x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Juventus: The Old Lady sparkles again

The Turin club will look to cap off a memorable season that saw them crowned champions of Serie A last week by ending the season unbeaten against Atalanta on Sunday, writes Ian Hawkey

Juventus's 2-0 win away to Cagliari, coupled with AC Milan's defeat to Inter, on Sunday, meant the Turin club secured this season's Serie A title with a game to spare. Giorgio Perottino / Reuters
Juventus's 2-0 win away to Cagliari, coupled with AC Milan's defeat to Inter, on Sunday, meant the Turin club secured this season's Serie A title with a game to spare. Giorgio Perottino / Reuters

The Old Lady has her favourite piece of jewellery back. It had been missing for several years, but with the coronation of Juventus as the champions of Italy again, the so-called Vecchia Signora - Juve's nickname - can look in the mirror with a satisfied smile.

Her image had been stained by scandal since the last time she could legitimately call herself champion, but this time Juventus truly merit the success and admiration owing to league winners.

They may well finish their Serie A season undefeated in 38 games.

It has been quite a journey. In search of a chaperone to guide her back to the top, a status Juve have occupied more often than any other club in Italy, the Old Lady had turned to several young men. Finally she found Mr Right.

Once the club were relegated in 2006, punitively, after key directors had been found to have manipulated referees in the calciopoliaffair, Juventus put the task of rebuilding the club's image and masterminding the recovery in the hands of Didier Deschamps, a young head coach at the time and, importantly, a former Juventus player.

Deschamps, the Frenchman, had been part of a formidable Juve team in the 1990s, a tough midfielder in a squad that had plenty of them.

Deschamps answered the call impressively. Juve were Serie B champions at the end of his first campaign in 2006/07. But it would also be his last campaign in Italy. Deschamps felt the direction in which he wanted the club to go, back in Serie A, was distinct from the feelings of the board.

Soon enough, after a spell under the veteran Claudio Ranieri, Juve turned to another player from their most recent era of dominance to take over as coach. Ciro Ferrera had been a tough central defender who won six Serie A titles with Juve. As a coach, though, Ferrara would seem naive. He lasted nine months. But the desire for someone with Juve's tradition as a part of their CV persisted.

Hence the appointment last summer of Antonio Conte, another - yes, you guessed it - tough former player who had coincided in teams with Deschamps and Ferrara. With her third choice of young former playing hero, the Old Lady hit the jackpot.

Conte, 42, has shown enterprise on the field, where his Juve have played with flair but also shown heart where needed. He has been tactically flexible and he has mostly shown poise and maturity under pressure through some heated controversies in the tetchy battle at the top against AC Milan.

A point or more in the last fixture on Sunday and Conte will have left the Old Lady looking immaculate: no defeats through a long, tiring season.

 

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