Sports is mostly an endurance exercise to see how much heartbreak, anger, frustration and sadness a human can experience while doing an activity that is theoretically “fun.” It’s waking up way too early on weekends or staying up until midnight if a game goes long. Caring about sports is like being in an extremely one-sided relationship with someone that cares very little — if at all about you — that will actively upset you on a regular basis but will occasionally do a nice thing to keep you coming.
So, why is it that so many of us care so much? Why go through it all? Because despite the multiple lows, the highs make it all worth it. When your team is good the days are a bit better, you walk around lighter, the sun shines a bit brighter, work feels a lot easier. It makes life a whole lot better.
Here in Juventus land, we have had significantly more sunnier days than bad ones as we have seen the Bianconeri experience unprecedented domestic success and field teams filled with upper echelon superstars on their way to becoming one of the best teams in the world in the last decade.
And yet, why does it feel like rooting for this team has become significantly less fun as the years have gone on? Sure, success always breeds complacency and winning is like a drug — the more you experience it the more you want. Winning the league is not good enough, now you must win the Cup too. Now you have to win continental competitions. The goal is now not only to win but dominate. Dominating is not enough so you need to do with playing a fun, visually compelling way too. If you don’t it somehow feels like it’s not enough.
At the end of the day, between online arguments, Super League debates, FIFA corruption, sports washing, debt, outrageous transfer fees and the football oligarchy that we are living through sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle that first and foremost this is supposed to be fun.
And goddamn we have had fun around here! I swear! This is enjoyable!
With that in mind — and as we remain in an international break — I set out to figure out the most fun teams to root for in the last few years. Because I always take my assignments with the utmost professionalism, I developed a rubric to make this a highly scientific exercise as teams will be graded on the following metrics:
- Success – Winning is not the only thing that counts when enjoying a team … but it’s pretty damn important. Five points are awarded for winning Serie A, four for the Coppa Italia, two for the Supercoppa. European success is awarded depending on how far the team made it that season, with five points for a final appearance and we go back in a sliding scale up to one point if the team was bounced in the group stage. Just for the record, if a team had won the damn Champions League, then this exercise would be pointless because that team would have been the most fun, alas, points.
- Hype – This number is determined by the expectations the team had going into the season. Super high expectations with poor results will get a bad grade but low expectations before the season turning into one to remember will yield a high mark.
- Player Likability – Look this is super subjective, I get that, but it’s undeniable that there are some dudes that are just much more fun to root for and liking the guys that are wearing the kit is pretty relevant here.
We will also award discretionary points if a given season had extraordinary events, if they had a particularly great kit design and/or just enjoyable on/off the field moments. The points awarded outside of the success are based on a 1-10 scale. With this information at hand, I give you the three most -scientifically proven — fun Juve teams to root for in the last decade and the three least fun as well.
Coach: Maurizio Sarri
Success: 7 Points (Serie A Title, Round of 16 in the Champions League)
Hype: 2 Points
Likability: 4 Points
Total: 16 Points
The beginning of the end for Juve’s Scudetto streak.
Sarri was appointed after Max Allegri’s departure with massive expectations to fully unlock the potential of a seemingly offensively loaded team. Matthijs de Ligt was signed in the summer transfer window in a blockbuster move to shore up the backline and Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot came in on free transfers to bolster the ailing midfield.
To say that Juventus faithful never got to experience the famed Sarriball would be an understatement. The team struggled massively from the start to play a coherent system, showing few and far between glimpses of the free-flowing offensive game that Sarri was expected to install.
Early in 2020, Juventus played their most complete performance of the season beating Inter in an empty Juventus Stadium … before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world and football with it. Juve never quite managed to get it together after that, they crawled to the title more because of their title rivals’ poor form rather than anything the team showed and Sarri was fired after an exceedingly disappointing Champions League elimination at the hands of Lyon in the round of 16 and a number of reports that he had lost the confidence of the players in the locker room.
Just an all-around bummer of a year. The vibes were messed up from the start and they never got un-messed up.
Coach: Antonio Conte
Success: 8 points (Serie A Title, Supercoppa, group stage exit in Champions League)
Extra Points: The most solid set of kits with Nike as the manufacturer, Domestic points record and Andrea Pirlo scoring a beautiful free kick to put Juventus in the Europa League semifinals. (3 Points)
Total Points: 21
The end of the Antonio Conte era at Juventus. In a lot of ways. this season represented the best and worst that the Italian manager had to offer.
On one hand, Juventus absolutely demolished domestic competition on their way to 102 points and a whooping 17-point lead over second-place Roma. But that very same juggernaut was disappointingly bounced in the group stage in European competition and traumatized an entire generation of Juventus fans regarding games away to Turkey and the Nordic peninsula.
Marking the only time that Juventus has played in the Europa League this decade, a lot could have been salvaged with a run to the final that was set to be played at the Juventus Stadium but the continental underperformance — a low-key defining factor for Conte at Juventus — continued as they were disappointingly ousted in the semifinals against Benfica.
Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente were new signees that reinforced a shockingly toothless Juve attack and quickly became fan favorites. Looking back, this was a decent squad. Conte wasn’t eating at the 100-euro restaurants, but he was far from lunching at a gas station either at this point. For the purists out there, that still put most of the weight for success in the domestic campaign this might seem shockingly low, but the incredibly disappointing European campaign takes a lot of points away and the relatively acrimonious exit from Conte also cost them in the likability departments.
(This team was still very, very good and it laid the foundation for next year’s squad who we will talk about later, but it’s a statement to how successful Juventus has been that this team ranks so low. A Juventus valley is the highest peak imaginable for 99% of Italian teams.)
Coach: Andrea Pirlo
Success: 8 Points (Coppa Italia, Supercoppa and Round of 16 exit in Champions League)
Extra Points: Federico Chiesa’s Statement of Arrival against AC Milan, that gorgeous steel blue away kit, blowing out FC Barcelona in the Champions League group stage and a comprehensive elimination of Inter in the Coppa Italia semifinals (4 Points)
Total: 22 Points
Last year was a tough year to love as a Juventus fan.
After the shocking Sarri dismissal, Pirlo — who had just been appointed as the Juventus U-23 coach — was the surprisingly appointed relief man. The rookie coach struggled to imprint his concept of football into the team and the disjointed play from the Sarri year continued on as the team was as feeble as it had ever been defensively and as offensively frustrating as ever.
The Scudetto streak came to an end as Juventus barely achieved Champions League qualification with their worst showing in years domestically and European play was not much better as Porto beat them in the round of 16.
As much as most Juventus fans wanted Pirlo to succeed, it’s fair to say that expectations were fairly low for him, so the hype grade is not super affected and while the team had likable characters, by the end of the season there was a definite malaise setting in, no doubt influenced by the starting signs of Cristiano Ronaldo wanting out of Juventus.
The two cup wins aid this ranking a lot, but it’s tough to say that they made up for all the other disappointments. After the season was over and Pirlo was dismissed, its tough to say that his status with the club wasn’t slightly tarnished which is just the cherry on top of the bummer sundae.
Coach: Max Allegri
Success: 13 points (Serie A Title, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa and Round of 16 exit in Champions League)
Total: 33 Points
As I was working through the teams in my head, I had this spot penciled in for the 2018-2019 squad, AKA the first Cristiano Ronaldo year. And to be fair, I do remember that year being very enjoyable! Before the CR7 experiment crashed and burned and definitely before a global pandemic put the club in a bind, that first year was pretty much just what was promised when Ronaldo was first announced. The second leg against Atletico Madrid remains one of the most purely thrilling football related experiences of my lifetime without a doubt.
But as I tallied the points, it was clear that the 2015-16 season would take the third place and the more I thought about it the more it made sense. One year after the run to the Berlin final this was a team that had lost many key players of that squad, so the expectations were rather low.
Big money signing Paulo Dybala was still a mostly unproven player and Mario Mandzukic was coming off a relatively disappointing stint at Atletico Madrid. Considering they were tasked with filling the giant Carlos Tevez sized hole in the squad it was no easy task. Paul Pogba was given the No. 10 shirt and struggled as a team in disarray fell to 12th in the league early in the year.
The subsequent comeback to win all domestic competitions is the big reason why this team ranks so high, as they scored a maximum possible of 11 points. Despite the European campaign ending relatively soon, it still generated incredible moments as a deeply unfavored Juve squad managed to trounce an up-and-coming Manchester City home and away in the group stage.
Overall, this was a year filled with great moments and because of the seasons immediately preceding it and following it, it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle a bit. But look back on it and I think you’ll find an eminently enjoyable squad that ended up being tremendously successful despite going through a period of transition.
Coach: Max Allegri
Success: 14 Points (Serie A title, Coppa Italia and Champions League Final Appearance)
Total: 35 Points
Arguably the most complete team of the decade and the year that established Juventus as an outright bully in Italy after signing two of the best players of their direct rivals in Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain from Roma and Napoli, respectively, as well as the free signing of dynamic fullback Dani Alves.
Mostly because of those signings, this was the rare year in which the expectations from the club ended up aligning with how the team played as they bulldozed domestic competition on their way to another double.
The thing that really set this year’s version of the Bianconeri apart was how dominant they were outside of Italy as well, wearing the role of treble favorites with aplomb while convincingly making the Champions League final. Of course, what happened in said final is best left unsaid, but this wasn’t an unlikely story of being the underdogs or getting lucky breaks, this was a legitimately great team from start to finish.
Unfortunately, the lasting memory of this team is arguably the worst game they played all year but there’s a very good argument in saying this was the best team of the — first — Max Allegri era.
Success: 14 Points (Serie A title, Coppa Italia and Champions League Final Appearance)
Extra Points: This Legendary Giorgio Chiellini photo, Taking out Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League, Demolishing Borussia Dortmund in Germany, the peak of the MVPP midfield and Uncle Pat, the Juve player. (5 Points)
Total: 37 Points
Listeners of The Old Lady Speaks Podcast probably saw this coming as I have often said this is my favorite Juventus team of all-time and the infallible formula has put them in their rightful spot at the top of the charts as well.
It’s tough to explain now how absolutely loathed the decision to appoint Max Allegri to replace Antonio Conte was at the time. At best, fans thought of it as underwhelming at worst a downright disaster in waiting.
All Allegri did was win a domestic double — something that would end up being a recurrent theme in Allegri’s tenure — and lead a European run for the ages in which Juventus beat heavily favored teams on their way to a final that if we are being honest, they had no business being in but were a blown call away from leading in the second half.
By far the most unexpectedly successful season of the past few years, led by an all-around ensemble of likable players, underdogs, and incredible personalities.
This was the team that rekindled my passion for Juventus and the one that I still look back the most fondly. Easily the most fun team to root for in my lifetime.