We sit in 7th after a haphazard start to the campaign which many of us felt so positive towards before the first game of the season. For Paratici had gone! Pirlo had gone! And yet then Ronaldo left in the final flurry, which most of us tried to look past, clung onto the hope that Max will cure all ills and we will revive, ascend back to where we belong in the upper echelons of domestic and even continental football…
Unfortunately, we have not shed the lethargy, broke free from the paralysis of deep rot to emerge a rageful new beast hellbent on regaining our rightful position as fearsome titans of continental football. At least not yet. For despite our hideous start to the season, of late, we appear to have steadied. Focusing on learning to defend as a team, and moved from hard fought, still worrisome slender victories over the mighty challenges of Spezia and Sampdoria…to a superb performance to deservedly beat reigning European Champions Chelsea, then to despatch our cross town rivals.
Five victories from our last 6, with the last two clean sheets especially, very promising. For it feels like we are working through the painful birth pains of a new team and through this process, perhaps, finally closing the wretched chapter of the last few years.
I will not curse our fate through making assumptions from tentative flickers of flames of hope. Instead, will conservatively maintain my firm-ish stance from before the campaign began. Which is that I expect a rough ride. No disjointed squad so poorly managed for two years, with no money to spend, suddenly becomes amazing. To aim for CL qualification, a team to appear who play cohesive football, hungry for every ball, a collective more than individual parts roughshod put together. With performances and form steadying, to return to us all a side to inspire pride, excitement and honour to the history of our storied club and ethos.
4th spot in the league. Cl knockout phases. A jolly coppa italia run. A team to feel connected to, a part of their collected heart beating in time with my own. Nothing more, nothing less. These are my reasonable aspirations.
Yet how did we find ourselves in this position? The fast and furious bouts of staggered demise have been dizzying. Little time to truly stop, take a deep breath and consider the reasons behind our fall from grace. Until now.
Even that nourishes my bizarre superstition, for to talk of this period of undignified shock therapy that has ensued for us all, as over, dealt with, I worry will cause the cruel jester who chuckles at me from the nether realms as he makes me dance and crawl from catastrophe to catastrophe…to resurface with wild vibrancy.
By my admittedly and even now perhaps muddled thinking, it all began with the signing of Ronaldo. Paratici was behind this, with Nedved alongside, and Agnelli bought into some brave new focus on mega signings, marketing and yet to do so involved ditching the man who has presided over the building of teams which came together so well, with solid management, to return us from the cold to the top.
Beppe Marotta made a few mistakes. Many point to Higuain, and yet…whilst admittedly, hugely overpriced, with him in the ranks we still won the league, played good football and reached the CL final. Before which, and I will give Paratici his due as a head scout, Beppe oversaw teams which brought some truly world class quality to the ranks and we prospered, became close to indomitable domestically and a major force in European competition.
After his departure Paratici made many moves, which were I believe very much connected to a more expansive new focus of the club on branding. Sarri was part of this, yet the idea of creating some exciting brand of attacking football, of basically emulating his Napoli side, failed to bear fruit. And I ponder that this move was ill considered, for his character was not at all in line with the club’s ethos. Nor did we have the Napoli squad, or anything resembling this. Doomed to fail.
Credit to the manager for despite the crawling over the line to win the scudetto, we were becoming a shambles near the end of his tenure, and somehow he held firm.
Next was Pirlo, an odd choice, yet this smacked of Andrea Agnelli going berserk. Last season was horrid. The coaching was appalling, and as Tudor confirmed, it was anything but ideal on the training ground. We laboured, hugely, to steal 4th spot. Often looked like a side of players who had never met each other before. Another to be culled, rightfully, and whilst many suggested Pirlo would soon be snapped up, I thought no chance, as he had proven the worst manager I have ever known at Juve. Not solely his fault, but the lofty idealism and lack of experience, proved draining as a fan, and likely dizzying as a player.
Now we are in recovery, and I have faith in Max. Do not buy into the knee jerk reactions and condemnations of his ‘old school, outdated ideas’. As I consider him far from an old timer. He will get the best out of this squad. If done in a timely enough fashion, it should be enough to set us up for further recovery next season, but much will depend on Cherubini. For this squad is far from balanced, the reason for this I suggest has much to do with Paratici.
Many are highly critical of Tek, who admittedly was in decent form even up until Sarri’s reign, when I felt he was close to perfect. After which, however, he has fallen down somewhat. Yet has thankfully, at least for the time being, recovered focus. The Pole was extended in early 2020, with a new four year contract worth net €6,760,000/annum.
De ligt was a mega signing, certainly something of a coup, as he was regarded as the strongest young CB on the planet, at least in European circles. I am unsure if his form has matched the immense investment it took to bring him to Juve. Yet still plenty of time for him to come good, and the early signs under Max are very promising. Suffice to say, like most the squad, he was far from one of the finest of his trade in Serie A last season. Annual wage – €12,480,500.
Freddy Bernardeschi has been an abject failure across the length of his contract so far, at Juve. Not one I can pin totally on Paratici, but somewhat as he is a player who should of have been moved on, as he is on big money and his contract ends next summer. So either we renew, and why would we? Or Cherubini must try sell in the Winter. €4,680,000/ annum
Arthur was signed through some creative accounting work, by Paratici, and his first season was one of close to complete failure. Now hopefully fully fit from his calcification issues and has chance to show he is worth the €9,880,000/ annum wage.
Adrien Rabiot is a little divisive. More was expected of him, and still is. For me, he does not do enough. Which is as much down to a poor mentality as absence of top level technique, with his performances often saved through his physicality alone. A pricy ‘free’ signing from Paratici at €11,700,250/ annum, with a contract until 2023.
Along with Rabiot, our departed SD brought in welsh international, Aaron Ramsey, who has proven woeful. I dont doubt his effort, but his injury record prior to joining was at best, suspect, more reasonably very worrying. Statements regarding our medical staff have not helped, but this detracts from his complete inability to show any consistent fitness or form. A pricy Paratici gamble which went very wrong indeed at €11,700,250/annum. Contract ends 2023.
Alvaro Morata is another divisive player. The deal to bring him back to Turin was 10m/annum loan fee for 20/21, then renewed for this campaign for another 10m, with a purchase price set in concrete at 35m. So far, 20m along with his €8,840,000/annum wages. If he is signed, we will have paid at that point (or be set to pay) around 70m all up. Which is a huge figure I struggle to conclude has been good value for money, but time will tell.
The most brutal was of course Ronaldo, who Paratici paid EU116m to sign and net wage of around EU30m/annum.
That means that Juventus FC, taking into account both annual amortisation and gross salary, bore a total annual cost of EUR 86m for Ronaldo alone, representing approximately 22% of the total operating revenues the club generated at the time he joined (EUR 400m in 2017/18). The overall cost borne by Juventus FC until the date of his departure, taking also into account the EUR 14m loss registered on his disposal this summer – calculated as the difference between the fixed fee paid by Manchester United FC (EUR 15m) and the net book value of Ronaldo as at 30th June 2021 (EUR 29m) is equivalent to EUR 272m over the past three seasons.
EU272m is staggering. This was arguably the biggest gamble in our history, financially speaking. And whilst some, even many, say that we recouped much of that investment, I am yet to find any hard proof of this. It was this move which leveraged our future on one player. Who did his best, and performed very well, breaking scoring records and leading us often solely on his shoulders to thwart the steady decline in results and performances.
The losses repeatedly announced and worsening from the club date back to this move. As does the need, perhaps, of signing ‘free’ transfers like Rabiot and Ramsey. Who were far from free and neither have solved the midfield issue we have long suffered since the breakup and inadequate replacement of Vidal, Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba.
In some ways, I can admire the ambition, but it was not a well thought out plan. Much was sacrificed to make it work in any way both on and off the field. And the move must be deemed a failure, given it coincided with a quickening of our decline.
Still, not all of Paratici’s legacy is appalling. For De Ligt, despite paying him a kings ransom, may well prove superb. And then sold, as he will be along the lines of the longstanding MO of Nedved’s chum Raiola, for good money. I skipped Rugani and De Sciglio. And also the Danilo move, which I have come to see as a decent piece of business, although this is tempered by finding Cancelo, the better option. As FBs who can defend are more easily found than FBs who can operate as a winger, create, score, cause mayhem when bombing forward. Even those whose defensive zeal is questionable, as with Cancelo, are often far from awful and a constant liability.
Kulu is yet another divisive signing. For many have condemned him, to my mind ridiculously, as he always appears to have strong technique and great potential. Also must take into account that he was signed after an amazing season, young player of the year for Serie A, when performing as a RWF. Pirlo then played him all over the shop. Max has done similar, but seems to be understanding, his best role is RWF. Kulu is anointed by Ibrahimovic, who is an arrogant, yet mega talented swine. And yet…he is not in the habit of praising players for the hell of it.
The problem is that our most devastating forward, Chiesa, is at his best at RWF. We also have another very consistently dangerous player in Juan Cuadrado, also at his best at RWF. It is 1 too many, unfortunately. Which can be part improved as Chiesa is still potent on the left, and through the middle.
A general overview of the squad shows some bad management on the recruitment front, with only 1-2 consistent performers in the all important CM area, a right side heavy investment on the offensive front, a goalkeeper on a lengthy contract whose ability may well be waning. Also no real challenge to Sandro, who looked jaded the last few years but seems revived of late. And no natural left sided attacker.
Which is not to suggest we have a poor squad, more a case of a poorly assembled squad.
It would have been preferable to replace Paratici with a seasoned pro with demonstrable success at a high level. Perhaps we tried and there may be plans in place to bring in a Tare or Carnevali when their contracts expire at their respective clubs. For now, we have Cherubini, of whom I am skeptical, given his lack of experience, but not presently overly concerned with. Though he has a huge job to perform this season and next. With money tighter than ever before and too many average players on huge money and long contracts, it’s a tough job. And one which I assume will take a couple of years to clear out the dross and create a stronger, more cohesive squad for Max to assemble into we must hope, an elite side.
And perhaps Max is involved with recruitment, as was rumoured or even intimated. Which should help our cause I believe.
For now, we are working our way back towards becoming somewhere near the sum of our parts, a competitive team, as Cherubini pulls the strings behind the scenes to move the club through the Paratici legacy into a brave new era.