I was tempted to use a cheesy “Wake me up, when September ends” reference here, but I won’t. Except ... I just did. Oh well.

Juventus v BSC Young Boys - UEFA Champions League Group H Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Six games played, 13 goals scored, 3 goals conceded, and a whopping 100 percent win record. On paper, September was absolutely impeccable for Juventus. As always, though, the action is rarely limited to just matters on the pitch. Let’s look at what happened on the pitch, off the pitch, and everywhere in between in the month of September.

Juventus v BSC Young Boys - UEFA Champions League Group H Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Keep on winning

Juventus kicked off proceedings on the first day of the month with a labored, gritty 2-1 victory away at Parma. I’ve written this so many times now that it gives me a bit of a wry chuckle, but here I go again: it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t exciting, and it was nowhere near enjoyable to watch, but at the end of the day, three important points went to the team we support.

The 2-1 victory at home to Sassuolo — RONALDO SCORED, RONALDO SCORED, EVERYONE CAN FINALLY CALM DOWN! — was far more pleasant on the eye even though Douglas Costa’s disgraceful and reprehensible actions put a very dark mark on the game. The month really came to life, though, during the first game of the new Champions League campaign: the 2-0 victory away against Valencia.

And what an eventful game it was.

I’ll talk about the big event of the Valencia game in the next segment, but for now I want to give all credit (and more!) to the players, Max Allegri, and the staff for one of the most admirable Juventus victories I’ve seen in a while. An unjust red-card for Juve’s most prized asset in the first half, playing away at a notoriously difficult stadium in the opening game of the Champions League; the odds were certainly not stacked in Juventus’ favor. And yet, Valencia were the team that rarely looked like scoring and seemed most uninspired throughout the game.

This was all down to Allegri’s phenomenal tactics and the players relentless desire to sacrifice themselves for the collective. It was a game that reminded me why I feel so emotionally connected to this club and why I try to translate what I learn from the club’s ethos to my daily life.

A difficult victory against a team that didn’t even look remotely bothered to try to attack Frosinone was followed by an embarrassingly easy 2-0 home victory against Bologna. To wrap up the month, Juve was faced with the most challenging league opposition of the season so far: Napoli. I wasn’t able to watch the game due to other obligations, but I heard that Napoli had the upper hand for large part of the game. Thankfully, Ronaldo picked the right day to have his best performance in a Juventus jersey thus far, playing a crucial part in all three goals.

Phew. The season is really kicking off, isn’t it?

Speaking of a certain Portuguese bloke...

The humanity of the player

One of the most controversial events of the month was Ronaldo’s red card away to Valencia and his remarkably emotional reaction to the incident. Contrary to your expectations, I do not want to talk about the validity of the red card because that has been discussed at nauseam already. No, I want to talk about something more interesting that struck me about the incident: Ronaldo’s reaction.

His reaction intrigued me. Sure, it was a very, very dubious red card, and sure, I would be angry as well, but his reaction was an unexpected explosion of emotion. In fact, it reminded me of a particular incident in my life when I was 16. I had just moved to the United States for the first time in my life and was doing tryouts for the high school varsity soccer team. The first day went fantastically well, and I had arrived a little early to the pitch on the second day.

Long story short, tryouts were cancelled the second day but the coach/everyone forgot to tell me. So I waited there for over an hour in the scorching heat — my parents had other obligations so couldn’t come back early to pick me up — and once I got home I, in my youthful petulance, absolutely f-ing lost it. I sent a furious, cynical, and disrespectful text to the coach in the tone of “well gee thanks for letting me know there were no tryouts” and, suffice to say, I didn’t make the team.

“Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern.” — Don Draper (Mad Men)

Why did I lose it? Well, It’s been almost a decade since the incident and I still can’t quite answer that question. I think it was because I had all this pent-up anger, anxiety, and frustration that came from having my life uprooted and basically having no friends for a while, which all just exploded once I experienced that small trigger. To bring it back to the Ronaldo incident, though, I wonder if there wasn’t something similar going on for him.

When I thought about it in the context of the story I just described, I thought “I wonder what demons Ronaldo is fighting. Better yet, I wonder if it wasn’t necessarily the red card that caused his reaction, but maybe all kinds of pent-up emotions and anxiety from his transfer or other things in his life that were just waiting to explode given the right trigger.

I still haven’t completely warmed up to him as such, but I certainly have begun to look at him from a more human perspective. I mean, a person doesn’t have such an intense emotional reaction to such an event without there being something more going on, in my opinion. And so, I wonder.

I really, really wonder. Not about Ronaldo the player, but about Ronaldo the human being.

Valencia v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Group H Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Rising to the stars

Even though all the talk is always about Cristiano Ronaldo, what a month it has been for a few standout performers at Juventus.

Federico Bernardeschi has risen to the stars and beyond for the team since the start of this season. He hasn’t merely played well, he has utterly excelled on the pitch. He has been sparkling in attack and shown an undying commitment and discipline to track back and do his part in the defensive phases of play. I think Hunter’s description of Bernardeschi is bang-on point: he has a little bit of Dybala’s offensive guile and a lot of Cuadrado’s defensive work-rate. He’s the perfect hybrid of the two and is clearly enjoying showing off his quality.

Valencia v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Group H
I know. Bernardeschi is so good right now, I would have my hands all over him like that too.
Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

At the other end of the pitch, João Cancelo has so far seemed to justify his steep price tag with some very bright and energetic performances. Though there are still concerns about his defensive capabilities — Mattia De Sciglio is probably the better defender of the two — his offensive abilities are top notch. However, does his offensive prowess compensate for his defensive shortcomings? You tell me.

Juventus v US Sassuolo - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

After basking in the glory of a wonderful World Cup victory in Russia, Blaise Matuidi is also in a rich vein of form for the Bianconeri. A goal against Parma and another against Bologna in September means that the Frenchman continues to show how important he is to Allegri in the Juventus midfield.

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A
I swear, Matuidi has such a peculiar body movement/style of movement. I just can’t describe it but it seems so odd and gangly.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Three: it’s the magic number

Juventus President and President of the European Club Association (ECA) Andrea Agnelli was in charge of some very big news at the start of the month. According to the bossman:

“Pending approval of the UEFA executive committee, the green light has been given to introduce a third competition, bringing the overall number of clubs to 96, as of the 2021/22 season.” — Andrea Agnelli

What I find most interesting about this story is that the proposal came from the ECA, not from UEFA itself. That is, the idea came from the clubs rather than, as has been done quite shambolically elsewhere, from the individual(s) in charge of UEFA (i.e. Aleksander Ceferin). Looking even more specifically at the wording of this announcement, this excerpt also caught my eye:

The ECA has previously called for more clubs to be involved in European competitions and a “greater certainty of matches” for participating clubs. (Source: Sky Sports)

From the way I perceive it, “a greater certainty of matches for participating clubs” is proxy for “a greater certainty of revenue for participating clubs.” Putting these two points together then, I guess my initial perception of “interesting” changes to “logical.” That is, it makes sense for an initiative that will create a greater certainty of matches (and revenue) to come directly from the clubs themselves, rather than from UEFA.

So what does this mean for Juventus? Probably nothing, but given his position as head of the ECA, and my general curiosity about him, I think that Andrea Agnelli’s moves outside of Juventus are too fascinating not to keep an eye on. He seems like one of those guys that looks real normal and harmless on the outside, but is actually deviously scheming and plotting a master plan when nobody is watching

Agnelli is a man with a long-term strategy and vision, both inside and outside of Juventus. Hence, I wonder what this move means in the greater scheme of things.

“All conditions have been cleared.” — Lelouch vi Britannia

Juventus Women

Juventus Women kicked off the new season with comfortable victories against Chievo (6-0) and Florentia (3-0) and the signing of Ashley Nick, former captain of FC Twente. However, the big news was that the team, spearheaded by Eni Aluko — who is a brilliant columnist for the Guardian — crashed out of the Champions League after a 2-2 home draw in the first leg and a 1-0 loss away to Danish side Brondby. Let’s hope they can regain momentum in the Serie A in a bid to retain their domestic title!

Pessotto at TEDxTorinoSalon

Shout out to our very own Gianluca Pessotto for speaking at the TEDxTorinoSalon event on September 30! I can’t find the actual video itself (maybe it’s not released yet?) so if anyone can find it, please post it in the comments!