Juve in crisis with Euro hopes dashed, title bid fading, financial hole that could see Ronaldo leave & Pirlo facing sack
CAPELLO called it a 'gift'… Del Piero demanded 'change'… Pirlo called out 'mistakes'…
This isn't the way Juventus are supposed to be.
The Old Lady fell to a shock exit in the Champions League last-16 for the second year in a row and the reaction of players, club legends and the press was damning.
Italian daily Corriere dello Sport described Cristiano Ronaldo's 'betrayal' of the team. For Il Mattino, the exit 'puts everything into question'. Libero described it as a 'failure of the club management'.
Any club boasting the grandeur of the Bianconeri will react badly to every defeat but Tuesday night's away goals exit appeared to neatly summarise the all-encompassing issues facing the club today.
It was telling how Ronaldo transitioned from being the inescapable protagonist of the European knockout stages to the flimsiest component of the wall that collapsed for Porto's de facto winner.
The 36-year-old arguably secured his move to Turin by belting a godly overhead kick past Gianluigi Buffon in the 2018 quarter-finals.
It was the sort of moment that built his amazing Real Madrid legacy but a first-year hat-trick past old foes Atletico Madrid stands as his only tie-winning contribution in the knockouts for Juventus.
Criticism of Ronaldo's weak display on Tuesday was inevitable and talk has naturally turned towards his exit.
The winger still has another season to run on his contract and the club may well put off any difficult decisions for as long as possible.
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They will know that it is currently inconceivable that the team would be better without Ronaldo than with him.
This season's tally of 27 strikes in 32 appearances actually represents his best goals-per-games ratio of his three years with Juventus.
The problem is that no one else is regularly scoring and would Pirlo be wise to reduce Ronaldo's influence to try and squeeze more out of Alvaro Morata, Paulo Dybala and Dejan Kulusevski?
PIRL OF WISDOM
The coach is another man being subjected to a stern probation period and he could get away with only winning the Supercoppa and Coppa Italia, were Juve to beat Atalanta in May's final.
But that position is always vulnerable to review after such a loss, despite reports beforehand that the club would stick with him no matter what.
And what of Andrea Agnelli?
The chairman so busily touting his club's entitlement to a place in the European Super League that he may have missed that Juve's recent conquerors would have decidedly not made the cut.
Indeed, the club's recent European record is anything but 'Super' – yet could be worth every penny for Amazon's upcoming docu-series.
Against two Champions League final appearances under old coach Massimiliano Allegri, the Bianconeri have otherwise made it to the last-four only once in over 20 years.
Perhaps Agnelli is so keen to ensure the inflation of another cash cow to bolster against the financial doom threatening the Old Lady.
Pretty much every club has found the going extremely tough in the pandemic but every one of Juventus' revenue streams fell last year with debt topping £300million.
Player sales have been vital to cash flow but that well can only dig so deep without seriously affecting the team.
Throughout the past decade, the club has been able to rely on the Scudetto for reassurance and even that has disappeared this year.
Inter Milan, a club themselves clouded in a sense of perpetual crisis, sit ten points ahead with AC Milan popping into second place.
The old accusations that Juventus were failing in Europe because they were finding domestic life too easy have been tested, and failed.
Perhaps this has all arrived at the perfect moment, forcing the club to hold off its insatiable desire for instant gratification to rebuild around the youth of Pirlo, Weston McKennie, Federico Chiesa and more.
That may well mean a couple of years without silverware and, heaven forbid, the weakening of Agnelli's Super League claim.
But the first step to making a big change for a better tomorrow is always acceptance.
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