Champions League play begins again today, and as Juventus holds on for dear life in the current Champions League qualification race, I can't help but feel jealous. Juventus are 11 points out of fourth, and are only qualifying for the Europa League (not that many tifosi care) by two points.
The 11 point deficit would not be too severe if the team was in good form (they aren't, Saturday's draw with Cesena was a success only because someone scored and we didn't lose) or if the schedule's last nine game were against meager opposition.
Sadly, the schedule for Juventus does not end with matches against Middle School teams or intramural nursing home squads, but instead with some of the toughest teams in Serie A, including several teams that, while not too good overall, have given Juventus trouble this season.
The upcoming game against Brescia seems to me like one of those games where Juventus surprises you and plays very well. An optimist like myself wants to believe that some morale has been boosted from the hard-fought draw against Cesena. Granted, the team blew a 2-0 lead against a relegation candidate, but gosh darnit, Matri scored twice!
Marti's play has been perhaps the cheerful note sounded over the past few weeks of play. He has filled the striker absence and with it the team's most glaring weakness. Sadly, his most effective partner, Luca Toni, has struggled with his fitness. Toni too has (when healthy) proved effective, for the most part. With Quagliarella possibly coming back next month, we may get to see a sneak preview of next season's strike force.
The fans are really beginning to develop a liking for Matri, and with good cause. In addition to carrying the holy name of "Alessandro," the kid can play. He seems to have become even better since he made the transition from a mid-table team to one of Italy's giants. He is one of the many on-loan players who will need to be purchased outright.
That's an issue that's being largely ignored, I feel, by some followers. Granted, Juventus will probably be able to retain most (if not all) of these players. But what if Liverpool decides they want Aquilani? Or, more likely, what if there is a large disagreement on price? Same with Simone Pepe (Udinese) or even the golden boy himself, Alessandro Matri (Cagliari.) Matri should be an easy transfer, but the chance remains of a disagreement. This is mostly prognosticating, but I'm still thinking about it.
One loaned player can surely go back without hassle, and that's Marco Motta. After a totally idiotic move on Saturday, Motta was red carded. It's not enough that he can't defend, he has to handicap the whole team. I can't wait until he's gone.
Of course, if I'm going to talk about transfers, then I'm going to have to give some thought to Beppe Marotta's recent comments. He said earlier this week that Juventus needs "another four great players." That's going to cost one pretty penny.
I'd like to know where the money will come from to pay for the loaned players and four new, great players. Obviously there will be many transfers out bringing in revenue, but that won't be enough to cover a big spending spree. I know the financial situation isn't bad, the recently reported losses are owed more to stadium construction (which will of course bring in much more revenue) and I'm sure that the Agnelli family are willing to put up some money to push up the Old Lady.
My mouth waters at the thought of four great transfers. A striker probably isn't going to be one of them, unless the new manager (sadly, to me at least, Delneri is most likely gone at the end of the season) doesn't want Quagliarella. Matri and Del Piero are definitely there to stay, and probably Luca Toni as well. Iaquinta is likely moving out this summer and Amauri is all but officially gone.
The midfield has played well, but lately Felipe Melo seems to have damaged the good faith he worked so hard to rebuild. You only get so many second chances, I suppose.
The future manager's formation will obviously have a huge effect on any summer transfers. With talent such as Krasic in the wings, I doubt this new coach will go for a more centralized formation. But who is to say whether it will be more attacking or defensive than the current roster can suit?
Obviously a new goalie will not be purchased, but then the fullback situation is a disaster. A new right-back is a necessity, at least while Frederik Sorensen is maturing. Over at left-back Paolo De Ceglie has been having a hard time with injuries, and a replacement over there wouldn't be too bad of an idea.
Could the long rumored Gareth Bale transfer be a possibility? My heart says yes, but my brain says no. Oh well, I suppose that's what we have Football Manager for.
Unfortunately, all we can do is speculate. With Delneri gone this summer, a new manager will bring a new formation and a new preference in players. Additionally, the team's standing in Europe (i.e. Europa League, Champions League, or no league?) will play a role in its ability to attract players.
That's why positive results in this final stretch, while very difficult to achieve, is also very important for the team's standing in the transfer market.
After the Brescia game, which could of course prove challenging (seeing as how Brescia tied Juventus last time around), Juventus meets sixth place Roma, who they couldn't vanquish back in November.
Somehow Coach Delneri must rally the troops and fix his tactics, so that Juventus can qualify for the Champions League.