All Sunday morning I debated internally on the decision: Would I or would I not go watch the second half of the Juventus game with the man named Al from Torino (from Rivoli, technically) who I had met the Saturday night before when I was a couple — OK, four — drinks in on a lone wolf writing evening. There was plenty of evidence on both sides of this debate.
Reasons to watch the game with Al: He’s from Torino and he’s a Juventus fan! What are the chances of both of those things being true in Austin, Texas — not great, Bob! I’ve met a couple Italians here and there in the state capital, mostly interacting with the guys down at Numero 28 who, I think, are from Milan. They are definitely not Juventus fans, although the baker accosted me on the street the other day when I was wearing my Giorgio Chiellini jersey — he literally came out of the restaurant and started shouting at me in Italian; I do think he remembered me from the last time my wife and I had gone in, spoken some Italian, hung out in the cafe portion of their pizzeria for a bit . . . I think the baker misses Italy — but the other Italians who run and own the place are AC Milan fans, I believe.
So, basically, the main thing in favor here of watching the game with good old Al was that I had found a Juve fan in Austin who was actually from Torino. This was one of those, “Well you only live once, why not take a chance and see what happens?” kind of situations.
Reasons not to watch the game with Al: After the four drinks, plus the two more once I got to Al’s restaurant on South Lamar — one of which, upon hearing I had studied in Torino, he poured me (and himself, and another couple at the bar) for free; it was Piedmontese cider topped with prosecco . . . he says that’s how they drink it — after all this carousing I was not feeling great on Sunday. I was hungover, bad. And what sounded really great was watching the game by myself on my couch, my dog sleeping nearby, my wife petering around upstairs, a bottle of sparkling water in my hand and healing my body magically.
But I went! And it was amazing!
A non-definitive list of Al’s Juventus opinions:
- Max Allegri is not a very good coach (“But we’ve been to two Champions League finals,” I said. “And we lost!” Al retorted. “And we’ve won three titles in a row, two doubles, and are about to win another title maybe,” I said. Al shrugged.).
- Allegri is 100 percent going to Chelsea or Arsenal this summer.
- Juventus are 100 percent getting Zinedine Zidane as their next coach.
- The next seven games are Paulo Dybala’s last seven games with the club.
- Juventus are buying Anthony Martial.
- Or, Manchester United are basically trading Martial and Paul Pogba to PSG for Neymar. (What?)
- Juan Cuadrado sucks.
There were more takes, but that’s just a few. Quite interesting. My favorite take of all his takes, and the one with which I most fervently agreed, was his take on Piedmont versus Tuscan wine — i.e. Piedmont wine (barbera, dolcetto, arneis, but most obviously the nebbiolo varietals) is vastly, vastly superior to Tuscan wine, but Tuscan wine sells because Americans just really like to drink wine from Tuscany for whatever reason. Al has also been a wine importer for about two decades. Of course he has!
And Juventus won!
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- If you had told me three months ago that, as it turns out, Miralem Pjanic is the one who sucks and Sami Khedira is a veritable demigod of calcio, I would’ve said you were absolutely insane and should immediately check yourself into an institution. But the revenge of Casper is real, because Khedira is just marauding around the midfield doing whatever he wants, and it’s amazing.
- Obviously, I’m kidding to some degree because Pjanic doesn’t really suck (right?), but this perhaps seems to be the true thing about the German: He plays best when there are two other midfielders and he’s allowed to move forward. Let the dude go forward. Let him do it!
- On Pjanic: I don’t think we should sell Pjanic, because I think if we can find a good regista over the mercato then Pjanic can get back to his really good self. I think he’s a world-class midfielder, but not a world-class regista. Let’s find a regista, damn it.
- On Blaise Matuidi: I don’t think I’ve really changed my tune on the Frenchman once he’s suited up for the Bianconeri, but the lefty has been really valuable for Juventus because, I think, he knows what he’s good at and he knows what he’s not so good at. When Matuidi tracks down possession of the ball — which he does a lot — he gets rid of it pretty quickly. He makes nice offensive runs. He even throws in a decent cross now and then, like the one to Juan Cuadrado against Sampdoria.
- #Allegriout is sheer insanity.
Onto the awards:
Egyptian Museum Award
For the best game by a player older than 30.
“MARIO! MARIOOOO! MARRRIOOOOOOO!”
That would be my favorite Allegri quote ever.
Mr. No Good Mario Mandzukic was back at it again, seamlessly shifting over to the No. 9 while Pipita rode the pine for a game, and the Croatian did well, scoring smoothly on a deceptively easy-looking volley that wouldn’t be easy for me to replicate if I had 100 tries at it, generally being the weight a team needs at the striker position, holding up play well, doing all the things beast strikers do. Andiamo Mario, bravissimo.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
I love that Allegri was cheeky and in good enough spirits after the game to make a funny joke at Pjanic’s expense (who had been injured, for goodness’ sake! Allegri has balls) and thanking him for getting Douglas Costa on the pitch sooner rather than later. I think, probably, if Juventus hadn’t scored by halftime, Flash would’ve been coming on right after the 45 mark, but either way you feel like the dude was going to come on and torch everybody.
Which is exactly what he did: goals at 45’, 60’, and 75’ — that’s so, so satisfying to my semi-OCD self. It’s like the Brazilian knew that tallying a hat trick of assists alone was really badass, but to make it more badass he’d just do it at precisely fifteen-minute intervals. It’s so pretty. Next year, let’s make sure this guy starts pretty much every game that his tiny little legs will allow him to.
Really hope this guy gets called up for Brazil this summer in Russia.
Italian Cuisine Award
For the best collective unit, given different strengths.
In the post-Real Madrid despondency, I feel like giving lots of awards. The Italian Cuisine award therefore goes to the entire back line (let’s throw Gigi in there, too), because they were pretty darn good.
Evidence No. 1: Clean sheet. Yay! Gigi Buffon had a couple nice saves. Way to go, old man. I stand by your Michael Oliver comments, too.
Daniele Rugani and Giorgio Chiellini were pretty strong at the back, and I thought Sam made a fine point that the youngster wasn’t intimidated by the size or strength of Zapata. He looked calmer than usual with the ball and did a great job.
Evidence No. 2: They scored a goal. Hooray for Benedikt Howedes! After months and months of recurring, reoccurring, nagging injuries, the German was back in the lineup as right back-ish, and minus a couple “I just haven’t been playing” moments (like when he perfectly passed Duvan Zapata the ball but San Gigi was there to save it) he did well, including scoring off a DC cross. Good job, Benny.
And Kwadwo Asamoah was his random better-than-Alex-Sandro-this-year self as well.
Forza Juve. Let’s win this damn double. Buy a regista. And defeat Real Madrid 100-0 next year to lift the trophy.
Man, I love this team. Bunch of old dudes, they are. They got more grinta than I got mezcal — which is saying something!