After any big game, my mind races through every single thought and possibility — both extremely optimistic and extremely pessimistic. This is a slightly edited and condensed transcript of my inner monologue after Juventus 3-0 loss against Real Madrid.
Pessimistic Manu: Can I say it?
Optimistic Manu: No.
PM: I’m gonna say it.
OM: Goddamn it.
PM: Real Madrid has outscored us 7-1 in our last two matches. Is that bad? I’m asking if that seems like a bad thing to you.
OM: Of course, it is, but…
PM: Is there any other “big” European team, outside of Paris Saint-Germain, that gets as routinely blown out by the Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich trifecta other than Juventus? In the Allegri era we have seen a 4-2 loss against Bayern, 3-1 and 3-0 versus Barcelona and the current 4-1 and 3-0 run we have going against Real Madrid.
Aren’t we supposed to be a defensive team?
Isn’t that our whole identity?
How is this still happening?
OM: That seems unfair, considering…
PM: Sure, he is getting them in the position of getting blow out, thank God. I do remember the days of the “10 Euro meal in a 100 Euro restaurant,” where going away to Olympiakos was a legitimately scary proposition. When Juventus was playing Europa League and getting ousted by Benfica, so sure, I’ll give him that.
OM: Anything else?
PM: Yes. Didn’t he say that his team gave up in Cardiff, by the way? Isn’t it your job to make sure the team doesn’t give up? What’s the excuse now, I ask? Huh, I guess we were unlucky and played really well, but somehow lost 3-0, sweet, thanks.
OM: Look, it’s disappointing, but sometimes…
PM: And I dare you, I double dare you, to say he wins in Italy so that means he is a good manager. He should be winning in Italy; have you seen Serie A lately? Who is supposed to seriously compete against Juventus? Napoli, Roma, Lazio and Fiorentina don’t have the money or depth, Milan is a UEFA Financial Fair Play scandal waiting to happen and Inter is Inter. Adding insult to injury, every time any other team develops a player that could give Juventus a scare, we just buy them! Gonzalo Higuain, Miralem Pjanic, Federico Bernardeschi, the list goes on. More than half of the Best XI of the Year in Serie A is from Juventus. Am I supposed to be blown away by Allegri’s tactical genius every time we beat SPAL? I know of another manager that is really successful domestically but can’t make it happen in Europe, and his seat is pretty hot right now, Allegri should be treated the same way.
OM: Ok, but who would you even bring to replace him if…
PM: THE MAN RUINED MIRALEM PJANIC! YOU WANTED A TREQUARTISTA, YOU GOT HIM LET HIM PLAY IN THE GODDAMN HOLE!
OM: Wow, hot take.
PM: Now, I’m done.
OM: It sucks, there is no sugarcoating it. I despise Real Madrid, but you got to give it to them. They are sharks, the moment you commit the slightest mistake, they will capitalize on it. Mattia De Sciglio played okay, but he lost his defensive assignment for one second and it led to the first Cristiano Ronaldo goal. Keylor Navas had a couple of great saves. It is one of the most frustrating things to hear from anybody, especially the manager, but they actually did play pretty good! They held Real Madrid to very few chances in the first half and looked like a composed, poised team after the early De Sciglio mistake.
PM: I didn’t know games end after the first half, that’s good to know.
OM: I don’t know what to tell you about the second half. I don’t know how you game plan for Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon, one of the premier center back-goalkeeper duos in football history, having such a massive miscommunication on an easy clearance, and I sure as hell don’t know how you game plan against a bicycle kick beauty by one of the best players in the world. What are you supposed to do when your star, Paulo Dybala, kicks a Real Madrid player in the chest to get red carded immediately after such goal and immediately ending the game, both psychologically and tactically?
PM: So, what’s your point?
OM: My point is that Juventus is a top team, led by a top manager. We will look back at this era of Juventus football as one of the biggest and fastest turnarounds in history. This is a club that 10 years ago was marred in controversy after the Calcipoli scandal and trying to come back to any sort of relevance. Odds are, Juventus will win their seventh straight Scudetto and fourth straight Coppa Italia, both unprecedented feats. I will remember this era fondly.
PM: *Scrolling distractedly through Twitter* Did you hear the Giant Panda is no longer an endangered species?
OM: Does it suck the team came up short in Europe? Sure, it sucks that this great run came at the same time, that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were at their peaks. Every time Juventus seemed close to break through in Europe the team ended up running to the Real Madrid or Barcelona buzz saws. We will talk about those two and their teams as we talk today about other dominant legendary teams of past. Sometimes you lose and that’s fine.
PM: I legit had no idea about the Panda thing. This happened in 2016? Feels like we didn’t talk about it enough.
OM: And, who knows? There’s another 90 minutes to play. Medhi Benatia and Pjanic will be back. Sami Khedira played well. If he’s healthy, Bernardeschi could fill in for Dybala and Mario Mandzukic could be fit and ready to go, which could give them a boost from the bench. Plus, how many more bicycle kicks can Ronaldo possibly have in him? A Juventus team with nothing to lose, giving it absolutely all for their veteran goalkeeper in possibly his last UCL game ever? You score a couple quick goals and who knows, Ramos is out, so you know there will be scoring opportunities for Juve. There’s a chance. Can’t have a miracle comeback if you’re ahead is all I’m saying.
PM: Ever heard of Occam’s Razor? Because suggesting Juventus has any chance to go into Santiago Bernabeu and winning 3-0 at least, is the exact opposite of what Occam’s Razor is.
OM: *Sigh* We are out of the competition, aren’t we?
OM: Always next year!
PM: Not for Buffon, there isn’t.
OM: Screw you.