As Taylor Swift sings, “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.”
The American pop star’s words, however, must not translate to Italian — or at least the message hasn’t been received by Andrea Agnelli.
For a third straight season, Juventus failed in the Champions League; for the first time in a decade, Juventus will (probably) not hoist the Scudetto at the end of the season. The slow crawl to failure has been just that: a slow crawl, an incremental falling apart, especially in the midfield but in other places too.
I wrote last week that the time has come to reevaluate where the club is, and there’s no denying the fact in my mind that, whether Cristiano Ronaldo stays or goes, the Old Lady is in rebuilding mode. If that is in fact the case, then the club should not waste time with another CR7 venture; another run with Ronaldo and a Band-Aid solution to the midfield (think Jorginho) with an additional striker would only end once again in Champions League failure.
For me, there’s a certain peace about where the club is now — the Bianconeri are not on the cusp of winning Europe, and if the club and CR7 did indeed move on, then the financial recovery could begin immediately along with constructing, in earnest, a proper and balanced squad.
It’s time for Juventus to lean into the rebuild.
There’s (finally) a youth revolution happening
For the first time in a long time, there’s a sizable contingent of young, exciting players around whom Fabio Paratici (or his successor) could construct a squad. Any discussion about Juve’s starlets has to begin, at least right now, with Federico Chiesa.
The Fiorentina winger arrived to mixed reactions from the Juventus faithful and has quickly proved his naysayers wrong. In 32 cumulative appearances, the little Tasmanian Devil has hit the back of the net 11 times; just for reference, his Fiorentina starlet precursor Federico Bernardeschi has scored 10 times in 141 appearances.
Chiesa’s production has been great, but just as important, at least from my perspective, has been both the relentless grinta with which he does anything and the fairly frequent moments of dazzling skill. He’s the complete package.
Of course, it’s not just Chiesa. There’s a Dutchman by the name of Matthijs de Ligt who’s already one of the top players at his position, and he’s all of 21 years old. There’s another attacking talent in Dejan Kulusevski; the Swede has been a little stop-and-start so far this season, some of which must be attributed to the polar-opposite style of play he’s undergone in moving from Parma to Juventus, but the future remains bright for him.
Maybe most shocking is the fact that the club now has two midfield players — Weston McKennie, 22; Arthur, 24 — with unique skill sets and the wherewithal to step into a new club and make an immediate impact. If you were scrapping every other midfielder on this squad and starting over with those two, you would not be in a bad position at all.
None of this is even to mention some of the compelling prospects coming up from the U23 side. We don’t really know yet what Nicolò Fagioli will be — or what he won’t be. The same could perhaps be said for Radu Drăgușin. Just the fact that the U23 side is churning out possibilities of first-team players, even if they’re somewhat longshots, is encouraging.
This team has a lot of young talent; that’s the future of this club, not Ronaldo, and that’s where the Bianconeri should lay their foundation.
Get the money straight
I’m not a financial expert so I’m not going to pretend to be, but I know enough to say the following:
- Ronaldo’s salary is very high.
- The club’s finances aren’t very good right now.
Missing out on the deeper rounds of the Champions League for three years running has also put a pretty big dent into the books. The Bosman signings and perpetual contract extensions have resulted in some bloated salaries that the club finds it difficult from which to escape. Sami Khedira was an example of this; Adrien Rabiot, although he’s a valuable contributor, is an example of this with how much he’s getting paid; and Aaron Ramsey is certainly an example of this.
The reason Juventus needs to address the financial side of things is pretty clear: landing a global superstar before he’s 33 years old. I see a fair amount of discussion in the comments daydreaming about Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland, but at this point in time, even if the club parted ways with Ronaldo, the Old Lady just doesn’t have the purse for such a move.
The Scudetto streak is all but broken, and the Champions League is more than one or two summer roster additions from reach. This club needs a rebuild, maybe not one from the ground-up but certainly a thorough overhaul that’s going to bring balance to the pitch in every phase of the game. The side has looked brittle and precarious for years now, with glaring question marks and out-of-position players. I don’t want to see another half-hearted attempt to cobble something together around Ronaldo and end, for a fourth reprise, in failure.
The truth is, a full rebuild might hurt — it might hurt bad. It would involve some Juventus fans relinquishing the idea that this is one of the globe’s most elite clubs. It might involve not winning the Scudetto for another couple of seasons. It would almost certainly involve dropping any serious hopes of the Champions League other than the tantalizing role of a serious dark horse.
But sometimes to fix a bullet hole you need surgery, and surgery tends to place you in a hospital wing for some time. But I’d rather nurse my wounds in bed and recover to full strength than march into battle with a Band-Aid covering something much worse.