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Cristiano Giuntoli is exactly what Juventus needs right now

The new head honcho in the front office will bring some things that the Bianconeri desperately need.

Juventus Press Conference Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

After a long wait — one made unnecessarily longer by a petty Aurelio De Laurentiis — Juventus finally have their man in the front office. On July 7, Cristiano Giuntoli was officially announced as the team’s Director of Football.

After the turmoil caused by the mass resignation of the board of directors and front office in November over the Plusvalenza affair, things are finally settled. And when it comes to the man who will be making the sporting decisions, Juventus got exactly the man it needs right now.

Of course, Giuntoli’s record speaks for itself. He’s fielded highly competitive teams on relatively limited budgets for eight years, culminating in his Napoli team that (barf) won its first scudetto in 30 years this past season — and, for a while, was the best-looking team on the entire continent.

Clearly, Juve’s new boss is a highly competent sporting director. But Giuntoli brings two elements that are going to be critical to Juventus as they try to rebuild and regain their place at the top, both domestically and continentally.

First, Giuntoli has broken Juventus free of the Exor echo chamber.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t like having Business Daddy around. Without them, it’s questionable whether Juventus would’ve been able to survive the financial hell that the pandemic wrought.

But over the years, the front office had become increasingly insular. From the time Beppe Marotta was forced out of the position Giuntoli now holds, none of the high-level front office positions were given to outsiders. Marotta was succeeded by Fabio Paratici, who was succeeded by Federico Cherubini, each the protege of the man before. When another voice was added to the front office, in the wake of Paratici’s departure in 2021, it was Maurizio Arrivabene, hired mainly because of his leadership experience as team principal with the Ferrari Formula 1 team, Exor’s other major sporting venture. Arrivabene had also been a Juve board member since 2012.

It’s easy to track the downfall of the team from that point in 2018. Paratici turned out to be deeply inferior to his teacher, assembling bloated, unbalanced rosters that, eventually, caused the conditions by which the creative accounting of the Plusvalenza scandal became necessary to balance the books. It’s impossible to figure out if Cherubini would have been better, as the scandal cut his tenure as sporting director short. Arrivabene — whose tenure at Ferrari was not in any way glorious — was a disaster and a half, becoming known more for saying things in front of a microphone that were better left private as opposed to anything he did to help the team improve.

There was very little in the way of innovation in these years. It’s fair to say that the NextGen is a notable exception to this, but little changed in the way the first team was run day-to-day. Paratici, in large part to enact former president Andrea Angelli’s attempts to take a shortcut to getting Juventus back into the club of the game’s true elites, mostly went after players with name recognition at the expense of actual roster construction. As the team’s fortunes dwindled, they simply doubled down. There was no voice from outside that could maybe suggest to Agnelli that, after repeated failures, another approach might be needed.

Indeed, before Giuntoli was officially announced two weeks ago, the last person from outside of Exor to hold a high-level position in the front office was Marotta himself, having been brought in from Sampdoria by Agnelli in one of his first major moves as president after taking over in 2010. Marotta’s first year in charge was a bit of a false start — although even the Gigi Delneri year started off relatively well, only to be derailed after Christmas by Fabio Quagliarella’s injury — but he soon built a powerhouse.

That powerhouse came together in large part thanks to the second thing that Giuntoli will bring to the table: the ability to build a team.

One would think that that’s the most basic thing in a sporting director’s job description, but it’s a skill that Marotta’s successors weren’t able to master. Again, it’s hard to tell whether or not Cherubini would’ve eventually proven himself worthy in this regard had he not had to step down, but Paratici was downright woeful in the area.

As said before, Paratici’s go-to move during his tenure — at least until the pandemic kneecapped Juve’s finances — was to acquire players with name recognition, and while he assembled rosters whose overall talent was quite high, the problem was that that talent didn’t go together very well. Multiple players with the exact same characteristics would often end up playing together, the only result of which was to make the team predictable — when they weren’t busy getting in each other’s way. The team hasn’t been adequately manned at the fullback position since Massimiliano Allegri’s first tenure.

Regardless of who’s been coaching the team, they’ve been handed a bunch of pieces from different puzzle boxes, which is difficult for any coach to get playing at the level expected of Juventus. This, more than anything else, has been what has pushed Juve into the abyss.

Giuntoli is the first man in control of the roster since Marotta that takes the reins as a proven team-builder. His squads at Napoli complimented each other well, sometimes perfectly. At times they lacked depth, but that’s as much a result of De Laurentiis’ penny-pinching as any deficiency on Giuntoli’s part.

Those financial constraints often forced Giuntoli to look in unlikely places for players who eventually turned into stars. Few people outside of Georgia or perhaps Russia, where he played for Rubin Kazan before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, knew who Kvicha Kvaratskhelia was before this season. Giuntoli signed him from Georgian club Dinamo Batumi for about as much money as Juve paid Paul Pogba to do nothing last year.

All Kvaratskhelia did was rip Serie A to shreds, winning the league’s MVP award in the process. He also jumped early on Giovanni Di Lorenzo, now one of the league’s best fullbacks, Napoli’s captain, and a starter on the Italian national team. Finding diamonds in the rough were once Marotta’s specialty, but as Agnelli’s focus shifted more toward marketability than squad building, the club moved away from that. Giuntoli’s skill in that area could be the most valuable thing he brings to the club.

Now, it’s time for Giuntoli to bring all of those skills to bear on Juventus. It’s a steep task — especially given the team’s financial situation — but he has pieces to start with. Nicolo Fagioli is a building block in midfield. Bremer is likewise in defense, and Federico Gatti’s excellent second half showed he could be as well. If he can keep Federico Chiesa and/or Dusan Vlahovic on his team, he’ll have a supremely talented forward to anchor things as well. His task will be to take those blocks and make a roster that can bring Juve back to where it belongs in the footballing world.

If there’s one executive in the world that can do it, Giuntoli’s record says it’s him.