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Manu’s Grab Bag: Super Sunday

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We talk Juve dropping points, yet again, the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Europa dreaming and THE SUPER LEAGUE.

Atalanta BC v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Talk about poetic justice.

On a Sunday in which the news cycle was quickly taken over by the announcement of The Super League, it was only fair that Juventus lost 1-0 against Atalanta. An Atalanta team that will be one of the teams that will decidedly not be a part of that Super League.

It wasn’t even a particularly bad performance either for Juventus. I’d argue they played a good game for the first 45 minutes and, despite their lackluster second half, should have probably drawn the game.

Either way, thanks to Napoli and Inter drawing later on Sunday, Juventus is still perilously hangs on to the last Champions League spot with seven games remaining on the season.

Good thing we don’t care about Champions League anymore, huh?

Let’s cook.

LVP: Alex Sandro

Honestly, this is kind of unfair to him. I don’t think he played a particularly bad game, though he was lackluster going forward and his game overall wasn’t bad.

He gets the award because he’s a microcosm of what went down for Juventus this game. Didn’t play bad necessarily, but found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and now have nothing to show for it.

This has been a season to forget for Alex Sandro, who will most likely be on the outs with the club come transfer season. It’s a shame, really, for one of the most reliable guys on the team up until the last couple of years and someone who at his best, really was up there with any other left back in the world.

Season Leader(s): Cristiano Ronaldo and Federico Chiesa (12 Points)

Lucky Break

NOT HIM, TAKE ANYONE BUT HIM.

As reports come out that Chiesa’s injury might not be that bad, we can all breath a collective sigh of relief. However, when Chiesa came off the field limping Sunday afternoon, it was understandable that the entirety of Juventus Nation held their breath.

Chiesa has been Juve’s best player in the second half of the season, and as we go into the final stretch of games with European qualification very much in the balance, to be without him would have made an already tough job significantly tougher.

His impact was immediately felt as an already undermanned Juve squad felt desperately flat in attack without him. Speaking of which …

Winner: Cristiano Ronaldo

He’s a winner by virtue of his absence.

Many people on this blog — including myself! — have openly wondered how this team would look without Ronaldo. It’s understandable, he demands such an attention from both defenders and his teammates as he syphons the majority of scoring chances. Putting it simply a team with Ronaldo is a drastically different team than without him.

Despite a good first half, the team was decidedly missing someone to inject more offensive firepower once Paulo Dybala burnt out and Chiesa got hurt. You have to imagine that a team with Ronaldo on would have definitely mustered more than two shots in the second half.

Whether Ronaldo should stay or go next season is a topic of a whole lot of debate, but what is unarguable is that despite his age, Ronaldo still makes a team better offensively when he’s on the pitch.

What to Watch Instead: For All Mankind

A lukewarm, kind of not much more to talk about game, deserves a lukewarm recommendation!

As a recently turned member of the Apple Cult and the proud new owner of a MacBook, the fine folks at Apple give you a year subscription to their streaming service for free.

(Not really free since you are already paying an obscene amount of cash for a laptop, but it does feel nice to receive an email with big, bold letters spelling out FREE, regardless.)

Thanks to this subscription I’ve been checking out some of their offerings. For All Mankind is set in a world in which the USSR won the space race over the USA and how that affects the world at large and NASA in particular. It’s an interesting concept that I found interesting and at times it really delivers on the promise for the show.

But as a whole so far I’ve been finding it too long and the main characters — with a couple of exceptions — are not particularly likable. It’s fine to watch, you won’t find it awful, but there is not a whole lot there, either.

Kind of like Juventus this year!

Europa Dreams

Leaving the whole Super League thing aside for a moment — and we’ll get to it in a minute! — I’ve been casually joking on several recent episodes of The Old Lady Speaks that I kinda want to see Juventus in the Europa League.

So now that this is an actual, very real possibility let me make the full case for it.

Off the top, I know that financially speaking this would be a catastrophe. It would almost certainly cost the team Ronaldo as well as a number of other big salaried players, just competing on the Champions League alone brings in more revenue than a long run in the Europa League does, so from a numbers standpoint I understand this would be a catastrophe. It’s not a good thing for Juventus to play in Europa League from a logical standpoint.

Would it be fun, though? Hell yes it would be fun.

Honestly speaking, does a slightly revamped, but mostly similar Juve squad have much of a chance to win the Champions League next year? Probably not. We are looking at a quarterfinals exit at best that’s not particularly exciting to be quite honest. In the Europa League, however? This team is a favorite immediately!

Roma, Villareal, Arsenal and Manchester United are the four semifinalist in Europa League, wouldn’t Juve immediately be favorite over those four? Ok, maybe even money the way they are playing but still! I haven’t even brought up the fact that the earlier stages of the competition would be a fertile ground to finally give the young guys more exposure. Instead of playing sparingly, Nicolo Fagioli could be an Eruopa League starter against Sparta Praha in the group stage and Gianluigi Buffon could start in Europe all he wants. No need for yet another goodbye from the club legend.

Plus, this would finally give the team a reason to hit the reset button that is desperately needed for the squad. Finally, the Europa League Anthem goes.

Sign me up for some glorious Thursday football.

The Super League Conundrum

Of course, the whole previous argument becomes moot if what was announced Sunday comes to pass.

FIFA and UEFA are notoriously corrupt organizations, this is known, there are innumerable acts proving that they are fundamentally broken institutions. So it is worth admiring that the Super League is so hated that public opinion is somehow on the side of freaking UEFA for the first time in forever.

And for the record, it should be despised. An elite football competition that has set places for clubs year after year regardless of their actual form will only increase the already vast economic disparities that exist in the game. The rich will get significantly richer and they will suffer no consequences from bad management or bad football. You don’t have to look very far to see this in action, and if the Super League were to exist then Juve would have literally zero interest in playing out the string of games remaining on the season. Teams would not learn from their mistakes, they could rest easy knowing that they have the funds to do whatever they please at all times.

This league would fundamentally and irreversibly change the hierarchy of European football for the foreseeable future and ostracize teams and leagues outside of the elite forever.

It will be interesting to see how the negotiations continue, since this might as well be a theoretical business case in leverage. The Super League clubs have a ton of it, they are the best and most popular clubs in their respective leagues. La Liga without the Madrid clubs and Barcelona becomes immediately worse, same goes for Serie A and the Premier League without their Super League members.

UEFA, FIFA and the domestic organizations, however, are not just sitting ducks. If they were to stick to their guns they could follow through with their threats of kicking the teams off their local, Continental competitions and the freakin’ World Cup. Would players from the Super League teams be OK with never playing for their national teams? And if they don’t get to play locally, would the Super League be the only competition these teams would play in? Either way, the fan is the one that loses which is just great stuff.

(If the World Cup scenario came to fruition, you know who’s the only real winner here? Mexico, who has precisely zero players playing for a Super League club. CAN YOU SAY WORLD CHAMPS?!)

Whatever your view on the Super League is, one thing is for certain, they did the announcement in a surprisingly unlikeable way. By having a news dump around midnight on a Sunday and daring anyone to stop them they established themselves as legit villains in a controversy that really has no good guys.

Just the haughtiness of calling yourselves the “Leading European Football Clubs” while openly expecting UEFA and their domestic competitions to let them keep playing with no repercussions. Few things have made me feel so queasy about following this team. Also, can we talk about how of all the people involved in this, somehow Andrea Agnelli seems like the sleaziest of them all?

Saturday afternoon he denied it! The guy is his daughter’s godfather! HE USED TO SIT IN THE BOARD OF THE ECA! That’s the backstabbiest move I’ve seen in a while.

Man, this whole thing just makes me feel dirty. Is there any other factoid that would make this proposal even more unlikeable?

Unbelievable.

Parting Shot of the Week

Considering, well … everything, these last few games of the season will end up being significantly more meaningful that we might have previously anticipated.

With some reports even hinting at the fact that Juventus would be disqualified immediately from the competition there is an outside chance we might have seen the last of the Bianconeri this year.

Good thing their next game is — checks notes — in two days!

That will give them plenty of time to figure things out, I’m sure.

See you — hopefully — on Wednesday.