After seven straight Serie A titles, Juventus’ focus has changed. It’s not just to be the best in Italy, it’s to be the best in all of Europe. The Champions League, as it should be with Cristiano Ronaldo around, is now a serious goal and not just a dream.
That is what Max Allegri said after the Villar Perosa friendly on Sunday.
That is what Andrea Agnelli echoed after the Villar Perosa friendly on Sunday.
And that, my friends, is a change in mindset from years past where contending for the Champions League was referred to as more of “a dream” rather than arguably the main goal of the season. Reaching the Champions League quarterfinals won’t be satisfactory anymore. With one incredibly unpredictable summer that saw coming, Juve’s gone from the club that has been firmly in the second tier of Europe’s elite to one that wants to get its seat at the main table — and they want it now.
The thing I’ve always admired about Juventus’ roster construction under Beppe Marotta’s watch is that it’s had the immediate impact with plenty of vision toward the future. There have been smart buys that have made perfect sense for the short term, but there have been just as many signings that have left you thinking that it’s more than just a one- or two-year solution to the problem.
This summer, it’s been the complete opposite to what I’ve thought Juve’s transfer campaign would be like. And it’s basically been the complete opposite of what I could have even possibly imagined.
We’ve seen Juventus quickly snatch up one of the two best players in the world right now, telling everybody and their mom that signing Ronaldo means they’ve got the desire to put this near-three-decade-long Champions League drought to bed for good. We’ve seen them basically rebuild the bridge with Leonardo Bonucci out of nowhere when nobody even had the slightest of thoughts that it was even possible after all that went down 12 months ago. (And the subsequent words that came out of the Bonucci camp regarding just how much he thought that the grass would be greener on the other side.)
Two moves that are about the next handful of years — and one of which has seen a potential standout for the future in Mattia Caldara go in the opposite direction.
Basically, Juventus’ front office has taken their stack of chips and are betting on the years that they have with Ronaldo and have told their fanbase they’re going to do one thing about the immediate future.
Juventus has more than just splashed the pot a wee bit, Teddy.
They’ve, as Teddy KGB says in Rounders, bet...it...all.
They’ve gone all-in.
They’ve gone all-in as all-in gets.
They want to win it all, and they want to win it right now.
Knowing that the centerpiece and face of the club is Ronaldo and his chiseled jawline, there is no other option. You don’t make a move like that for the future; you make it for now.
As somebody who is patient, thinks things through and things as much about the long term as the short term, Juve completely putting all of its eggs in one Ronaldo-themed basket is quite a change from buying talented young Italians on co-ownership deal and letting them develop for a year or two before they even have a shot at contributing in Turin.
But this is where we are.
Marotta, Agnelli, Pavel Nedved, Fabio Paratici have taken this opportunity with Ronaldo now suddenly being on their roster and shifted the focus from one that sees them win in the short term but keep a huge eye on the long-term direction of the club to essentially putting the vast majority of their onus one the time that Ronaldo will spend in bianconero. Sure, Juve have a fair number of players in their early- or mid-20s like Paulo Dybala, Rodrigo Bentancur and the like, but Juve’s two biggest summer signings have been a 33-year-old Ronaldo and a 31-year-old Bonucci.
That’s not exactly injecting a squad with youth, is it?
OK, so I guess the fact that Juventus signed Ronaldo can offset the fact that a squad that needed to get younger hasn’t totally gotten younger.
Some might think that a club like Juventus should be thinking along those lines even before they went out and signed Ronaldo and brought Bonucci back after all of 12 months with Milan. But we’ve heard for years leading up to the summer of 2018 that it’s the Scudetto first, and then the rest will happen as it happens.
This season is different. And no matter what happens over the next nine or 10 months, you figure the next couple of seasons will have the same kind of aspirations. This Saturday is the start of something new with Juventus — and it’s not just because Gianluigi Buffon won’t be Juve’s starting goalkeeper for the first time in nearly two decades.
Of course, one could argue that Ronaldo leading Juventus to a Champions League trophy will have its own unique ramifications for the future, and you wouldn’t be wrong there. For now, though, the present-day message being thrown out there by the club is that they’re going for it in the immediate future. They want to win it all and they want to do it on the biggest stage there is come the end of this season.
It’s about the short term now regardless of what kind of talent they currently have on the roster that’s in their mid-20s. Basically, we’ll worry about 2021 when 2021 arrives. It’s about the 2018-19 season and what we can win right now. Or in April in May, if you want to get technical.
We don’t know how this season will end up going. We’re seven or eight months from even determining some kind of verdict. For now, though, we’re just going to have to go with