It is a season that started in protest and has ended in celebration. Juventus’ fourth successive Serie A title proved – if anyone doubted them – that this team is one of the very best Italian football has seen.
While the dominance of giants Milan and Inter fades as each year passes, Juve have not let up.
But it could have been so different.
Juve fans were rocked last July when, with a year still to run his contract, head coach Antonio Conte surprisingly stepped down to take charge of Italy.
Few could blame Conte, given the hat-trick of titles he steered Juve to, or the crop of superstars he left to the club’s new manager.
Speculation raged over Conte’s replacement, but the arrival of Massimiliano Allegri, sacked by Milan earlier that year, was a genuine surprise.
Sure, Allegri led Milan to Serie A glory in 2011 – a year in which they also won the Supercoppa Italiana – but the latter stages of his tenure were particularly disappointing.
The 47-year-old, a journeyman midfielder who caught Milan’s attention after impressing as Cagliari coach, grew stale at San Siro and when dismissed in January 2014, his side sat 11th – already a whopping 30 points behind Juventus.
So his appointment at Juventus was a shock that the club’s supporters did not take well, with 300 reportedly protesting against his appointment at their Vinovo training complex.
Sporting director Giuseppe Marotta recently recalled the angst of that day and revealed fans attacked the car Allegri was travelling in: “I remember July 15 when we entered Vinovo and the car that I was in with president [Andrea] Agnelli and Allegri was assaulted by kicking fans.
“Our strongpoint was making a choice that wasn’t very popular. But I think we laid the groundwork for controlling the season in the best manner possible.”
Marotta’s use of control is telling in that statement. Had Juventus dallied on Conte’s replacement, it was control that would have got away from them.
The decision to appoint Allegri one day later has proved a masterstroke. It gave Allegri a month-and-a-half to work with his players during a pre-season tour of Asia and lay the foundations for another successful campaign.
Signing Spanish forward Alvaro Morata highlighted their transfer business, but the additions of Roberto Pereyra and Patrice Evra have proved shrewd.
Juventus’ Serie A triumphs in 2011-12 and 2012-13 were achieved without one player netting more than 10 goals, but sensing the need for a regular scorer, Conte moved to bring in the Carlos Tevez.
And the decision paid immediate dividends as Tevez hit 19 goals to help Juve to the 2013-14 league crown. He is on track to better that mark this season.
Following six straight wins in Serie A, Allegri’s honeymoon period ended with defeat at Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League group stage, a result that started a worrying trend of away form.
First came a 1-1 draw at Sassuolo and then another Champions League loss at Olympiacos. And when Juve suffered a last-gasp 1-0 defeat at Genoa, more questions were asked of Allegri.
But it proved the catalyst for change. And Juventus never looked back, a 7-0 thrashing of Parma restoring confidence.
A 20-match unbeaten run in Serie A, highlighted by a 3-1 win at Napoli in January, enabled Juve to win the league comfortably, even if they have stuttered a little towards the finish line.
A historic treble is a now a possibility with a Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid to come, as well as Coppa Italia final showdown with Lazio.
With the ageless Gianluigi Buffon still a towering presence in goal, the defensive stability of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, Paul Pogba’s improvement soaring, the creativity of Arturo Vidal and Morata, and Tevez’s prolific scoring record, it is no wonder Juve have dominated this season.
And it would take a brave man to bet against Juventus celebrating a fifth successive title – which would equal the feat achieved by their legendary side of the early 1930s – this time next year.
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