Juventus are a team in transition right now with new sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli assessing where the club stands before making changes. The over-inflated wage bill and deadweights on the squad are both going to hamper any improvements he will look to effect during the summer mercato, but the new man is certainly up to the task.
He grew up in a Juve-loving family and reportedly his father was buried with a Juventus jersey, and speaking during his first full press conference after taking over the role he explained his enthusiasm but started off with a note of thanks for his previous employers, defending Scudetto champions Napoli.
“Good morning, first of all, thank you for being here. First, I wanted to express my gratitude to President De Laurentiis and Chiavelli because they gave me a great opportunity eight years ago. I want to thank Naples, the city, and the players.”
What have been his first impressions of the Bianconeri and what difference did he think he would make?
“I am very pleased because I received an extraordinary welcome from everyone. I found great quality in all areas, and everyone has been very cooperative.
“Honestly, from the outside, I don’t think about other people’s problems, so I don’t know from the outside. I have waited to see certain things, but in the end, what matters is what we do from here onwards. The club has asked me to be competitive again and to be sustainable because the world is moving in this direction.
“We need to keep an eye on the finances and also on the history of Juventus, returning to great competitiveness with the rest of the world. I don’t know what I can bring, but my history speaks clearly enough. I spent six years at one club and eight at another, so I have been a sporting director for many years. My prerogative is to achieve a lot with what I have available, as I have shown in the past. I aim to bring my experience to this prestigious club.”
Giuntoli interestingly tends to watch matches from the bench, which will be interesting for Juventus and manager Massimiliano Allegri. His management team will include Giovanni Manna, who has been in charge of Juve’s transfer policy so far, and by Matteo Tognozzi and Claudio Chiellini, Giorgio’s brother. Not joining him at Turin is another key figure in Napoli’s success, head of scouting Maurizio Micheli who is expected to stay in Naples beyond his contract expiration in a year.
When asked if his appointment was to implement an evolution or revolution from the bench, the 51-year-old was unfazed.
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that. I know that I have joined a team of great directors who were already changing the path of Juventus. I believe that together with them, in unity, we can add value. It will certainly take some time because my arrival is not an event but a process.
“I enjoy being close to the players, experiencing the match, noticing nuances and details. I believe I’m not a disturbance; I’m there just to observe.”
With the club’s financial issues, is this the time to focus and grow through the youth in the system?
“While I have just arrived, the club has already made remarkable moves. In June, they confirmed Adrien Rabiot, who is one of the strongest midfielders in the world and has been playing for France for years. They acquired Timothy Weah, a player with great prospects and talent. They also redeemed Arkadiusz Milik.
“So, at this moment, Juventus has already completed a significant part of the market. Currently, we have many players in various positions, and we need to rationalize the squad. That is our priority: bringing clarity, setting the direction, and rationalizing the squad.
“Investing in young players is crucial, but we must always remember to find a balance between sustainability and competitiveness. Competitiveness is achieved with talent, youth, and experience. We need to blend these elements.”
What was going to be his approach with players like Dennis Zakaria, Weston McKennie, Leonardo Bonucci, and Arthur Melo who appear to be ‘outside’ of the project?
“I don’t know where you heard that McKennie is outside of the project. We never said that. At the moment, there are players working separately who are on the market, and there are players who are part of the project.
“We are currently negotiating with a few clubs regarding Zakaria. We are also discussing Arthur with a couple of clubs, and as for Bonucci, we are in talks with other clubs, but we haven’t found anything suitable for him yet.”
Are the reported links to Romelu Lukaku what could called a “Giuntoli move” of the type he has achieved in the past, especially with the player having turned the club down in the past?
“Here, we shouldn’t focus on ‘Giuntoli moves,’ ‘Allegri moves,’ or ‘Manna moves,’ but rather on Juventus moves. We need to return to a sustainable yet competitive market. It will be a mix of talented young players and experienced individuals.
“Regarding the player you mentioned, Giovanni and I are exploring the market and talking to many clubs and players, but we are in the information-gathering phase. The media may speculate, but as you can see, we are heavily focused on Vlahovic, Chiesa, Kean, and Milik. That’s where our priorities lie.
“I repeat, we are convinced that we have a highly competitive team and a very competitive group of attackers. At the moment, I don’t feel like saying anything because the transfer market has just begun. Giovanni [Manna] and I are in the early stages of gathering information.
“As for incoming transfers, that phase for Juventus is over because we need to rationalize the squad due to having many players. We don’t know how many competitions we will be playing in, and we are working on some exits, as you know, and that’s all we’re thinking about.”
How about the rumours concerning Dusan Vlahovic, would he be sold? How about Paul Pogba?
“It’s not a secret that we need to tidy up our finances. However, we strongly believe in him [Vlahovic]. But obviously, when there are irresistible offers, we can think about them. Technically, though, we have a strong belief in him.
“The situation with Pogba seems clear to me. He has a strong desire to return to the field at his best, and we are waiting for him. For us, Pogba is fundamental; he has quality and experience. He is a player we rely on.”
Were there any planned signings to bolster the defence?
“We have Alex Sandro, Daniele Rugani, Danilo, Gleison Bremer, Federico Gatti, Koni De Winter. So, there are no planned additions; there might be some departures. Right now, we’re good as we are.”
What are the challenges with trying to create a culture of sustainability at a storied team like Juventus?
“There can be [challenges], but Juventus is always Juventus. It will take some time to achieve a virtuous path. Initially, being virtuous might be an obstacle, but in the long run, it can bring us great benefits. Sacrifices in the market? I don’t know; right now, we need to be clear-headed.
“I don’t set limits. We need to do our best for Juventus; at this moment, we don’t set limits. We shouldn’t set minimum goals; we should aim for the maximum.”
Is Allegri the right coach for Juventus? What players has he requested?
“Last year was extraordinarily difficult. But a person of his level, his stature, let’s not forget that Juventus had an important season and an important journey. We believe that Massimiliano can continue this path with his qualities. We think that to achieve great results, you need talent, mentality, and discipline. For us, he is the most talented of all.
“I speak with the coach every day, and he hasn’t asked me for anything specifically. He believes that we need to continue the work with the young players that was started years ago. He hasn’t asked for anything, and he mentioned that he believes the team has significant room for improvement. That was his initial approach with me. I haven’t asked him for anything either; there is certainly daily communication.”