Juventus: The Old Lady, scandal and a glorious return!

Wednesday 13th May 2015 - Juventus travel to the Santiago Bernabéu with a 2-1 aggregate lead in the UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals. Hosts Real Madrid are the defending Champions following 'La Decima', their tenth European Cup, in the 2013/14 season. The winner of the tie would take on Barcelona in Berlin in June 2015 and of course Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid were the heavily backed favourites to set up an El Clásico final. Juventus hadn't read the script though, Madrid academy graduate Alvaro Morata netted to make it 1-1 on the night and send Real Madrid out of the Champions League. The Old Lady of Italian football were back. Juventus were heading for their first European Cup final since 2003, an opportunity to win their first trophy in the competition since 1996. The road back to the top had been far from easy however, most notably after their relegation to Serie B in 2006 following the infamous Calciopoli scandal. 

Juventus are perhaps one of the proudest European clubs in the history of the game. Last year we published a Juventus All-Time XI the list contained the likes of Claudio Gentile, Michel Platini, Pavel Nedved, Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero. A look at the club's website shows 2 UEFA European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, 2 UEFA Super Cups, 9 Coppa Italias, 6 Supercoppa Italianas, a Serie B but the curious case of 33 Serie A titles. Curious? Well two contain a * by them, both having been revoked. 2004/05 and 2005/06 are of course still claimed by the Juventus website but following a ruling by the Italian Football Federation these are not officially titles held by the 'i bianconeri'.

Welshman John Charles - A Juventus great
Serie A was once the greatest league in the world. Italian teams dominated in European competition and their sides contained some truly global superstars, playing in packed stadia. The likes of Welshman John Charles who made his name in Turin with Juventus between 1957-62, are hall of famers in this mighty division. The Azzurri national team boast 4 World Cup titles from 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 but before this most recent success, football in Italy was in turmoil. Decades old stadia were crumbling, fans had turned their back on the league and then, on 4th July 2006 an announcement was made. The Italian Football Federation had been investigating suspicions over refereeing in the top flight for some time. The prosecutor, Stefano Palazzi, demanded that four clubs, be thrown out of Serie A. Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio had all been accused of influencing referees for a number of campaigns. The worst accusations were being thrown at the winner of the previous two seasons, Juventus.

Juventus' Managing Director, Luciano Moggi, was the the key man involved. Moggi had been involved in the Italian game for many years, holding roles at Napoli, Roma, Torino and Lazio before taking the helm at The Old Lady. A number of phone conversations were recorded between Luciano Moggi and Pierluigi Pairetto who was in charge of selecting referees for Serie A matches. It was alleged that Moggi had attempted to influence which referees were given to Juventus. The season mainly in question was 2004/05 and it was uncovered that not just the Champions were involved.

Stefano Palazzi wanted to hit the clubs are hard as possible, with Juventus recommended to be relegated "below Serie B". Fiorentina and Lazio were recommended to be dropped to Serie B, along with points deductions, with AC Milan also recommended a points deduction. It would be decided eventually that Milan would be hit with a -15 start to the 2006/07 campaign (later appealed to -8 points), Fiorentina would be relegated to Serie B but this was later successfully appealed to just a -15 start to their Serie A campaign and Lazio would also be relegated but a successful appeal meant they were just hit with -3 points in Serie A. All three clubs would initially be thrown out of European competition too and their reputations were left in tatters (however AC Milan were reinstated).

Luciano Moggi - The man at the centre of Calciopoli
Juventus would avoid the original threat of Serie C football as they received a relegation punishment to Serie B. The Federation though wished to see them hit further by inflicting a -30 points deduction for the new season. Upon appeal this was reduced to -17 points and then finally settled at on -9 to give them a fighting chance. 'La Vecchia Signora' would be thrown out of the UEFA Champions League, stripped of their 2005 and 2006 titles and faced three matches behind closed doors. The great Juventus were decimated and for the last decade they have slowly faced the rebuilding their name. The worst was yet to come though as players made the decisions to either stay at Stadio Delle Alpi or move on to regain control of their careers.

Later punishments would hit Serie A side Reggina with an -11 deduction and then came the individual reprimands. Indicted Luciano Moggi would plead his innocence but faced a life ban from football. He resigned his Managing Director role stating: "I don't have either the strength nor the willingness to answer any question. I miss my soul, it has been killed. Tomorrow I'll be resigning, since tonight the football world isn't my world anymore. I'll think only to defend myself from all allegations and wicked actions." A number of referees would also receive bans from the game as Italian football sought to distance itself from this abhorrent scandal. 

Zlatan moved on from Turin after Calciopoli
Juventus' summer dealings saw an end to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's stay in Turin with the Swede joining Inter Milan, Lillian Thuram joining Barcelona along with Gianluca Zambrotta, eventual 2006 Ballon d'or winner Fabio Cannavaro moving to Real Madrid, Patrick Vieira transferring to Inter Milan and Adrian Mutu switching to Fiorentina. Ibrahimovic's autobiography, 'I am Zlatan', contains an interesting perspective of the whole sorry affair. The forward notes how Moggi had been acting strangely for some months as police began sniffing around the club. He says how "most of it was about Juventus being number one. I'm sure of it. As always when somebody is on top, others want to drag them down into the dirt." (p.182)

Zlatan continues his view throughout his fascinating book. Whilst admitting it does look bad for Moggi, the Swede claims Inter Milan connected investigator Guido Rossi makes the whole thing "dodgy", especially because Inter came out of the scandal "surprisingly unscathed" (p.182). Zlatan continues that the ever in control Moggi addressed the team in tears. He says "Moggi maybe didn't always stop at red lights, or obey every rule and regulation. He was a talented businessman, and he took care of his players, I know that, and, without him, my career would have got stuck in a dead end. I thank him for that, and when the whole world is criticising him, I'm on his side. I like Luciano Moggi." (p.185). All that said, Ibrahimovic acknowledges "Juventus was a sinking ship" and spends the next chapter explaining how he had to force his way out of the club.

For some players though they refused to turn their back on The Old Lady. These are now considered legends of the club and included captain Alessandro Del Piero, long term goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, midfielder Pavel Nedved, Frenchman David Trezeguet and World Cup winner Mauro Camoranesi. Younger players were give a key role too with Giorgio Chiellini, Federico Balzaretti, Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco all playing roles in 2006/07. Some signings included Christian Zanetti and Jean-Alain Boumsong as well as Valeri Bojinov on loan.

Juventus promoted as Champions, despite a -9 deduction
Juventus began the campaign with -30 points, the goal was staying up and avoiding the desired relegation to Serie C. However after the appeal, the reduction to -9 points made promotion far more likely. Del Piero and Trezeguet led the way with 20 and 15 league goals respectively, Pavel Nedved also chipped in with 11 as 28 of 42 matches were won. With 10 draws and 4 losses a total of 85 points and a +53 goal difference was accrued. This was enough to leave Juventus as Champions of Serie B for the first time in their history, some 6 points clear of second placed Napoli. Juventus made it back to the big time but a process of rebuilding was still to be had before they could compete on a European stage again.

With the aim being a return to the Champions League, Claudio Raneri took over from the resigning Didier Deschamps. A combined 41 league goals between Del Piero and Trezeguet would take Juventus into an impressive third placed finish by May 2008 and a shot back in Europe's premier competition. The next season saw an improvement again into second place behind Inter who were 10 points clear under José Mourinho's reign. Del Piero's heroics put him at the top of Juve's goalscoring charts once more but a 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea in the second leg of their last 16 Champions League tie saw Chelsea progress by virtue of a 1-0 home victory for the Blues.

However it was not a story of success after success. In the 2009/10 season, i bianconeri took a step back as they finished 7th in Serie A. Despite the return of Fabio Cannavaro from Real Madrid and the additions of Felipe Melo, Martin Caceres and Diego, Juventus would sack boss Ciro Ferrara in January 2010 to be replaced by Alberto Zaccheroni. The next campaign would be no improvement either, despite a new President in Andrea Agnelli and a new Trainer in Luigi Delneri. 58 points coming from 15 wins, 13 draws and 10 losses would leave them 24 points behind Scudetto winners AC Milan; a dominant goalscorer now perhaps lacking for Juve.

Antonio Conte - Tasked with brining back the good times
Cue one Antonio Conte. Conte played for Juventus between 1991-2004, making 419 league appearances for the club in midfield. Moving to various clubs to learn his trade as a coach, Conte was given the responsibility to turn things around for a floundering Juve side in 2011/12. Andrea Pirlo, Marco Motta, Arturo Vidal, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Simon Pepe and Fabio Quagliarella were just a few of the stars brought in whilst a clear out was seen of those surplus to requirements. The result? A team of invincibles! Juventus would win 23 and draw 15 on the way to 84 points. A double was narrowly missed out on as Napoli beat Juve 2-0 in the Coppa Italia final. Conte had built a team, one where no one scored more than 10 but every players gave a contribution. A 28th Scudetto (or 30th, depending on the revoked tiles) was secured!

The next two season under Conte would see the same result in May, a Juventus Scudetto. However success in the Champions League seemed impossible with a Quarter-Final the best the popular boss could achieve. Conte lambasted a lack of money to compete with Europe's biggest last May, saying of the competition“When you have 10 euros in your pocket you can’t eat in a restaurant where the meal will cost you 100.” Following the 2014 World Cup, Conte would depart La Vecchia Signora for the vacant Italian national job. Massimiliano Allegri was elected to take the reigns at the Juventus Stadium (opened in 2011). Allegri's appointment received a mixed reception, many seeing him as not up to standard.

Alvaro Morata sent Juventus to a Champions League final
Max Allegri's spending was not particularly significant, the major spend coming on Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid for €20m. As it currently stands though, Juventus have earned a 31st (or 33rd) Scudetto, a remarkable 16 points clear of second placed Roma. With 24 wins, 8 draws and 3 losses with 3 to play in Serie A, i bianconeri's biggest success is by far on the hunt for a Champions League trophy. With no victory in the competition since 1996 and no final since 2003, Juventus came second in Group A to Spanish Champions Atlético Madrid. They then proceeded to dump Borussia Dortmund out 5-1 on aggregate, followed by Monaco 1-0 on aggregate. 

Those results led to Real Madrid in the Semis. Alvaro Morata and a Carlos Tevez penalty would give the Italians a 2-1 lead heading into the second leg. In the Bernabéu, Ronaldo's second goal of the tie would seemingly put it at advantage to the defending champions. However up stepped Madrid youth academy graduate Alvaro Morata in the 57th minute. Juventus would hold on to draw 1-1 on the night and set up the grand finale in Berlin against Barcelona. Allegri had done the improbable, Juventus were there!

So now we wait till 6th June 2015. Yes it's not the El Clásico final that many hoped for but it's an opportunity for The Old Lady to stand on top of Europe again. Who would begrudge Gianluigi Buffon, with over 421 league appearances for Juventus a title? Who would begrudge Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio entry into an exclusive list of successful players? Who would begrudge another title for Andrea Pirlo? Come 6th June there will be an awful lot of players facing the biggest match of their careers!

4 times Champions Barcelona await Juventus in June

By Gareth Thomas - TFHB (Follow on Twitter: @GJ_Thomas & @TFHBs or 'like' our Facebook)

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