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Manu’s Grab Bag: By the skin of their teeth

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We talk CR7 dark magic, the Carlos Tevez-Boca Juniors deal and those kits.

Cristiano Ronaldo (R) of Juventus FC and Paulo Dybala of... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Historically speaking, a borderline call that results in a last minute Cristiano Ronaldo penalty kick was very bad news for Juventus.

However, for the first time since his move to Turin, some of that dark late-game CR7 magic from the penalty spot finally benefited the Bianconeri as No. 7 slotted a penalty kick in the dying seconds of an ugly game to give Juventus a 2-1 victory over Genoa on Wednesday night.

Was the victory deserved?

Eh, not really.

But listen, I’m not going to be out here complaining about three points. With the weather the way it was — very bad! — and Juventus continuing to miss chances left and right, I think this was a good of a result as we could have expected.

Still, somehow, Juventus manages to hang on to its spot at the top of the table for another week, and that’s always a good thing.

Let’s get to it.

MVP: Cristiano Ronaldo

The first time Ronaldo is named the MVP in a Grab Bag! I’m sure he is super proud of this accomplishment. I expect him to print out a screen grab of this column and frame it right next to the Ballon d’Or.

I will admit, though, he probably wasn’t the best player on the pitch for the majority of the game. But say what you will about Ronaldo, he cares. He really does, and was one of the few players who were not sluggish out there.

Sure, he flubbed a couple chances that you expect him to score, but you can’t discount the last-minute PK — and that’s Ronaldo’s career in a nutshell, unavoidable. I couldn’t help but be reminded of some other Ronaldo games against Juve when it seemed that he was bottled up for large stretches of time only to get just one chance and kill your team.

We have been there and done that, Genoa.

You have our sympathies.

Juventus v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Matteo Bottanelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Runner Up: Paulo Dybala

Hot Take: Is Miralem Pjanic a system midfielder?

Well, well, well. Look who was bloody brilliant deputizing for Pjanic? Rodrigo Bentancur had a great game, and is another player that jumped off the page in a rather dull effort by the majority of the team.

Should we just cash in on Pjanic right now and ride with Bentancur? How much could we realistically get from the Bosnian midfielder in this economy? Many people are saying we should do this, very smart people indeed.

The development of Bentancur continues to be such a welcome surprise and makes the deal that Juve made with Boca Juniors to let Carlos Tevez go back to Argentina look better and better every day.

Just a quick tangent: I cannot mention enough that this was seen as a freakin’ throw-in in that deal. At the time the Tevez deal was perceived as a favor to a guy who had revitalized his career in Juventus and wanted to go home. There was definitely ample criticism about letting a guy go, who the consensus was that he still had plenty left on his legs, especially for what at the time was considered a very lackluster return.

Juve got €6 million and the preferential options to buy any one of four Boca Juniors youth products. Here is what those guys are up to:

  • Guido Vadalá: Had a cup of tea with Juventus’ primavera squad, but was sent back to Boca Juniors. He never settled down and after a bunch of loans is now playing for Club Deportes Tolima of Colombia.
  • Franco Sebastian Crisaldo: Played for a couple of relegation battlers in Spain like Elche and Rayo Vallecano. Juve never exercised their option to buy and went back to several loan spells in Argentina.
  • Andres Cubas: Established himself for a couple of years at Boca, then got loaned out to Pescara in Italy and to Defensa y Justicia in Argentina. Currently plays for Talleres, which is also in Argentina. Juve also never exercised their option to buy.
  • Rodrigo Bentancur: Currently getting starter-level minutes for Juventus after they bought his rights outright for €9.4 million. Regular starter for the Uruguayan national team. Currently valued at €35 million.

Someone could say that all in all Juve got Bentancur for roughly €3 million when it was all said and done. I will not actually say that because I’m almost positive that it’s economically inaccurate, and since in my student days I was mediocre at best in economics, I’d rather not go out on that limb. Still, it sure feels like Juve got an ascending player for a very cheap amount.

Anyway, tangent over and hot take over, because obviously Pjanic is a phenomenal player that we should not sell under any circumstances and was sorely missed today. Not to demerit Bentancur, he is a very good player, but what Pjanic was doing before his injury was on another level.

Come back, Mire.

The Elephant in the Room

Let’s talk about it, let’s get right into it. This is a safe zone, and I consider myself in enough confidence with all of you guys to just put what I think out there. A no judgment zone where we all listen and provide support to one other.

So, I’m just going to go right ahead and say it.

I freakin’ liked the alternate Juve uniforms.

Federico Bernardeschi of Juventus FC in action during the... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

I did! I really did!

They are weird, wonky and really unique, done in collaboration with Palace, a skateboarding apparel company in the U.K., and adidas. All of those things appeal uniquely to my wannabe hypebeast, millennial self. I guarantee no less than three (3) rap videos will feature someone wearing this jersey.

And don’t you dare talk to me about tradition! We changed the logo, completely blew open our finance budget, eliminated the stripes on the home kits and started and honest to god, lifestyle brand. If we are going to completely sell our souls for the sake of the almighty dollar let’s just go all in.

Lastly, yo @adidasfootball, send one of them bad boys my way. I will influence the crap out of that kit with all of my *checks notes* 25 twitter followers.

Trending Down: Adrien Rabiot

How do you get red carded when coming on as a sub in the second half? HOW?!

Sure, the second yellow card was way too harsh and, on close replay, the tackle might have been a clean one. But you have to have the footballing IQ to know that it is a risky tackle and having already been carded the play might not be worth it.

When we talk about Rabiot still being rusty it’s not just about his body but his mind also, when you haven’t played in a while sometimes you force things and I think this is what happened today.

Make no mistake, Rabiot has steadily improved and when, not if, he hits his stride he might be the missing piece in this Juventus lineup. But today, yeah, not great my guy.

Not great.

Parting Shot of the Week

It was another ugly, disjointed match for Juventus. The only real difference between Wednesday night’s and last weekend’s game against Lecce was the fact we somehow got away with the three points this time around.

The schedule has been brutal for Juve, to be fair, with another game on the weekend against Torino and yet another midweek fixture away at Lokomotiv Moscow for Champions League play on deck. It’s going to be tough for them to find some semblance of rest in the coming weeks, but these are the stretches where real teams and pretenders are separated.

Juve will show their true colors, one way or the other.

See you on the weekend.