The 2010s have been very, very good to Juventus.
You can say that when you pretty much win every Scudetto that is available for you to win during the course of any 10-year period. And Juventus, despite changing managers three times and seeing a number of major pieces to each season’s puzzle come and go over the course of the 2010s. It has been a time for Juventus fans to celebrate plenty, even with the anguish of making the Champions League final twice and coming up empty both times.
But, with eight straight Scudetti (and counting) to Juventus’ name, the Old Lady has responded from back-to-back seventh-place finishes at the end of the last decade about as well as anybody could have hoped for. We’ve seen expectations at the club go from simply wanting to dominate domestically to, as we know now, trying to become the best in all of Europe (and the world) with one of the game’s greatest ever leading the way despite being in his mid-30s.
And with the 2010s coming to an end in a matter of days, it’s only natural to look back and assemble the best of the best that Juventus has give us over the last decade.
With a nod to Max Allegri, we assembled BWRAO’s version of the Five-Star formation and got the crew together to assemble our own Juventus team of the decade. We didn’t go with Allegri’s 4-2-3-1 formation that helped turn Juve’s 2014-15 season around and led to a berth in that year’s Champions League final (which we won’t mention again), instead going with a 4-3-3 that would have made Maurizio Sarri a least smile a little bit before he made his own formational switch.
Sorry, Antonio, no 3-5-2 here today.
We had important questions to answer like:
- Andrea Barzagli or Leonardo Bonucci?
- Claudio Marchisio or Paul Pogba?
- Is one season and change worth of Cristiano Ronaldo enough to include him?
- Should somebody like Carlos Tevez, who stayed in Turin for just two seasons, be included because he made such a huge impact in a relatively small amount of time?
- Should Simone Padoin get his own category entirely?
For as easy as some of the decisions like Gigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Pirlo were, there were others that actually made us disagree with one another. (Nobody wants a place where every just agrees all the time, right?) Cases were laid out, and eventually we voted on a team that we feel pretty happy about.
Maybe it would even be good enough to make Pirlo smile after he was only slightly impressed.
GK: Gianluigi Buffon
What? You were expecting Alex Manninger?
Buffon might be Juventus’ current backup goalkeeper, but there was no debate as to who would be manning the sticks when it came to this squad.
It seems like we have written all that can be written about Juventus’ legendary goalkeeper who is now back for a second stint with the club after spending a year in Paris. Buffon accomplished nearly everything he could have with Juve over the past decade outside of winning that elusive trophy with big ears on it.
To try and put into words what Buffon has meant to Juventus would be impossible, especially so seeing as he’s spent almost all of his adult life at the club following his move from Parma in 2001. The amount of world-class saves he’s made are too many to count. The amount of times he’s bailed out his teammates’ mistakes, also, are too many to count.
Maybe the most impressive thing is that all of this success — both individually and what it lead to for the team as a whole — is that Buffon has done a lot of it at an age where goalkeepers are either setting off into the sunset or clear-cut backups who are seeing out the final couple years of their career. Buffon, however, was still playing at a level where he was easily one of the best in the world at his position as he officially hit his late-30s.
These days are filled with individual records that couldn’t have been reached without what he’s done two, three or seven years prior. It’s quite the accomplishment to see him pass the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Paolo Maldini on the appearance record lists. It’s even more impressive that we’re sitting here in 2019 and still talking about Buffon in the present tense as a player whenever he appears in a game rather than what he has done.
— Danny Penza
RB: Stephan Lichtsteiner
I’m trying to think of what I would give right now for a right back of Stephan Lichsteiner’s quality, and I’m hovering somewhere between a non-essential digit (left pinky) or a decent amount of money ($5,000?).
After a decade of professional football outside of Turin — four years at Grasshopper in Switzerland, three years at Lille in Ligue 1 and three years at Lazio — the Swiss Express came to the Bianconeri and locked down the right back position for nearly seven years, helping Juve win seven Serie A titles and almost always giving the Old Lady a solid option on the right flank.
Lichtsteiner did for the right back position what Alex Sandro currently does for the left back position, but probably — and I mean this with all due respect to the Brazilian — with more tenacity and more conviction. In some ways, he’s the fullback version of Giorgio Chiellini, whom I also wrote about, but with Lichsteiner his passion was his fault. He was the guy you absolutely hated if you were on the opposing team, but the guy you loved (and also laughed at) if he was on your team. He was whiney, angering, passionate, talkative, and absolutely infuriating for everyone watching.
But there was one thing with Lichtsteiner you could never, ever question: The dude would do pretty much anything, even Shakespeare-worthy acting, to win. He was a mainstay for both the Swiss national team and Juventus, reliable in defense and attack. He was fast and he was tenacious. He could play as a wingback in the formidable 3-5-2 with BBC at the back, or he could hold his own as a fullback with Chiellini and Bonucci manning the center back options.
It’s crazy to think that Juventus really haven’t had a solid, all-around right back since Lichtsteiner. The Swiss Menace wasn’t at his absolute peak in his final two years in Turin, but really beside one year of Dani Alves being the choice for right back, there has been no alternative at this position. That’s insane to me. Mattia De Sciglio was not the answer. Joao Cancelo (who may return to Valencia!) was not the answer. And, shockingly, Danilo wasn’t the answer.
Juventus still do not have a great right back. But here’s the even the crazier thing: there aren’t very many great right backs in all of Europe! Maybe Joshua Kimmich of Bayern Munich is the best right back in modern football, but who’s the next best? Kyle Walker? If Kyle Walker is the second-best right back in modern football, then Stephan Lichtsteiner at his peak was vastly, vastly under-appreciated.
The last two or so seasons may have soured our impression and appreciation of Lichtsteiner, but the dude was an extremely complete player at his best, and if Juve could find a player of his quality right now then the squad would be palpably improved.
— Hunter Sharpless
CB: Andrea Barzagli
As the baseball world started to get more and more into nerd stats about a decade ago, there was something that also became an interesting way of trying to estimate the value of any given player — you take what the player’s annual salary and compare it to what he might be worth salary-wise based on his actual production that season.
Andrea Barzagli would certainly be one of the best deals out there.
Signed from Wolfsburg for the price of what a couple of BMWs would cost you, Barzagli will go down as one of Beppe Marotta’s best-ever bargain bin deals. It was the ultimate buy-low kind of acquisition — and it turned out to be what allowed Juventus to do what they did during the beginning of the current Scudetto run that stands at eight straight.
Barzagli was never considered one of the elite center backs in the game by many folks outside of Italy. But those who did follow Serie A knew exactly how much of an underrated kind of player he had become. His combination of positioning and ability to anticipate what the opponent was going to do next made up for the fact that a lot of the time he was up against faster strikers or wingers.
He was rarely carded. And, maybe more impressive, in his entire Juventus career, which spans over a total of 270 matches, Barzagli committed a grand total of 127 fouls.
Just for a comparison: Arturo Vidal, in 110 fewer matches in a Juventus jersey, committed over twice as many fouls as Barzagli did.
There was a grace to Barzagli’s game in the way that complimented the other two members of the BBC backline so well. He allowed Leonardo Bonucci to do what he did, and obviously he was about as smooth of a defender as Giorgio Chiellini remains completely awkward and soul-crushing most games. And not only did Barzagli become a stone cold lock to be a starter, he also proved to be one of Juve’s most consistent players before age and injuries took over.
Basically, #Wallzagli forever.
— Danny Penza
CB: Giorgio Chiellini
Giorgio Chiellini was the best defender in Serie A of the last decade, arguably the best player of any position in Serie A the last decade, and even with a veritable Mount Olympus of all-time greats on his own squad — Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Del Piero — King Kong occupies a singular spot in Juventus lore. There are no words to accurately describe his blend of talent, tenacity, and charisma. When Chiellini steps onto the field, you know two things: no opposing attacker is going to sniff the goal without paying the price, and Juventus will not go down without a fight, without snarling through their very last breath.
I am admittedly not a long-tenured Juventus fan. Though I studied in Turin in 2011 when I was in college, it wasn’t until several years later that I thought soccer was something I’d probably enjoy more than anything else. (C’mon, I grew up in Texas, so football was always king.) When I did start following Juventus, watching the Bianconeri week in and week out, I fell in love — and there were two players who seemed to kindle that fire. One was Claudio Marchisio, the great prince of Turin and true Juventus son. The other, of course, was Chiellini.
King Kong has logged nearly 400 appearances for Juventus, and he’s one of the players who stayed with the club when the powers that be relegated the club to be. He’s played alongside two other extraordinary center backs in Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, but Chiellini’s legacy and contributions far outweigh both of those Juve greats.
One of the best things about Chiellini has been the fact that, even at 35 years old, he’s still, when healthy, one of the best defenders in the world. An unfortunate injury derailed the first part of his season this year, but if Juve can hang on in the Champions League and Chiellini returns, he’s going to make a difference.
Chiellini is the MVP of Juventus of the last decade. Book it.
— Hunter Sharpless
LB: Alex Sandro
Juventus had a pretty colorful mix of players to have manned the left side of the defence over the last decade. The first half of the 2010s saw a cast including Federico Peluso, Paolo de Ceglie and Patrice Evra among others, but since joining from Porto, Alex Sandro has made the position his own.
While there are better left backs out there, what Juve have gotten from Sandro is mostly consistency. He has had ups and downs, but over the season you mostly get a player that is competent defensively, provides an outlet to get the ball out of the back, and gets involved actively in the attacking half of the pitch. A couple of goals here and there, a few more assists, and averaging at least a key pass every game, Sandro has been an indispensable member of Juve’s title-winning squads while staying mostly out of the spotlight.
Strong on the ball and always ready to dribble, the Brazilian always plays a strong physical game which sometimes manifests itself in fouls conceded. In many ways, he is the quintessential Massimiliano Allegri player — fiercely competitive, does the job assigned to him with a minimum of flash and fuss, doesn’t get into troublesome situations and is a willing teammate. The 28-year-old is on contract until the end of the 2022-23 season, and it’s not unlikely that he will see that deal out in the black and white stripes while Juve are still looking for the left back of the future we’ll be writing about in next decade’s version of this article.
CM: Arturo Vidal
My entree into the sportswriting world came at Bleacher Report, back in the days before Turner. Just shy of two years into my time there — December of 2013, to be exact — I wrote this piece, in which I argued that Arturo Vidal was the best player in the world.
Not midfielder. Player.
I believed that passionately, and I still believe that it was true when he was at his absolute peak. Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are aliens who put in goals by the boatload, but Vidal in his Juve days was one of the most precious commodities in the sport: a midfielder who was elite in all aspects of play. He was an excellent passer, totaling 22 assists between Serie A and Champions League play during his four seasons at Juve. As a defender he was unparalleled, consistently leading Serie A in tackles. He was so good defending that he was deployed as an emergency center back on at least two occasions. He scored goals the bunch — 48 in all competitions, including 15 in 2012-13, when he was the team’s leading scorer.
All that came together into a man who, at his peak, was the most complete player on the planet, and the one guy that I would’ve picked to start a team over any of the game’s top forwards. You can find enough players who can score you goals aplenty. A midfielder in Vidal’s vein is a commodity far more rare than even the likes of Messi and Ronaldo — a fact made plain by the fact that four years after his departure, no one the team has brought in has come close to replacing him.
Vidal was an integral part of the formation of the current dynasty. Indeed, without him, it’s easy to wonder whether this unprecedented run of success would have ever begun. Yes, his final year with the team was slightly less productive, thanks in large part to 1) the aftereffects of a knee injury he suffered at the end of the 2013-14 season, but played through like the bulldog he was and 2) being shoehorned into a trequartista role after Massimiliano Allegri moved into a 4-3-1-2 formation halfway through his first year with the club.
But his time in Turin was nothing short of phenomenal, and he is a shoo-in for this place.
— Sam Lopresti
CM: Andrea Pirlo
After Gigi, this one has got to be the most automatic pick in this lineup. I feel #blessed #honored that I got two of the easiest players to write about here.
And like with Gigi, where do we even start with this legend? How about a quick recap of his time with the Bianconeri. Unimpressed by the shenanigans at AC Milan, Pirlo let his contract run out and joined Juventus in the summer of 2011. Over the next four seasons, he scored 19 times and picked up 38 assists while Juve marched to four straight Scudetti as well as a Coppa Italia triumph in that time.
Yet the value of the player far exceeded goals, trophies or any other tangible achievements on the pitch. Pirlo was a man revitalized at Juventus, whether under Antonio Conte or Massimiliano Allegri, he seemed to rediscover his passion for the game. Playing at the base of the midfield, he used his incredible vision to spray incisive passes all over. In his prime, it did not matter whether Juve were lined up with three or four in the back, playing with single or double pivot, Pirlo was at the heart of the game and came to epitomize what the deep-lying midfielder role entails.
Pirlo went on to achieve every single club and national team award an Italian player can get, along with picking up a multitude of individual awards as well. The fact that he never picked up the Ballon d’Or to add to his list of accomplishments is more on the award being handed to goal scorers and the like rather than players who keep things running in the engine room.
That is where Pirlo’s nickname of ‘Il Metronomo’ (the Metronome) comes from — his ability to control the pace of the game from his birds-eye view is legendary. His other nickname of the Architect also pays tribute to the same ability of seeing the game evolve in his mind before mere mortals lined up in front of him could perceive what he was doing.
CM: Claudio Marchisio
Based on pure talent alone, Paul Pogba probably is the pick for this spot. But, let’s just ahead and steal a line from cohort Sam Lopresti from when we were discussing who to go with to round out the three-man midfield.
“Marchisio was one of the building blocks of the dynasty. He helped build it, Pogba helped finish it.”
Is there a bit of nostalgia with this pick? Sure, it’s hard not to absolutely love Marchisio knowing that he was the hometown boy who made good with the club he grew up at and firmly established himself as a starter for a very good amount of time before injuries — and then one major knee injury — spelled the end to his long career in bianconero.
Marchisio could very well be described as the midfield version of Barzagli in the sense that a who lot of what he meant to the team can’t be measured by simple goals and assists. Marchisio’s skill was evident — he was a trequarista growing up, you know — but it was his tactical awareness and intelligence that made him so good and so important to what Antonio Conte and then Max Allegri were trying to do in the midfield.
He was about as box-to-box as you want your box-to-box midfielder to be. And when all was clicking with Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, the MVP midfield was so fun to watch. A lot of it was because Marchisio allowed Pirlo and Vidal to do what they did so well.
Don’t forget this, too: There was a point toward the end of Pirlo’s time in Turin where we thought that Marchisio was the better option as a regista than Pirlo himself. Marchisio might have been best known for his work as a No. 8, but he wasn’t too shabby as a deep-lying midfielder, either.
There might be a case of “What if...” when it comes to Marchisio — who retired earlier this year after a season in Russia — considering that the major knee injury he suffered against Palermo in the spring of 2016 pretty much robbed him of whatever he had left to give Juventus going forward. He just was never the same after surgery robbed him of still being an important piece to the Juventus puzzle.
But, when healthy, Marchisio was simply just one of those underrated players who was admired as much as anybody by the people who watched him most. And, thankfully, that happened to be those of us who call Juventus our favorite team.
— Danny Penza
ST: Paulo Dybala
It’s weird looking back now, but back in 2015 when Paulo Dybala first signed for Juventus, it was a sharp left turn from what the board had us accustomed to. Up until that point, Juventus were lauded by their cost-effective team building ways, snapping up inexpensive veterans, unproven youngsters and the always-productive free transfers. It was a successful way of building a team and it led to some of the most beloved teams and players that donned the Bianconeri this decade.
However, it did lead to a lot of Juve faithful feeling like the proverbial kid looking out the window and seeing the neighbors play with their shiny, new bicycle while we made do with our own sturdy, old reliable. They both got the job done, but one was significantly flashier and just plain more fun.
Well, Dybala was the first shiny new toy of the decade for Juve as they splashed a cool €40 million for the young Argentinian to become the heir apparent to the recently-departed Carlos Tevez. Five years later, as multimillion transactions have become the norm in Juventus land, a big part of that has to do with their first multimillion bet paying off.
Eight-seven goals and 29 assists with a number of picture perfect free kicks and uncountable iconic moments later, Dybala has proven to be exactly the type of dynamic, playmaking striker that everyone envisioned when he was introduced in 2015 and, undoubtedly, a worthy heir to the No. 10 shirt.
Here’s hoping La Joya keeps wowing us with that prodigious left foot of his for many, many more years to come.
— Manu C.
ST: Carlos Tevez
Here’s a story about Carlos Tevez.
As a child, he suffered third degree burns due to an accident in which boiling water spilled on him, this accident caused him to have noticeable burn scars starting at his ear and all the way down his neck and chest. When he was young star playing for Boca Juniors he refused the clubs offer to have them cosmetically improved as he claimed that those scars were part of who he was.
Tevez was a tough, tough S.O.B.
The mercurial Argentinian came to Juventus after a successful, but controversial stint with Manchester City. While there was concern at the time El Apache would bring more trouble than it was worth, the only trouble he caused was on the pitch for opposing defenses.
His high tempo, energy and skill were indispensable for Max Allegri as he quickly became a starter and a fan favorite. Arguably his best season came in the 2014-15 season in which he was a key contributor of the team that made the Champions League final, as he scored in every knockout round. I dare you to watch this video and don’t get goosebumps.
Bold, brash and when it counted the most, ruthless. At a time when Juventus needed that type of attitude, Tevez was there to provide it in bounds.
He scored 50 goals in two seasons and, rather hilariously, was shown 18 yellow cards. That is Tevez in a nutshell.
— Manu C.
ST: Mario Mandzukic
If I were to ever enlist the services of a qualified person to lead me on a vision quest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mario Mandzukic appeared as my spirit animal.
The Mandzubeast came to exemplify grinta over his 4 1⁄2 years in Turin. He played at 100 percent effort all the time, and could often be seen tracking back in the defensive third making important tackles at the end of a match. Once in a while he even led the team in that category.
Mandzukic was exemplary for his work rate, his versatility, and his penchant for coming up money in big matches. Just last year he scored winning goals against Valencia, both Milan teams, Roma, and Napoli. There was his incredible performance in the second leg of the 2017-18 Champions League quarterfinal, which, despite its soul-crushing ending, was triggered by two towering headers by the big Croatian in the first half. And, of course, no one will ever forget That Goal in the 2017 final in Cardiff.
Those two goals in 2018 were the product of that second attribute. It was Mandzukic who had to make the biggest adjustment in 2016-17 when Max Allegri unleashed his “mad experiment,” the 4-2-3-1 formation that became colloquially known as the “five star” lineup. Always a center forward, Mandzukic was shifted out to the left wing, a role he continued to fill the next season even after Allegri had reverted to a 4-3-3. He certainly wasn’t a typical fit for that position — something that was pointed out ad nauseam by many a fan, including a lot on this forum that constantly agitated for his removal from the role.
But while he may not have had the skill set most people associate with playing out wide, calling his time out there a failure is shortsighted. He may not have been able to blow by a guy, but the physical mismatch he created with opposing full-backs meant a lot of quality headers when he cut in from the wing. Just ask poor Dani Carvajal how things worked out for him that day at the Bernabeu. Add in his defensive work-rate, which gave the 4-2-3-1 much-needed balance for much of the time Allegri used it, and his presence on the left proved indispensable.
Fans were indifferent to slightly skeptical of Mandzukic when he arrived, but by the time he left the club last week — and what an ill-fitting departure it was — he was loved by the fans as much as he had clearly come to love the club. It was a close race in this slot between Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain, but Mandzukic’s versatility, big game-ability, and passion gave him the slightest of edges during our final deliberation.
— Sam Lopresti