As we’ve said on both the podcast and in articles, this will be a very unusual season for us. It seems strange to say that given that the last few seasons have been some of the most craziest times in footballing history: global pandemics, mid-season shutdowns of football competitions, stadiums without fans, and winter (!) World Cups.
And now it’s going to be a weird season for Juventus because, for the first time since 2011-12, the club will play no European football of any kind .
Back to business
Before we returned to competitive action in the league, Juventus still had to complete its preseason preparations. It was a little shorter than usual due to the canceled friendly against Barcelona, but that didn’t stop us from putting in a fantastic 3-1 smash-and-grab victory over Real Madrid in Orlando, Florida.
First, Moise Kean scored off the rebound after Weston McKennie’s shot hit the post to open the scoring after barely a minute played. The American then assisted his fellow countryman and new signing Timothy Weah to score the team’s second after roughly 20 minutes of play. Real Madrid pulled a goal back through Vinicius Junior but Dusan Vlahovic made sure of the victory with the team’s third goal in stoppage time of the second half.
Juventus ended its pre-season preparations with a goalless draw against Atalanta on Aug. 13. Mx Allegri’s men had a fantastic first half in which it created lots of chances but, unlike against Real Madrid, the players were wasteful in front goal. Still, a positive end to the pre-season that gives Juventini hope for the upcoming season.
On Aug. 20, the real business began with a season opener against Udinese. And what a start it was, as Juventus scored three goals in the first half to effectively win the game before halftime. First, Vlahovic capitalized on an error in the Udinese defense and passed it to Federico Chiesa, who played as a second striker in what will likely be his new position for the rest of the season. Chiesa scored with a precise shot through the legs of Udinese defender Jaka Bijol and past Marco Silvestri in goal: 1-0.
The Bianconeri kept pushing and pushing for more goals, which is something we haven’t seen in a long time from an Allegri team. Vlahovic scored from a penalty after Alex Sandro’s cross hit Festy Ebosele’s arm in the box. In the last action of the first half, Adrien Rabiot finished off a splendid passing move by heading in a cross from Andrea Cambiaso, who impressed in his Juventus debut.
The team understandably focused on protecting the comfortable lead in the second half and dropped the intensity significantly after the break. Nevertheless, thanks to one of the most impressive first half performances that Juventus have played in a long time, they could afford to relax a little and protect the 3-0 lead until the final whistle!
Unfortunately, in the next game Bologna reminded us that you can’t always have nice things. As good as the Bianconeri was in the first half against Udinese, they were terrible in the first half against Bologna. As a result, Thiago Motta’s side was by far the better team and deservedly took the lead through Lewis Ferguson
, with some help from secret agent Alex Sandro. Bologna’s relentless press and disciplined defensive structure resulted in plenty of chances for the visitors and they probably should have scored more than one in the first half.
Allegri’s side recovered after the break, though not significantly. Vlahovic thought he had equalized after acrobatically volleying Bremer’s headed pass into the back of the net, but the goal was disallowed after a VAR check because Rabiot was marginally offside and judged to be interfering with the play. There was more controversy later, as Samuel Iling-Junior clearly fouled Dan Ndoye from behind in the penalty box just as he was about to tap in a low cross into an open goal but, remarkably, the referee didn’t see anything wrong with the challenge, much to the (justified) anger of Bologna’s players and coaching staff.
The referee’s mistake proved to be even costlier given that Juventus equalized ten minutes later. Paul Pogba showed a nice piece of skill to get past a Bologna player and pass it to Iling-Junior. The Englishman then played an absolutely perfect cross to Vlahovic, who headed the ball past Lukasz Skorupski in goal for the equalizer. Juventus pressed for the winner but it was unfortunately too little, too late: 1-1.
I know that this technically wasn’t a transfer involving the club, but given the man’s legendary status for both Juventus and Italy I can’t help but mention that goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon finally decided to retire at the remarkable age of 45. Sam wrote a wonderful tribute to him when Buffon first left the club, so make sure to read that if you haven’t done so yet.
In other Juventus transfer news for August:
- Franck Kessie was supposedly close to joining Juventus, but decided to join Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia as the league continues its successful sports-washing project.
- The transfer saga of the summer was the proposed swap deal between Dusan Vlahovic and Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea, with the English club adding some cash to the deal. Thankfully, the deal fell apart due to a combination of Chelsea not offering enough money (there’s a sentence I never thought I would write) and Lukaku, eventually, not wanting to join Juventus.
- Juventus signed 20-year-old Uruguayan defender Facundo González from Spanish side Valencia. He was sent on loan to play for Andrea Pirlo at Sampdoria.
- Belgian defender Koni De Winter joined newly promoted Genoa on a season-long loan deal.
- Although it was just a rumor, there was thought to be a chance that due to Andrea Cambiaso’s strong start to the season and the club’s financial struggles, the Bianconeri were considering selling Filip Kostic.
- Even though Denis Zakaria joined Juventus with high hopes of being the last piece of the midfield puzzle that Juventus were missing, things just didn’t work out that way. He left the club to join AS Monaco in a €20 million transfer.
- Juventus youngsters Luca Pellegrini and, much to Sam’s disapproval, Nicolo Rovella joined Lazio on two-year loans. There is an obligation to buy both players, with Rovella’s option being €17 million and Pellegrini’s only €4 million.
- A trio of youngsters also left the club on loan, although thankfully all three deals are dry loans. Kaio Jorge, Enzo Barrenechea, and his compatriot Matias Soulé all joined promoted team Frosinone for the 2023-24 season.
- But one promising youngster is staying put: 18-year old midfielder Kenan Yildiz rounded off a great summer by signing a contract extension till summer 2027.
- After being suddenly exiled from the team at the start of the preseason, Leonardo Bonucci joined Union Berlin after the Italian was temporarily left in limbo. Now that we’re on the topic, let’s talk about the Italian defender a little more in the next segment.
A nasty breakup
In my relatively short time on this earth, I’ve learned that how a person ends relationships — be it a professional or personal relationship, with a person or with an organization — says a lot about the character and integrity of said person. In general, you never want to burn bridges (especially in small towns) because you just never know when you might need or run into that person/organization again in the future.
Unfortunately, the way that Juventus ended its relationship with longtime, legendary defender Leonardo Bonucci is saying a lot of bad things about the club’s integrity and character (as if we need any more of that at the moment, right?).
In case you missed it, new sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli essentially told Bonucci in July that the club no longer needs his services and that he can pack up his bags and leave as soon as possible. And left he did, as Union Berlin signed the defender on a free transfer on the final day of the summer transfer window.
Just like that.
A player who was a critical part of Juve’s most successful and dominant period in Italy and played in the two Champions League finals appearances in Cardiff and Berlin is abruptly booted out of the club without a proper goodbye. Bonucci was allegedly planning on taking legal action against the club and while I think that’s completely unnecessary, people tend to react emotionally (and irrationally?) to sudden shocks like these. Bonucci is only human, after all, so I can understand his seemingly vindictive response. But such a response risked escalating what already was a nasty breakup into a very ugly, very public divorce.
The part that really annoys me about this fight is that it all seems so unnecessary. Bonucci had one year remaining on his contract and he seemed smart and honest enough to understand that he was no longer good enough for the starting XI, especially with younger players like Federico Gatti and Bremer showing that they’re the future of the Juventus defense. Based on his performances last season, I think Bonucci also realized that a) he’s not fit enough to play a full season of football and b) even if he was, he wasn’t/isn’t in Allegri’s plans anyway.
Given these conditions, it’s baffling to me that both parties couldn’t reach a compromise to resolve this issue before it got this ugly. Besides his much-hated transfer to AC Milan, where he only lasted for a season, it seems that Bonucci had a pretty good relationship with the club and not had any problems or arguments with management. So, why the sudden malice between Juventus and Bonucci? Where did this come from?
Unless either party objectively shares their respective sides of the story with the public, we’ll probably never know. To us fans watching from a distance, this will forever remain a nasty, mysterious, and seemingly unnecessary breakup.