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Manu’s Grab Bag: We Made It

We talk the end of the season, Grab Bag MVP, the best gig in sports and what’s next.

Bologna FC v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

At some point in March, right when the Serie A title was decidedly out of reach for Juventus, I remember making the case that we should consider the season a success if the team somehow managed to win the Coppa Italia and make the Champions League next year.

So, success, I guess?

Yes, for the first time in a decade, the last game of the season wasn’t the usual coronation and celebration for the Bianconeri. Nevertheless, after Sunday’s 4-1 romp over Bologna, they at least managed to avoid missing out on Champions League football and ended a rocky, rollercoaster of a year on a high note.

Let’s cook.

MVP: Paulo Dybala

This was vintage Dybala all game long. I’ve said it often and I’ve said it out loud, Paulo Dybala is a second striker and if you put him alongside a traditional No.9 he plays very well. That’s it, no rocket science involved on this one, fellows.

Paired up with Alvaro Morata, La Joya had a really good game in which he was comfortable to control and orchestrate Juve’s attack. An attack that looked as good as it has all season long with a flurry of goals to match. There will be plenty of postmortems after the season is over diagnosing this club, but something that cannot be understated is how important it was that Dybala missed a significant portion of the season. He was the reigning league MVP last year and these kind of showings show why that was.

Runner Up: Alvaro Morata – A well taken brace for the Spanish international that puts his season tally at 20 goals. Another guy whose future is uncertain but that showed what he can do at his best, twenty goals from your second striker is pretty good overall, I’d say.

Grab Bag Season MVP: Cristiano Ronaldo

Congrats to Ronaldo for taking the first-ever Grab Bag MVP award! I’m sure this will be proudly shown on the mantel of the Ronaldo household for years to come, remove one of the Ballon d’Ors and put this article in your trophy case, my guy.

Despite not playing in the last game of the season for … reasons? It’s undoubted the impact he had on the team and on the season as he led Juventus in goals and won the Capocannoniere title. He didn’t have the best last couple of months as he struggled to find form, but regardless it’s pretty hard to make the case he wasn’t a huge part of the season for the club.

Despite a late-season run from Federico Chiesa that threatened to snatch the award away from Ronaldo, at the end of the day the guy that scored the most goals for the team was the best player on the team. Sometimes simplicity is king.

Top 5 Points Leaders:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo – 13 Points
  2. Federico Chiesa – 12 Points
  3. Alvaro Morata – 10 Points
  4. Juan Cuadrado – 9 Points
  5. Matthijs de Ligt – 8 Points

Winner: Andrea Pirlo

Tell you something, he is not going to make it easy for the team to fire him, huh?

After weeks upon weeks of speculation, most reports agreed that if Pirlo managed to win the Coppa Italia final and make it into the Champions League the beleaguered coach would be the favorite to retain his position. Well, the ball is in your court now, Andrea Agnelli.

I’m not going to get too into it since the end of the season recaps are upon us and we will have a longer analysis of the Andrea Pirlo year, but despite this result I’m of the idea that if you were going to fire the guy, you fire him regardless. Just because Napoli choked that shouldn’t change your season long evaluation process and if you feel confident that he is not the guy moving forward one match does not change that.

With that being said, if nothing else the end of the season results are far from catastrophic all things considered and, in my opinion, unless there is someone out there who will no doubt about it be an upgrade over Pirlo — say, Zinedine Zidane or Max Allegri — I think you are better off staying put.

Winner: Carlo Pinsoglio

I’ve often been of the opinion that the best gig in sports is third keeper at a premier European club. All you really have to do is train hard, be a good teammate and have people like you. And goddamn if Pinsoglio is not the best at it.

I guarantee that if you scour the web you will find not one disparaging word about Pinsoglio the human being, and there is nobody in the Juventus locker room with a higher approval rating than the 31-year-old backup. From a fun-having perspective nobody had a better time than Pinsoglio and Gianluigi Buffon this season, just chuckling away every game on the bench.

So, yeah, even if he hadn’t played one single minute this season, Pinsoglio would have been a net positive for the club. Yet, here he was making his scheduled last-game-of-the-season appearance and looking pretty fine doing so! This is your annual remainder that even the third string keeper at a professional club is 10 times the athlete you or I will ever be.

Loser: Juventus’ Chances of Lifting an European Trophy


There, I know it doesn’t make sense monetarily and that the team really needed to make it to the Champions League and I know that from a prestige standpoint clubs like Juventus need to be making it into the premier European competition every year. It all makes sense, this is good news, OK?

Still, you cannot convince me that after years of super high expectations about the Champions League, one year in the Europa League — a tournament that Juve would have been most likely favored to win — wouldn’t have been at least a nice change of pace. But, whatever, its fine, looking forward to getting ousted in the round of 16 yet again but keeping those coffers nice and full.

Parting Shot of the Week

Two trophies and the Champions League qualification.

All the drama, the highs and lows, the intrigue, the freaking still-to-come Amazon show and they still managed to lift two trophies and a top four finish. This wasn’t the season we all wanted, but even at their worst this team still ends up with a pretty decent season regardless.

I can’t wait for this summer to get going as it will undoubtedly be a very active and meaningful one. Thanks everyone for sticking around this year, despite it all, it was fun to write these articles and it will never not be incredible to see my name on a byline every weekend. It does not get old.

See you around this summer.