Conte's Juventus Legacy Can Be Enhanced by Europa League Success

Jack Alexandros Rathborn@@jackrathbornContributor IIIMarch 6, 2014

Arturo Vidal of Juventus, third right, celebrates with his teammates after he scored during their Europa League Round of 32 soccer match with Trabzonspor at Avni Aker Stadium in Trabzon, Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. (AP Photo)
Uncredited/Associated Press

Juventus are enjoying a decent season as any year in which the Bianconeri can bring home a scudetto must be deemed as such.

But after, in all probability, a third successive title, Antonio Conte will be looking for other signs of progress as he nears the end of his third season in charge in Turin.

It was a devastating blow to take a step backwards in the Champions League this season—after progressing in a tough group the season before and dispatching a poor Celtic side in the last 16 to eventually be eliminated by the winners Bayern Munich.

After the drama of the adverse weather conditions, the bottom line was that Galatasaray were superior over the six matches.

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Juve strolled past Trabzonspor in the last 32 stage of the Europa League and next week they enter the last 16 against Fiorentina—a tie that is bound to create fireworks, given the two clubs' fierce rivalry over the years.

There is a trend in recent times that Juve would do well to acknowledge and attempt to replicate themselves; Atletico Madrid, particularly, showed that the Europa League can be a springboard to greater things.

The Spanish side are at a similar stage in their development, with coach Diego Simeone also in his third season in charge.

And while last season they had bigger fish to fry than the Europa League, mainly qualifying for the Champions League, the foundations for a successful campaign in this year's premier European competition were set the season before.

The core of that group that beat Athletic Bilbao in Bucharest remains, and if Juve can secure a similar triumph, this group will be better as a result and benefit next season in the Champions League.

While the standard is not quite as high as the Champions League, Conte will be able to shape his European tactics and style, as the 3-5-2 system has not totally convinced just yet.

There remain numerous tough opponents who would comfortably hold their own in the Champions League, too, at least in the group stages.

.@kingarturo23 to JTV (via @footballitalia): “We are aiming for the double, both for ourselves and for the fans." #bianconeri #juventus

— Jack Rathborn (@jackrathborn) March 6, 2014

Serie A rivals Fiorentina and Napoli would pose a threat, especially the latter, who beat Conte in the Coppa Italia final in his debut season in charge.

Porto, Benfica, Basel and Spurs would all be at least as difficult as Galatasaray, who edged them out in the Champions League group stage, so it will prove to be invaluable experience at the same time when looking ahead to at least finishing in second place of the group for next season.

With the final being at the Juventus Stadium, there is even more motivation for the side to negotiate three two-legged ties from here on in to reach play for a trophy in front of their own fans.

By entering next season's Champions League as Europa League champions, Juve would hold a greater reputation, knowing that they have at least proven themselves at a certain level on the European stage.

Adding trophies on a regular basis will also appease players, even if their greater ambition is of course to succeed in "the big one."

A look at Chelsea's success in last year's tournament paves the way for Juve to follow, with the Blues dropping down into the tournament and picking up a trophy before refocusing and adjusting the approach of the team for the next season.

Although Juve would not change managers ahead of next season, it is fair to say they would approach the Champions League in a different manner.

Winning can become a habit, and not winning—as is the case with Arsenal—can have the same effect.

If Conte can secure a double this season, it will mean that he has achieved six trophies in three years, which would be an incredible achievement that will stand Juve in great stead for the summer, where they will look to strengthen even further and move closer to becoming legitimate contenders for the Champions League.

Yes, Juve did not want to be here when the season started, but it could prove to be a key stepping stone for Conte, who is on track to create a legacy to match any Juve side in this great club's history.


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