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On how Juventus finds itself in yet another defining moment

Max Allegri and Co. face another crucial moment in their saga of a season.

Spezia Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Francesco Scaccianoce/Getty Images

At the very end of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the protagonist of the story, Victor Frankentein himself, the scientist who created the monster, is attempting to persuade a group of sailors, on whose ship he is marooned and ailing, that pursuing the fiend, rather than taking the calm, homeward-bound waters, is the right choice.

In a book riddled with gothic horror, the moment is an inspiring one:

“Did you not call this a glorious expedition?” Frankenstein entreats them. “And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror; because at every new incident your fortitude was to be called forth and your courage exhibited; because danger and death surrounded it, and these you were to brave and overcome.”

In my estimation, the general assertion here is correct: character untested is not really character at all; strength without struggle is nothing. As my old friend Wemedge said, “Courage is grace under pressure.”

Without going too far off course, I myself fail to live up to this standard almost daily. In difficult times, I reach for cheap pleasure, vapid distraction; in times where I see something good on top of a mountain to climb, I try to find the easy route, the one that evades the steepest pitches and most precarious pitfalls — only to find myself at basecamp once again. Good things are hard. Good things take time.

Or, to put it another way that I recently heard: If you toil for something good, the toil dissipates but the good remains; if you pleasure in something evil, the pleasure dissipates but the evil remains.

This is all a very roundabout, digression-ridden way of getting to the one simple point I am trying to make: Against Nantes on Thursday night, we will see what the players of Juventus are made of. For the rest of the campaign, the temptation to toss in the towel, the temptation for some players to start strategizing their exit, will be very real.

On Angel

Here is one man whose character shouldn’t be questioned anymore: Angel Di Maria.

When Di Maria arrived in Juventus, there was, as is the mob’s custom, immediate and unfair speculation regarding his commitment to the shirt. There was more than one Juventus fan saying that the Argentine was here to put forth minimal effort for the Bianconeri, go to the World Cup, collect a handsome paycheck, and then book it back home in June. There was even a rumor at one point — which Di Maria promptly and strongly refuted — that El Fideo was going to go home early, was going to terminate his contract and begin his retirement.

Then, against Spezia, in yet another cumbersome victory for the Old Lady, the 35-year-old Argentine subbed into the game and promptly scored a much-needed second goal. His reaction, one of sheer passion, leaves little need for words. Di Maria has been the best and most threatening offensive player for the last several weeks, and there is no doubt he’s giving everything he has.

The idea that he’s shipping it in, that his effort is nominal, is ludicrous. Juventus need players like him the rest of the way.

On fino alla fine’s lack of conditions

The temptation for nihilism right now is real; there’s no denying that. One looks at the table, at the points deduction, at the possibility of more penalties in the future, at the roster, at the product on the field, at the difficulty with which each point is earned — one sees all this and notes how far it is from Juventus teams of old, the ones hoisting trophies and dominating the Italian peninsula.

But this is Juventus. We say fino alla fine; the aphorism bears no modifiers. It’s not “fino alla fine” only if the club is winning trophies, only the if the club is driving deep into the Champions League, only if the club is doing this or that. It’s until the end, nothing else.

On climbing mountains

There is indeed usually more than one way up a mountain. Everest has two main ascents; K2 has nine named. There are different routes and choices, different approaches stylistically and technically and geographically, based exactly on what you’re trying to accomplish.

The truth of the matter is that there is no easy way up the mountain, even a “little” one like Rainier or Hood; the other truth of the matter is that struggle is not bad. Obstacles are not to be avoided, though the temptation is especially easy to indulge, I think, though without going too much on yet another digression, in many developed Western countries, rife with apps and gadgets and tech and Amazon — ways to avoid the struggle.

Hell, there’s even AI that can write an article about Juventus these days.

Juventus v FC Nantes: Knockout Round Play-Off Leg One - UEFA Europa League Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

On glory

Mary Shelley, through her Victor Frankenstein, knew there was no glory in the unobstructed path. The path forward for Juventus starts with the next fixture, but it doesn’t end there. The path forward, for this year at least, contains little prospect of glory in the traditional sense. The Coppa Italia is the club’s one vaguely realistic opportunity at a trophy. Serie A is out of reach even if all the points are restored. I’m not sure anyone here thinks the Europa League looks terribly reachable right now.

There is in all probability only pride to play for, but that — fino alla fine — is not nothing. The path forward beyond these campaigns is perhaps even more treacherous; the club might be replacing a manager, no simple task even if you dislike Max Allegri, and the club will certainly be turning over a good portion of the roster on a razor-thin budget. Not to mention the charges hanging over the Old Lady like a thick, gray pall.

Wherefore shall this path find glory?