x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A major revamp for Juventus

It is in Serie A that the old club's priorities for the new season lie, and it is with a bold sense of a fresh start that they begin that campaign at Bari this evening.

Alberto Aquilani, left, who has joined Juventus on a season-long loan from Liverpool, and Milos Krazic, signed from CSKA Moscow, will form part of a new-look Juve side this season.
Alberto Aquilani, left, who has joined Juventus on a season-long loan from Liverpool, and Milos Krazic, signed from CSKA Moscow, will form part of a new-look Juve side this season.

Sometimes, you have to feel a little sorry for the Old Lady of Italian football. Just as Juventus were busy putting the finishing touches on the wholesale renewal of their squad, they were being reminded of the less edifying episodes of their recent past. From France came headlines about the club's reputation in the 1990s, their notoriety for using chemical stimulants on their players; this, thanks to the release of a book by the former doctor of the French national team, in which he referred to those cases.

From England came the fiery references to the punishments inflicted on Juve for the racist abuse directed by some of their followers at the former Inter Milan striker Mario Balotelli last year. The story had been reheated because Balotelli's new club, Manchester City, will be meeting Juve in the Europa League. It is in Serie A that Juve's priorities for the new season lie, and it is with a bold sense of a fresh start that they begin that campaign at Bari this evening. Italy's most successful club domestically have invested more than any other Italian club in new recruits. The deal on Friday for the Azzurri international striker Fabio Quagliarella - for whom Napoli have been paid ?4.5 million (Dh21m) up front, with an option to pay a further ?10.5m to make the deal permanent next June - takes Juve's spending in the transfer window above that of ambitious Genoa.

The exit door has been opening frequently too, with Brazil's Diego, who arrived only 12 months ago, and David Trezeguet, a Juve player for the past nine seasons, on their way to Wolfsburg and Hercules, respectively. "I'm very positive about our business, both in terms of who's come in and who's left," Andrea Agnelli, the president of Juve, said to reporters yesterday. "We have a much younger average age now and we have the best coach available in Italy."

That compliment was being paid to Gigi del Neri, one of several executives hired from Sampdoria. Del Neri's target, at the very least, is to raise Juve, who finished seventh in the table last May, to the fourth spot achieved by Sampdoria in 2009/10. Del Neri will field several of the new players on the staff today. Marco Storari is likely to start in goal. He is now the principal deputy to Gianluigi Buffon, who will miss several weeks of the new term recovering from injury.

At right-back, Marco Motta, who has arrived from Udinese, should be in line for a first Serie A outing in a Juve jersey. Leonardo Bonucci expects to make his debut in front of a familiar crowd; the centre-back left Bari to join Juventus, there to replace the departed Fabio Cannavaro. The promise of some dash down the flanks, important in the style Del Neri favours, should be fulfilled by the inclusion of Simone Pepe, on loan from Udinese, and Milos Krasic, recruited from CSKA Moscow.

Quagliarella may even be rushed into the starting XI, given that Amauri, the Brazil-born centre-forward, has been ruled out of action for the next 25 days with fitness problems. Add Jorge Martinez, signed from Catania, and Alberto Aquilani, on loan from Liverpool, and it is a substantial refit that Agnelli and Del Neri have embarked on, though it is not so profound a revolution that Juve have cast out their most iconic individual.

Alessandro Del Piero, beginning his 17th season in the first team, will captain the side at Bari. Three months shy of his 36th birthday, Del Piero is 11 months older than the new club president. "We need to rediscover our winning mentality," said Agnelli, who at the end of last season took over where his father and grandfather were presidents. "The signings have been good, now we have to show some good football."

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