Juventus in 2009/10 have been a lesson in the benefit of hindsight. Little over a year ago everything looked bright and promising for the Old Lady of Italian football. Second place in Serie A after just two seasons back in the top flight, a young vibrant coach steeped in the traditions of the club, and a host of big money acquisitions that most expected to push the Bianconeri back into true title contention at home and abroad.
A few months down the line and once again its back to the drawing board. The signings have all disappointed, the coach was sacked after only half a season, and the club lie seventh in Serie A, the distance from lo Scudetto perhaps the greatest it has ever been.
This round-table style article brings together four very different perspectives on the past, present, and future of the club, and the direction it should take to achieve the goals that everyone connected to Juventus so badly wants. Meet the team;
Aaron "Alessio" Giambattista Is a lifelong Juve fan, who writes a regular blog for the Juventus Offside .
Sofia Imrie Is of Italian and Scottish descent, lives in Toronto and follows Juventus avidly.
Giancarlo Rinaldi A fan of Fiorentina and Italian football in general, joins the debate to provide an outsiders view to the troubles ailing Juventus—while attempting (quite poorly!) to hide his joy at the situation.
So, lets get the discussion started.
Given the fact that Alberto Zaccheroni has failed to improve the team even slightly, was Juve’s error in sacking Ciro Ferrara or in appointing him in the first place?
Alessio: Appointing him in the first place. In May when we appointed him, we beat two teams who had nothing left to play for. We had a honeymoon period at the beginning of the season, but it all went downhill and when it did, Ferrara crucially didn't know how to turn the team around. Our squad was poorly built this summer, and Ferrara took the fall for it. I think even a strong coach would have struggled this season.
Sofia: I think it is pretty clear that Ciro did no worse than Zac, in fact he may have done better, but there are a lot of what if's. Looking back I think hiring Ciro to lead us to titles was the wrong idea. He was inexperienced and it isn't too hard to figure out he was not going to win us the scudetto. The management, at whatever level, messed up, badly.
Giancarlo: Appointing him was a gamble, the error was dismissing Ranieri.
Adamo: I would say giving him a chance in the first place. His inexperience was always likely to haunt us, even more so when you factor in this season we added Caceres, Cannavaro, Grosso, Melo, and Diego to our starting lineup and lost Nedved who was like the glue that held us together the previous six years. In hindsight, a change of system, five new starters, and a rookie coach was always going to end in disaster.
With Zaccheroni’s contract up in May, who would be the ideal, but realistic best choice to replace him?
Adamo: I've said on a number of occasions I would like to see Gasperini. His work at Genoa has been great and he's clearly not afraid to blood youngsters. I think it needs to be a more adventurous coach, talk of Rafael Benitez scares me, his recent record is terrible and the way he's dealt with the two Italians at Liverpool hardly inspires confidence in his ability to coach the most Italian of Italian teams.
Giancarlo: Realistically, Allegri might be the best choice. He is not a glamorous selection but I don’t think that is what the club needs just now. They have to think like a provincial side and build themselves back to the giant they once were. He has shown he has the skills to do it.
Sofia: Allegri would be the best choice. He has a pretty good track record when it comes to developing youth and he had done well with Cagliari up until now. We have to act soon because there are apparently other clubs interested.
Alessio: Didier Deschamps. He's obviously very interested in returning. He's young, ambitious, experienced, and has a great Juventino history. After that, I would aim for Prandelli. I like Gasparini and Allegri, but neither have the experience Cesare has and after Ferrara, I think we need to get a more experienced manager. Benitez is very much a no-go in my book.
Of the big name signings last year (Cannavaro, Grosso, Melo, Diego) who has disappointed the most and why?
Giancarlo: It hurts me to say it but probably Melo. Cannavaro, I think everyone knew, was on the downward curve. Diego has at least shown flashes of brilliance.
Sofia: Melo. Cannavaro is old and Madrid ruined him. Diego has proven in a couple matches that he can play well. I think he still needs to find his footing in Italy. But Melo came from another Italian team, so he can't say he isn't used to this style of play. He plays great with Brazil and had a good season with Fiorentina, he needs to be sold ASAP. The insulting our fans was the last straw...
Adamo: I'd have to say Felipe Melo, poor performance would be enough, but his attitude towards the fans makes him the obvious choice.
Alessio: A tie between Melo and Grosso. Grosso has been awful, he leaves gaps all over the back and doesn't contribute a whole lot offensively. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to see Molinaro back at Juve, but Grosso has really not been an improvement at all.
Goals have proved especially difficult to come by this term, and a host of strikers have been linked with the club. Again who would be the most effective buy?
Sofia: I would love to see Giuseppe Rossi in a Juve shirt for several reasons, he is a very talented player, can hit the back of the net, and can also set other people up. I would also like to see Immobile integrated into the first team and get more playing time.
Alessio: I think we need to offload Amauri, and sign Pazzini. He's strong in the air, a good poacher, can hold the ball up well, and has some pace.
Adamo: Pazzini all day for me. Young, gifted, Italian, and most importantly he knows where the goal is.
Giancarlo: Edin Dzeko would be a very interesting option, but the Diego experience might worry everyone in Turin. To my mind Giampaolo Pazzini would be the best bet.
With a proven goal scorer on board what other areas need investment, and who would you say are priorities to fill those gaps?
Sofia: DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE.
Alessio: We need to sign 2-3 defenders, I'd get one of Bari's central defenders (Ranocchia or Bonucci), Ariaudo, and Criscito. They are young and I wouldn't expect them to start immediately. Also Lucchini of Sampdoria would be a good reserve, as would Andrea Coda of Udinese.
Giancarlo: Goalkeeping is not a problem, pretty much everywhere else is. Chiellini is the heart of the defense, players need to be slotted around him, the likes of Ranocchia and Bonucci look promising. The return of Criscito could be good and another Viola, Vargas, could really bolster the left-back/left midfield slot.
Adamo: Spend the rest on the defense for me. Making the Caceres loan from Barcelona is a must, and the buy-out clause in Simon Kjaer's Palermo contract is very enticing. Again one of the Bari pair and perhaps Udinese's Dusan Basta who looks promising.
Are there any other avenues that need exploring in order for Juve to return to challenging for honors?
Alessio: Oh, there's a lot. ADP and Trez have 1-2 years left, so we need to look at replacing them. Our defense is in shambles as I mentioned, and our midfield is still crucially missing a ball-playing midfielder. Oh, and there's the small point of our management being gutless idiots. We should get Andrea Agnelli as president, Bettega as vice-director, and a smart new DS. Long-term glory won't return without a savvy management.
Sofia: Fire Secco. Rehire Moggi. Fire Zac. Hire an intelligent coach who likes the youth and isn't afraid to play them.
Giancarlo: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, patience and planning are all that are required. Juve have a strong financial position and loyal support. They may need a bit of work on their “branding” outside Italy. However, the biggest thing is that this next appointment “sticks” and they keep their coach for at least a three-year reign.
Adamo: The key to the whole thing for me is getting some "football men" in to the club to make the football decisions. Jean-Claude Blanc has proved a shrewd head for business and his only flaw is his total lack of football knowledge—a key factor when the business you're running is a football club.
Alessio Secco has to go and be replaced by a proven transfer operator, either Bari's Giorgio Perinetti or preferably Sampdoria's Beppe Marotta, who is probably the best in the world in his role. Above him perhaps Andrea Agnelli needs to be made president, allowing Blanc to continue his stellar work on the business side of things, free of the pressure to make choices he is ill equipped to oversee.
From there the right decision can be made over the choice of coach as well as the correct moves in and out of the squad. Without this vital appointment being correct, the club will continue to flounder both in the market and the league.