Juventus facing prospect of further European embarrassment amid Serie A struggles

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It takes a whole lot of irony to analyse the situation Juventus find themselves in right now.

The Italian giants were one of the driving forces of the European Super League (ESL), scheming a revolution against Uefa and its premium asset, the Champions League, yet now they are left struggling even to qualify for the tournament they attempted to break away from.

With three matches left to play in Serie A, one of them against champions Inter Milan on Saturday, Juve are fifth in the league and on the verge of missing out on reaching the competition that remains the pinnacle of European football, the one that allowed them to become what they are now and without which they would have been unable to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns 31m euros per year.

The Champions League has been their dream for years and it has brought them 790m euros in prize money and ticket revenues since 2012-13. But the club’s relationship with European football is fast turning into a nightmare.

What a season it has been for president Andrea Agnelli. A pandemic to face with all of its economic consequences, the farce of an attempt to sign Luis Suarez and the assumed Italian language skills that would have enabled him to qualify for citizenship, and then the massive flop that was the Super League, with this week’s latest instalment being a threat by Serie A to expel Juve unless they officially withdraw from the ESL.

It all started very differently though, at least from a sporting perspective. The Bianconeri had set their eyes on an unprecedented 10th Scudetto in a row and demonstrated firm determination to go all the way in Europe too.

Who should lead them there? Agnelli himself nominated Andrea Pirlo, a sort of Pep Guardiola in black and white stripes. Pirlo, the theory went, would finally give Juventus that international style of play which had always been missing in Turin. He would also be a more diplomatic figure than predecessor Maurizio Sarri, who had arrived with the same goal, only to fall out with Ronaldo and some senior figures even before the season started.

Sarri was sacked for losing in the Champions League last 16, as well as for his difficult relationship with players, press and directors. He did win the league though.

Pirlo has failed to do that and also oversaw a last-16 exit in Europe, this time at the hands of unfancied Porto.

When he was appointed, Pirlo’s backers talked of liquid football, possession and offensive play. He had no experience in the dugout, but surely such a massive player would understand how to drive the club forward on the pitch.


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