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Manu’s Summer Grab Bag: Paper Machete

The summer went by in a hurry, and next week they start counting for real, folks.

The crowd invades the pitch at the end of the friendly... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

What’s the worst travel experience you’ve ever had?

I’ve been doing a lot of travel for work recently. Most of them are fairly enjoyable trips in which we visit vendors or attend trade shows abroad. There’s been a couple of duds sure, but by and large it’s a part of the gig I enjoy.

That being said, there is nothing that sours an experience more than a crappy flight. Double that if it comes on the return leg of the trip in which the only thing you want to do is get home and rest. I was thinking about it and one trip jumps out as a legitimately awful experience that is up there as one of the worst ever.

We had to visit one of our stores in a relatively secluded location. It’s not impossible to get there or anything, but it has a fairly small regional airport, which usually means there’s only a couple flights into the city early in the AM and one or two late in the afternoon back to Mexico City, where we are located. In an effort to cut costs, we were instructed to do the visit in one day, so staying the night wasn’t really in the cards.

Because of the lack of options, we essentially had two choices when it came to our itinerary — fly with a decent carrier but with pretty bad time slots in and out of Mexico City, or roll the dice with a shady regional airline that had a much better schedule.

The regional choice won out, and as soon as we stepped into the tarmac we realized what a poor choice we had made. The plane that we were going to be taking was a propeller antique that looked that it had been in service for a good 50 years. I’m not an expert in aviation by any means, but it feels like propeller airplanes were something that we had left behind as a species a while ago.

The vibes did not improve once we stepped into the plane, took a seat and realized that the armrests still came equipped with ash trays which are decidedly not part of any planes built in this century. When we took off in this Cold War-ass airplane and hit the slightest bit of turbulence I saw my life flash before my eyes multiple times.

It was a very short haul flight, maybe an hour-and-a-half tops, but it felt like an eternity as every single crack and noise sounded like impending doom for every should aboard. You are never more keenly aware that you are thousands of feet up in the air spitting in the face of God and gravity than when you are flying in what is essentially a bus with precariously attached wings.

Against all odds, we had a drama-free landing, and when we were finally allowed to disembark I wanted to drop to my hands and knees Pope-style and kiss the ground with gratitude. Luckily for the return flight, we got a normal, not 50-year-old aircraft that got us home with relative ease.

The one thing we learned from the experience, though, was that it’s better to wait a few hours in an airport lounge and get home slightly later than to risk life and limb on an airline that — true story — would go under within a year of taking that flight.

We were not surprised.

The Good, The Bad ...

After some very quiet days, we had a torrent of moves from the Juventus front office that truly ran the gamut.

Let’s start with what I consider one of the legitimately great moves we have seen from Juve’s board in a while. Selling Denis Zakaria for €20 million to Monaco is an absolute steal for new head honcho Cristiano Giuntoli.

Zakaria hadn’t played top level football in a year and a half. He was coming back from a disastrous loan spell at Chelsea and was marked as out of the Juve squad from pretty much the moment he arrived back to Turin.

They kinda got bailed out by Zakaria’s former manager being appointed at AS Monaco and him really standing on the table for the Swiss international. But still, the fact they got a pretty penny for a player who was in a marginally better position than a guy like Arthur is not nothing.

On the other side of the coin ... man, did the Nicolo Rovella transfer hurt.

At some point, having such a bloated, asset-barren squad was going to bite this team in the ass. If you subscribe to the theory that Juventus had to sell guys to make some money up due to their dire financial situation, they were going to have make some tough decisions and let go of players that you didn’t necessarily want to let go off.

It looked like it was going to be Dusan Vlahovic for a while or Federico Chiesa. If those guys were not being sold — which was good! — the list of desirable players that could fetch some cash got dire in a hurry. It didn’t take long to land on Rovella being one of the most likely sacrificial goats.

With no European games on deck this season and Manuel Locatelli still entrenched as the starter in the position, minutes were going to be hard to come by for young Rovella. It sucks to see him being sold away without ever getting a chance to truly prove himself as a Juve player. He has a lot of potential and it wouldn’t shock me to see him be very successful with Lazio under Maurizio Sarri. But a domino had to fall, and if it’s between a talented — but untested at the highest levels of Serie A — Rovella and someone like the aforementioned Chiesa or Vlahovic I think they made the right choice.

Juventus Training Session Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

Lastly, he was a bit of a footnote in the deal but just pour one out for Luca Pellegrini as another guy who never quite had enough of a shot with Juventus. I might be biased but it felt like whenever he played he was pretty decent and I never quite understood why pretty much no coach for Juve during his stint here rated the kid.

(The Luca Pellegrini for Leonardo Spinazzola trade, low-key one of the worst moves of the Fabio Paratici era. Spinazzola got hurt a lot, I know but he definitely gave Roma a whole heck of a lot more than Pellegrini ever did for Juventus and was at times one of the bestfullbacks in the league when Juventus was starting the likes of Gianluca Frabotta and the artist formerly known as Alex Sandro on a consistent basis.)

... and The Ugly

Leo Bonucci is a pretty polarizing player with the Juventus faithful. Between his semi-acrimonious move to AC Milan to his less than stellar twilight years back with the club that have been marred by poor play and a void of leadership that he was supposed to fill, there’s plenty of good reasons to dislike the guy.

That being said, I still feel kinda bad for how he has been treated in this transfer window. I know he is on big wages, I know he’s lost a step, but to force a guy out in this way that was such a big part of the history of the team for so many years? It feels wrong.

Bonucci was one of the best defenders in the world for almost a decade. He was a key part of the most successful period of Juventus football in this century - and maybe ever? That’s a debate right there! - and a player that we will remember far more as an all timer rather than the headache he became later on.

When and if Bonucci is gone from the club it will officially mark the end of an impressive era of Juventus football. It probably behooves everyone involved that said era comes to an end, but I will still regret him not being able to have a proper send off as so many of the key cogs of those teams had.

The End

We got through the summer and this piece marks the last Summer Grab Bag of the season. As always, thanks to everyone who read and interacted with these posts. These Summer Grab Bags are a nice change of pace for yours truly and a chance to write about different things which is not always possible when you are in the grind of the season. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.

(Even if you only opened the links to write some annoying OT comment. You OT people are the worst. Joking ... kind of.)

Special shoutout to commenter pambrosini who got the title gimmick being Queens of the Stone Age songs in the second Grab Bag of the summer. Thought most everyone either didn’t care about that dumb little detail, so it was pretty fun for me to see that at least someone does!

Last, but not least, shoutout to our EIC and head blog honcho Danny. He could very well tell me to stop wasting about half of the article with rambling half-baked thoughts and stories and write about what we are all here for which is Juventus football. But, to his credit, that has never happened and I appreciate it a whole lot.

Next week, the games start counting for real. I’m happy to share next season with everyone once again. Let’s say goodbye to the summer with the banger to end all bangers.

See you Sunday.