“We must confirm this squad, because it’s a young group and we want to do well in the Champions League,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri told Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia) recently, going on to add that his side’s exit against Bayern Munich “was rather hard to swallow.”
The Livorno native—having steered the Bianconeri remarkably well over the past two seasons—is clearly hungry to deliver even greater success next time around. Indeed, since succeeding Antonio Conte, the former Milan boss has overseen a team which has won a record-equalling fifth consecutive Serie A title.
With his former club awaiting the Old Lady in this year’s Coppa Italia showpiece, they may yet repeat that feat, but Allegri is undoubtedly focused on European glory.
Last year saw them fall at the final hurdle and then refresh their squad with a raft of young players, but it is difficult to see quite how they can join the continent’s best sides, with Barcelona and Bayern Munich clearly still a step ahead.
Gigi Buffon—already an all-time great—is arguably enjoying the best season of his long and storied career, while the defence ahead of him enjoys a similar status. Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini need no introduction, while Leonardo Bonucci has blossomed into one of the world’s finest central defenders.
Daniele Rugani is arguably Italy’s most promising young talent in that role, patiently awaiting the chance to replace any of that aforementioned trio should they begin to show signs of slowing down.
At full-back, Stephan Lichtsteiner is a consistently reliable performer, while the combination of Patrice Evra and Alex Sandro means Juventus have both experience and potential for growth in the coming years.
Further forward, the midfield trio of Claudio Marchisio, Sami Khedira and Paul Pogba provide perfect balance between attack and defence, while strikers Alvaro Morata and Mario Mandzukic give Allegri a wealth of options.
Paulo Dybala has picked up where Carlos Tevez left off, with the young Argentinian providing both goals and creativity in equal measure, giving the Bianconeri a team that has quality and depth in every department.
So what is missing?
Upon arriving in Turin, the coach spoke of adding tactical variety to Juve’s reliable 3-5-2 formation, and he has undoubtedly done so as he improved upon Conte’s already excellent team.
Allegri gave La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia) a wonderful soundbite when discussing alternatives, describing his preferred framework as “4-3-and then we’ll see.”
Two years later, and supporters are still waiting to see it. The Bianconeri are still lacking that intangible magic that separates good teams from great ones.
It is here that Juventus must find a solution this summer if they are to challenge the European elite. A winger or a creative midfielder of the highest quality could be the spark that sees Italy’s dominant force become a contender when travelling further afield.
While Pogba and Juan Cuadrado do their parts from deep, Dybala is currently Juve’s only attacking player capable of delivering that one moment that can win a tightly contested match, the clubs ahead of them have multiple stars who can turn a result in their favour.
Barcelona’s MSN—Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar—have swept all before them while the likes of Douglas Costa, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben ensure Robert Lewandowski is never an isolated figure for Bayern.
It is arguably a problem that has delayed other sides, with Paris Saint-Germain not surrounding Zlatan Ibrahimovic with others capable of delivering when it matters. Like Juventus, the Ligue 1 champions have a squad laden with talent in every department, yet they do not have that player capable of inspiring the team when they need it most.
Who is the answer then for Italian football’s grand Old Lady?
Many names will be discussed, but what is clear is that such a player will not come cheaply, and Juventus will likely need to spend heavily in order to secure the signing they need to take another shot at a trophy they have only previously lifted twice before.
“Next season I’m certain that this team, with the excellent support of management, will do well again in Europe,” Allegri noted at a press conference last week.
If Juventus can find some magic in the transfer market, he might well be right.