Where Will Juventus' Serie A Success Rank Among Previous Best Seasons?
An interesting question: Out of 10, what would you give this Juventus? Is Antonio Conte's team one of the classic Bianconeri outfits, or are they simply profiting from Serie A's transitional period?
Certainly, the Juve of old came up against stiffer opposition. Neither of the Milan clubs put up any opposition this year, and the rest of the league is either too inconsistent or too fresh-faced to pass judgement on.
Napoli and Roma had been tipped as the 2012-13 season's "Anti-Juve," to use the Italian phrase, but in the end neither put up much of a fight. The Giallorossi were a disaster—even if they did beat Juventus in January—and when the going got tough for the Partenopei, they withered.
Conte's men had looked impressive in Europe...until they met Bayern Munich. But were the Bavarians simply too good? The result against Barcelona would seem to suggest they were. Would Juventus teams of the past have fared any better, though?
It's impossible to compare players or tactics across different generations, of course. There are too many variables. But it is interesting to wonder where this particular Juve fits in the pantheon of great Juventus sides.
Even against legends like Dino Zoff, Gianluigi Buffon would have challenged for a place. Andrea Pirlo, too, would surely have found himself in demand had he played under any of the great Juve managers. He was, after all, central to what Marcello Lippi did with the Italian national team, and there's little reason to believe he'd be any less important in club colours.
For the rest, it's hard to say. It's no insult to say, for example, that Alessandro Matri, Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella don't quite pack the same punch as Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi or Zinedine Zidane from Lippi's 1990s team.
Of Juventus' current attackers, only Mirko Vucinic could reasonably expect to be even considered by the great managers of old. But the comparison with Lippi's great side are not all unfavourable.
Buffon actually took Angelo Peruzzi's spot in real life, and the evidence suggests that in time Arturo Vidal might match up to Edgar Davids or Didier Deschamps. Squad players from that side like Alessandro Birindelli might find it hard to convince former teammate Antonio Conte that they merit a place in his starting line up today, too.
Giovanni Trapattoni might like the look of several of Conte's current crop, but his side was so strong that it's difficult to see where he'd fit more than a couple of them.
During Trap's first stint on the bench in Turin, Juve lost just 70 games in a decade. They won six Scudetti, a European Cup and a slew of smaller trophies. And they had class from back to front.
Zoff, Gaetano Scirea, Claudio Gentile, Zbigniew Boniek, Marco Tardelli, Liam Brady and then Michel Platini—the squad list reads like a dream team.
Scirea and Gentile were two of football's greatest ever defenders. The former was as graceful, intelligent and good willed as ever there was in a defensive lineup. He would, in fact, have given many of today's attackers a run for their money. The latter was the epitome of physicality, all-fire-and-brimstone crunching tackles. It seems incredible to say, but Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini look ordinary in comparison.
The midfield and forward line were filled with such joyous, focused talent that it's no slight on the reputations of today's players to say they might have been out-classed. There have been few better to grace a pitch than the likes of Boniek, Brady and Platini, after all.
It will be interesting to see what additions Conte makes in the summer, because the core of this squad is solid. Against the full weight of the Old Lady's impressive history, modern players will always look ordinary. How can they look otherwise when huge success and nostalgia combine?
One difference is glaring between the Juve of old and the 2013 version: how they compare to their contemporaries.
Though Juventus' two European Cups might not look that impressive compared to the haul taken by AC Milan or Real Madrid, Bianconeri teams of the past have been consistent threats on the big stage. They've finished runner up in the continent's premier competition five times, and though they might ultimately have been beaten there was little to separate the great Juve sides from the rest of Europe's elite.
Today, Conte's charges are some way behind the very best teams. Bayern, Barca and Real Madrid are another level entirely. Even Borussia Dortmund are a step above, more complete and more experienced. For these Juventini to really prove their worth, they'll have to close that gap. And fast.
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