From greatness to mediocrity – the fall and fall of once mighty Juventus

Posted on 25/01/2010


by David Bronstein | Sportingo

In 1997, Juventus reached the peak of their powers. I remember watching Channel 4 when, back then, it was worth a few hours of your time.

Football Italia a la James Richardson was at the Stadio Delli Alpi on another bitter freezing day in Turin. Scarf firmly wrapped around his neck, the balding Richardson proclaimed that this current crop of players to rank as the best he has probably seen. Not just in Serie A. No sir, but in the WORLD!
Juventus were not a team; they were more like a machine that just kept on steamrolling whoever was next in line throughout the length and breadth of Italy and into the Champions League. They were, quite simply, unstoppable.
Current European champions for only the second time in their history, this squad was arguably the Old Lady’s strongest on record. Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi and Christian Vieri were all in their prime. And Edgar Davids – what a fine player he was in the 90s too.
And then of course, pulling the strings in midfield, the maestro from Marseille, Zinedine Zidane. And back then Zidane did something every week. He continued that form for a good decade after. But Juve had the best of the Frenchman, make no mistake.
Ironically they would go on and lose in the Champions League final that year to an unglamourous, but superbly organised Borussia Dortmund. The season after, they were back in the final again.
Currently they are the last team to reach three Champions League finals in a row. But again the final hurdle would beat them. Despite outplaying Real Madrid, they were shot down in the 66th minute by a solitary goal scored by Pedrag Mijatovic. It was Real’s first victory in the competition in 32 years.
And because of that, Mijatovic’s boot that got the winner can now be seen displayed at the Real Madrid museum in El Santiago Bernabeu.
Juve were heartbroken. But again went for a fourth final, this time in 1999 but halted in the semis after an amazing comeback by Manchester United. And that did really seem to be a turning point. 
Key players left, some came in. Most notably the brilliant Czech Pavel Nedved and French golden goal hero David Trezeguet (still there to this day). They got to another Champions League final in 2003, thus creating an all Italian affair against AC Milan.
That wasn’t enough to cover up the cracks. Juve would frequently get humiliated on their travels in Europe – most notably to English Premier League sides, undreamed of a decade before. Juve had been caught napping.
Then the machine-type football returned in 2005 and 2006 under the leadership of Fabio Capello. But, unknown to players and most staff, Juve were ”awarded” certain games. And we all know what happened next.
Being stripped of there titles seemed insignificant to being relegated to Serie B for the first time in the club’s history.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic went to Inter, whilst Fabio Cannavaro bucked the Italian ‘internationals must stay in Italy to play for Italy’ trend to join the Galacticos Part 9 at Real Madrid.
Despite such a setback, the core of the squad agreed to stay. Within a season they were back in Serie A and finshing in third place.
But a routine path up the ladder back to success would stop there. There were some notable results in Europe though, beating Real Madrid and giving Chelsea a decent run for their money, but this was just papering over the cracks.
Cannavaro eventually returned, and Gianluigi Buffon was still guarding the sticks. Even old boy Del Piero was showing glimpses of his once great self.
But look around Juve today. Where are the stars?  Where is the intimidation?
The once great team, where teams and fans were genuinely afraid to play, have fallen off the radar. The disgraced Luciano Moggi, kicked out of football (although not forever) for the match fixing scandal summed it up.
The current owners haven’t got a clue how to run the club. They are not footballing men and they are unaware of the enormous fan base created over the years by Juventus.
Current coach Ciro Ferrera will be seeing his P45 shortly as Juve are on a winless streak, having just lost to Chievo at the weekend. It was their first defeat ever by the club from Verona. The only bright spark is the wonderfully talented Giorgio Chiellini but his trade is in defence.
So we ask again, just where are the stars? Where is the intimidation? I tell you where it is. It’s stuck on that freezing Sunday afternoon at the Delli Alpi, with James Richardson and his scarf.
Posted in: Article, Thoughts