Top 10 Juventus Legends of the Last 20 Years
Like every major successful European club, Serie A's Juventus are a club rich with history.
They've won a record 27 league titles, nine Italian Cups, four Italian Supercups, and eleven internaitonal titles (two Intercontinental Cups, two European Champion Clubs' Cup/UEFA Champions Leagues, one European Cup Winners' Cup, a record three UEFA Cups, one UEFA Intertoto Cup and two UEFA Super Cups).
That's a total of 51 titles, making them the most success club in Italy and the seventh most successful in the world in terms of the number of trophies won by the club.
With rich history, comes top-class legends. Legends that paved the way to success, and willed their team to victory.
There are at least a couple of them in the current Juventus side, which looks set to secure at least one piece of silverware by the end of this season.
Since Juventus' rich history contains so many world-class legends that all deserve respect and recognition, I've decided to limit this list to the legends we've had the privilege of witnessing over the past two decades.
Here they are.
10. Ciro Ferrera
Before Ferrara was manning the sidelines or looking over the the Juventus youth system, the now-42-year-old Neapolitan was one hell of a defender.
To limit Ferrara's mentality to one word: winner.
After a successful 10-year stint with hometown team of Napoli, Ferrara moved to Juventus in 1994 and continued racking up trophy after trophy. All in all, Ferrara won five Scudetti, one Coppa Italia, two Supercoppa Italia titles, and the Champions League in 1996 with Juventus.
That's what you call getting it done. And at the center of it all was Ferrara, the dominating center, back from Napoli.
After retiring in 2005, Ferrara became an assistant under Marcello Lippi during the 2006 World Cup and then when Lippi made his return to the Azzurri bench after EURO 2008. Before being named Juventus' manager for the 2009-10, Ferrara oversaw the Bianconeri's youth system.
9. Gianluca Zambrotta
When Zambrotta arrived in Turin from Bari in 1999, he was an up-and-coming 22-year-old midfielder who had just received his first cap with the Italian national team a few months earlier.
After an injury against South Korea in the 2002 World Cup, Zambrotta missed the beginning of the 2002-03 campaign. Combine the injury and the addition of Mauro Camoranesi to the squad, and Zambrotta had nowhere in the midfield to play. Because of that, Marcello Lippi converted Zambrotta into a left back.
The change of position was no problem at all. Zambrotta adapted with ease to his new spot on the field. He developed quickly into one of the best around—combining quality defense with the offensive game he already had. Time and time again he would be flying down the wing on the counterattack not only looking to cross, but also looking to score.
Zambro was one of the many to leave Turin during the summer of 2006, joining Barcelona for €14 million. In 2008, he marked his return to Italy when he signed with AC Milan.
8. Lillian Thuram
The first of the Big Three who arrived in the summer of 2001 on this list, Thuram came to Juventus with Gianluigi Buffon from Parma.
During his time in Turin, Thuram was one of the best defenders around. He had the ability to play both in the center and on the right. His tackling was super and was never afraid to throw his body around if need be.
While Buffon stayed with Juve after Calciopoli, Thuram jumped ship, ending up with Barcelona. He finished his Juventus career with 180 appearance, four goals and countless contributions to shutouts.
He played in Spain for two years before announcing his retirement in the summer of 2008, after he announced the discovery of a cardiac malformation.
7. Antonio Conte
Before Claudio Marchisio came around, there was another great midfielder who sported the No. 8 jersey in Turin. His name is Antonio Conte.
After arriving in Turin from Lecce at age 22 in 1992, Conte was everything that you want a true Juvetino to be. His work ethic is comparable to another player further up this list, Pavel Nedved. He worked as hard as anybody out on the pitch, running his tail off every match for the entire 90 minutes. Conte was nothing but pure grit and determination. When he needed to be, he proved extremely clutch, scoring crucial goals in the latter stages of matches.
Sounds like captain material—and Conte was exactly that.
Before the man who has handled the captaincy for most of the decade, Alessandro Del Piero, took control of the armband in 2001, Conte was Il Capitano. You couldn't ask for a better captain; one who wore his heart on his sleeve and cared for the club as much as anything there is.
During his time with Juve, Conte won five Scudetti, including two this decade (2002 and 2003). He scored 30 goals in 384 total appearances.
Now Juventus' head coach, Conte has made an excellent transition from player into manager; he rules with an iron fist and makes controversial decisions, but ultimately he produces top-quality results that have Juventus performing better than they ever have since Calciopoli.
6. Edgar Davids
How can you not love a guy who is a beast on the field and rocked dreads and awesome goggles while doing it?
Davids' unique look only added to the kind of player he was. A complete bulldog in the midfield, the dynamic Dutchman had the ability make a big tackle in his own half and then go on a 40-yard run and finish it on the other end of the field.
Like I said, he was a beast.
Put him together in a midfield with the previously mentioned Conte, Zinedine Zidane, and Alessio Tacchinardi, you have the best midfield in the game. It's no surprise that this was the middle of Juventus' glory years in the late '90's and early 2000's.
Davids' career in Turin ended in 2004 when he was loaned out to Barcelona and then sold to rival Inter Milan a year later.
5. Zinedine Zidane
While the great Zizou left for Real Madrid in the summer of 2001 for a then-record €78 million, the impact he had on Juventus during his time in Turin was huge.
The beginning of the decade was the height of Zidane's reign as one of the best in the world. And it's no coincidence that this was the same period of when the Juventus were the toast of Italy.
It wasn't easy right off the bat for Zidane. It took him basically the entire season to get settled in and learn the ins and outs of Serie A.
From then on, it was full steam ahead. Zizou was a complete force. When it was clicking, seeing Zidane play was like watching poetry in motion. He was truly an artist creating a masterpiece on the field every time he was out there.
4. David Trezeguet
"There is no finer poacher in the world than David Trezeguet."
These are the words that my dad told me the first time I asked him about Trezeguet and how he ranked in comparison to France's strikers at the 2006 World Cup.
Indeed, TrezeGOL, even late into his career with Juventus, was arguably the best in the business at going completely absent for huge chunks of time and then, out of nowhere, finding his name on the scoresheet.
He would hardly ever get his goals the old-fashioned way of creating them on his own. He was known for doing little work other than in front of goal—whether it's with his head or putting away a loose ball in the box.
Trez's career line with Juventus: 171 goals in 318 games. That kind of goal-to-game rate is unbelievable and just shows he consistent he was in his 10 years with the Old Lady.
Remarkably, Trezeguet is still going strong, continuing his playing career in Argentina with River Plate. Though he was intially expected to play the role of glorified sub, his five goals in his first seven games quickly altered the game-plan and saw him promoted to the role of a starter with his team.
That's Trezeguet for you—poaching goals and beating expectations.
3. Pavel Nedved
What Juventus would do for a winger like Nedved right about now.
When Nedved first arrived in Turin, some thought €41 million for a 29-year-old from a bitter rival was way too high of a cost. Adding to that sentiment, Nedved was brought in to replace the Great Zidane. Nedved had a whole lot of expectations and pressures to live up to, even before he put on the Juventus jersey.
We have two words for you: Mission accomplished.
In 2003, two years after his move to Turin, Nedved was the Serie A Footballer of the Year, Serie A Foreigner of the Year and Ballon d'Or winner.
Nedved would run and run and run and run and run—and just keep running. Goldilocks had the conditioning level of a marathon runner and the determination of a kid who was still trying to prove he belonged with the big boys. Even when he wasn't at his best, Nedved still went out there. Numerous occasions, the Czech legend would suck it up as much as possible and keep on running along the left wing.
Nedved was the poster boy for what it meant to be a true Bianconero. Like the two man above him on this list, he stuck with the club during its darkest in 2006-'07, when Juve were demoted to Serie B. Instead of playing in the Champions League (the one title he never won), he was trying to earn Juve promotion back to Italy's top flight.
The Czech Fury finished his Juventus and footballing career at the end of the 2008-09, going out with the Gladiator theme playing in the background. His 357 appearances, 65 goals and countless of assists are just the tip of the iceberg of how much he meant to this team during his eight season in black and white.
Now, Nedved still contributes to the Juventus cause, but as a member of the club' board of directors.
2. Gianluigi Buffon
Where to begin with the keeper called Superman by the Bianconeri faithful?
Arguably the greatest goalkeeper of his generation and possibly—when it's all said and done—the best of all-time, Buffon has been the one that youngsters model their game after. If you could create a goalkeeper, Buffon would be it. He has size, instincts, perfect positioning, reflexes, agility and a pair of hands as secure as any around.
And on top of everything else, he is one of the classiest players to ever play, evidenced by his stay with the club for the year-long exile in Serie B when other teammates did not (we're looking at you, Fabio Cannavaro).
Like Nedved, he arrived in Turin before the 2001 season when Juventus paid Parma €51.5 million—the current record for a goalkeeper. He was just 23 years of age during the summer of 2001, already Italy's No. 1, and only on the way up amongst the game's elite.
Buffon has done nothing to diminish such a transfer fee. He has made world-class save after world-class save—most of them looking routine. Countless victories can be credited to Buffon because of his saves.
He has been named Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year eight times in his career, and could very well get another one when this season comes to a close. Other awards Buffon has claimed while patrolling the Juventus goal: Onze d'Or (2003, 2006), IFFHS Best Goalkeeper (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) and the Yashin Award as the best goalkeeper at the 2006 World Cup.
There's no better, at least not if you're looking at his entire career. And judging by how he is playing this season at age 34, Buffon will probably be around for many years to come.
1. Alessandro Del Piero
Few words can describe what Alessandro Del Piero has meant during his 19 years in the black and white in Juventus.
He has been the one to guide Juventus through the current decade and most of the last. You name it, he has probably done it.
Like all of the players on this list, he didn't begin his footballing career at Juventus, transferring from Padova in 1993. And like many of the players on the list, he became who he is known as today while wearing the Juventus jersey.
While he has never been a pure speed burner, Del Piero makes up for it with world-class skill. His is the prototypical secondary striker—one who is as likely be on the back end of a goal as he is scoring one himself.
Along the way, Del Piero has become Juve's all-time leader in both appearances (697) and goals (288). He has been named Serie A Footballer of the Year twice (1998 and 2008) and claimed two Capocannoniere titles after the age of 30 (2007, 2008).
And much like the man before him on this list, Del Piero is the model of class. Like Trezeguet, Nedved and Buffon, Del Piero stayed with the club that he holds so close to his heart during her lowest point in Serie B.
Like the Juventus website says, "In one word: the captain."
That's why reason they call his birthday, Nov. 9, Christmas in November.
Il Capitano—the greatest Bianconero of the last two decades.