Handing Out the Hardware: Juventus' 2009-10 End of the Season Awards
The season from hell for Juventus is over and done with.
Thirty-eight games league games—some good, most of them incredibly mediocre and bad—have come and gone with the aftermath being a massive one.
Records in both losses and goals allowed in a single season along with humiliation in not one, but two European competitions.
From big transfers flopping, defensive nightmare after defensive nightmare, a coaching change that had little impact at all, it all went wrong for Juventus this season.
No matter what button was pushed in hope of improving the Old Lady, it was the wrong one and seemed like it almost always had the opposite impact.
Despite the positive outlook of what is possible for the future with the return of an Agnelli to the all-important Triad and new transfer guru in Beppe Marotta, and a new coach in Gigi Del Neri, it is hard to ignore what has happened these last 10 months.
So much hope, money, and time was put in to supposedly building Juventus into a Scudetto contender in 2009-10, yet it all went terribly wrong.
And what do you do at the end of any season? Give out awards, of course.
With the good comes to bad. This year there has definitely been more bad than good. Either way, it's time to pass out some hardware.
Co-Least Valuable Player—Amauri
See this picture of Amauri celebrating after a goal?
Well, I can count on one hand how many times it happened this year in Italy. It's true. He appeared in 30 games, started 24, scored five goals.
Four of his five league goals came in a three-week span in October (the other coming Feb. 14 against Genoa). He scored only two goals in his European appearances—a brace in the first leg against Ajax.
Other than that, Amauri has contributed next to nothing. That's just plain awful.
And if you had judged Amauri by the first handful of games this season, you wouldn't have expect he would slider into a huge cloud of worthlessness. He wasn't scoring goals, but he was contributing and creating scoring opportunities.
But then the season starting going down the drain fast. The opportunities he was creating turned into nothing.
Instead of scoring, he was complaining at the refs and sometimes his teammates. And the opportunities he did have, they weren't finding the back of the net.
I like Amauri. He seems like a good guy. But if he's in a Juventus jersey next year after the season he has had, I'm going to punch a hole in the wall.
Co-Least Valuable Player—Fabio Grosso
You could argue that Grosso should appear a couple times on this list and you wouldn't be wrong at all.
But due to his overall performance this season, Grosso proved to be as useful as a pet rock. Translation: He was awful.
I admit that I was all for bringing Grosso aboard. When you consider that Cristian Molinaro had been Juve's starting left back the past two years before this season, it's easy to understand why I, along with just about everybody else, would want somebody else.
Then when you add Grosso's price was pocket change compared to what Juve paid for Diego and Felipe Melo, it was hardly a bad move on paper.
But the thing is, the season happened.
Grosso's performances as a whole was a lot like the team's season—terrible. He was consistently dreadful on both sides of the ball. He added nothing offensively (even though that has been his calling card throughout his career).
No matter how little his transfer fee was, he wasn't worth it.
If there is one good thing that Alberto Zaccheroni did during his time as Juve manager, it's sending Grosso to the bench in favor of Paolo De Ceglie.
Co-Worst Signing of the Year—Fabio Cannavaro
Let's take a trip into the mind of Alessio Secco as the transfer window was about to open last summer:
"Well, I know our defense hasn't been very good the last season or two. We really need to upgrade it this summer, guys. I'm being serious. I'm thinking Cannavaro would be a great addition to the team. Let's get him. And he's free!"
This is clearly the work of a genius. Take notes, everybody, because this is how to construct a team.
What has the "addition" of Cannavaro brought to the Juventus defense?
Well, 56 goals allowed. In fact, that's a record-setting number of goals allowed.
Cannavaro showed glimpses of busting out of his post-2006 World Cup drop in form, but for most of the season he was utterly mediocre.
He was more or less the same kind of player that was with Real Madrid—that's not a good thing.
Take out what he did four years ago after Juventus were demoted to Serie B in the aftermath of Calciopoli, Cannavaro should have never come back to Turin.
Co-Worst Signing of the Season—Felipe Melo
Alessio Secco's second swing and a miss on how to construct a team that plays with a trequarista, Felipe Melo was, well, not very good at all.
Melo was looked at by Secco as a direct replacement for No. 1 transfer target Gaetano D'Agostino. Replacing a regista with a mediano isn't exactly the right way to assemble the squad—especially when you're playing with a trequarista.
Luckily for Secco, Melo started the season on fire. He had massive performance after massive performance. He was a complete force in the center of the park and had people saying "Gaetano who?"
But the problem was that the season evolved.
What separates Melo from fellow summer signing and countryman Diego is that one player showed promise from time to time during the second half of the season, the other continued down his spiral of poor form. You can guess which one that is.
Melo routinely received some of the lowest player ratings on the team no matter who the opponent was. His constant turnovers, lack of understanding his role in the squad, and terrible attitude on the field saw his form from the beginning of the season never come back.
And to top it off, he got in screaming matches with the tifosi instead of, you know, worrying about what's happening on the field. Not exactly living up to what was expected of you.
His status in Turin for next season is far from a certainty. A good showing at the World Cup will certainly raise interest in him as well as his price tag.
But one thing is a certainty—if he's sold, Juve won't recoup all of his €25 million transfer fee from last summer.
Best Signing of the Season—Martin Caceres
Over the course of his tenure as sporting director, Alessio Secco's loan deals haven't exactly been worth much of anything.
It's not that they were brought in to be impact kind of players. Most of the time they have been brought in for depth within the squad.
The same kind of thing was presumed to be happening when Caceres arrived on loan from Barcelona right before the season started.
He hadn't played much with Barca the season before after falling down in the pecking order, so off the bat,
Then he started a couple of games, racked up some solid performances, and proved that he wasn't just some schmo who is thought of as a reserve defender. In fact, he's far from that.
Caceres was one of the few bright spots in a season of total disappointment. That's even more of the truth when you consider how the other signees from this past summer have played and how much they cost.
He is the kind of player that Juventus need to build around—young, tons of potential, ambitious, and fights for the jersey rather than just a paycheck.
There of course is some smoothing around the edges to do, but Caceres has shown that he can hang at a club like Juventus.
Whether he is on loan again next season or Juve buy him in full, he needs to be in black and white next season. There's no doubt about that.
Best Young Player of the Season—Claudio Marchisio
Whoever the next Juventus coach may be, please take note—this is what happens when you give a promising youngster consistent playing time.
Marchisio's breakout and development into one of Italy's best midfielders has come fast and furious. Outside of Giorgio Chiellini, Marchisio was probably Juve's most consistent performer this season.
His three goals and two assists aren't exactly things that scream out anything amazing, but that's not the point. His goals, however, were all clutch. That's a mark of a good player.
Marchisio is a captain in the making, he's already a fixture on the Italian national team, and he's going to keep getting better. He's just another great Juventus midfielder to wear the No. 8.
It's hard to believe he's only 24 years old.
Best Match of the Season—Juventus 5-1 Sampdoria, Oct. 28, 2009
The actual outcome of the match was the complete opposite of what everybody was predicting before kickoff.
Although they had started the season well, the month of October for Juventus was a whole lot of struggling both domestically and in Europe.
Samp were on fire and Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano showed no signs of slowing down.
Well, that's not exactly how things turned out.
When the final whistle blew, Juve had completely demolished the every aspect of Samp—defense, midfield, and their attack.
The scoreboard read 5-1 but it really could have been more. Amauri (yes, Amauri) registered a brace, while Giorgio Chiellini, Mauro Camoranesi, and David Trezeguet also recorded goals.
The Bianconeri dominated possession by almost two-to-one, outshot Samp 19-to-6, and were vastly superior in anything else possible on the offensive end.
But what the defense did in their half of the field was almost as impressive as what the offense did. Yes, that same defense that allowed a record number of goals this past season.
In short, they were amazing. Cassano and Pazzini were on complete cruise control coming into the encounter at the Olimpico. And when they left, all they had to show was a consolation goal from Pazzini when the score was 4-0.
It was a completely dominating performance. In every aspect, Juventus crushed Sampdoria. We weren't able to say that very often.
Funny how the man who was on the opposite sideline, Gigi Del Neri, will be Juve's coach next season. Interesting how those things work.
Goal of the Season—Claudio Marchisio vs. Inter Milan, Dec. 5, 2009
It's understandable to forget the game Juventus played against inter when they were crushed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League just a couple of days later.
But that game, no matter how awful this season ended up being, was a classic Juve performance. At the time, it gave them a glimmer of hope in the Scudetto race but more importantly, it was the kind of performance you expect from a team playing its biggest rival.
And you can thank Claudio Marchisio for the three points thanks to his first-class game-winner on a perfect counter attack. A quick recap:
1. Gianluigi Buffon throws it out to Diego after, ironically, an Inter counter attack.
2. Diego turns and plays a perfect ball to Marchisio who was making a run down the left wing.
3. Marchisio controls the ball, then crosses it to Momo Sissoko.
4. Sissoko shoots to the far post. Julio Cesar gets his right hand to it but gives up a pretty juicy rebound.
5. Marchisio controls the rebound, dribbles around Walter Samuel with two nifty touches, then chips an onrushing Cesar to put Juve up 2-1.
Just a goal for the ages. Elapsed time from Buffon's throw to the ball finding the back of Cesar's goal: 21 seconds. You can't draw it up any better than that.
And don't forget, Ciro Ferrara's celebration was almost as great as the goal itself.
Most Valuable Player—Giorgio Chiellini
Wait, the Juventus defense sucked. Why have a defender as the most valuable player for such a hellish season?
It's simple—imagine what the defense and team as a whole would have been like without Chiellini there. Yeah, not pretty. Not one bit.
Now that you've hopefully gotten that sickening image out of your head, it's time to talk about how valuable to this team Chiellini is.
He's one of the best in the world. We all know that. He's developed into one of the best there is in just three short years. And in every one of those years, he has carried the defense on his back.
But especially this year, with the mediocre season Cannavaro had, the downright pathetic season Grosso had, and the revolving door that was the right back position for a good chunk of the season, Chiellini's greatness was etched in stone.
While Cannavaro and Grosso were getting routinely beat by average players, Chiellini was there, as usual, cleaning up the garbage. There were games where it seemed like Chiellini was the only of the four-man defense actually back there.
Chiellini only seems to be getting better. That's a scary thought for strikers, but a welcome thought for Juventinos.