“Sebastian Giovinco is finally in good shape, above all psychologically, so we need the fans to start applauding & supporting him. He is a product of our youth academy & should be considered a source of pride for our colours.”—Antonio Conte, October 2013
It appears the great well of Italian talent has run dry. Much like our sports channels are filled with games from Argentina, France or beyond, Serie A defences have been globalised. Beyond Juventus, who arguably have the four best central defenders available to the Azzurri, Cesare Prandelli is somewhat short of options as a quick look through the WhoScored.com statistics highlights.
Juventus Primavera Latest: Daniele Rugani In Focus
Daniele Rugani, signed permanently by Juventus this summer, is a product of the Empoli Youth Sector and has made a superb start to the 2013-14 campaign. Born in 1994, he joined the Tuscan club aged just nine and has been nurtured perfectly ever since. He should be of little surprise to anyone familiar with the Tuscan club’s Youth Sector, widely regarded as one of the best in Europe.
Alessandro Del Piero's Twenty Year Legacy Is Our History
Twenty years ago a fifteen year old boy, taken to Turin’s Stadio Delle Alpi as a birthday gift saw a young striker score on his home debut in a game against Reggiana. All the boy could talk about on his way home was the fact he’d seen Roberto Baggio score in the flesh and that Juventus had won 4-0. His father turned to him & said “That last goal was nice, need to keep an eye on that kid.”
Much has changed since that day. Roberto Baggio moved on long ago, the two youngsters are now well into their thirties, both lost their fathers soon into the new millennium. Even the stadium that united the three men in late 1993 no longer stands.
But some things remain constant; the fathers advice went well heeded, the son watched the young goal scorer mature. Eight Scudetti, a Champions League win, that crippling injury in Udinese, a World Cup and the agony of relegation have all followed. A special bond was born that September afternoon has enjoyed and endured many highs, with the occasional low. The young striker became a talismanic captain and a household name across the world.
Since that debut strike Alessandro Del Piero evolved into an icon of Juventus, playing more times and scoring more goals for the club than any other player in history. He has broken every record and then continued to seemingly raise the bar higher and higher every time he set foot on the field in those famous black and white stripes.
Fast forward to an October evening in 2010 and Milan’s San Siro brought the latest instalment in the entwined story. With an injury ravaged Juve already leading 1-0 against all the odds, Momo Sissoko stumbled into the opposition penalty area, the ball almost an after thought. A Rossoneri defender struggled to deal with the midfielders unorthodox style, Christian Abbiati in the Milan goal unsure whether to come for the ball or stand his ground.
Enter Del Piero. Calm, cool and collected as he always was. He rifled a shot past the stranded goalkeeper, the net bulging to seal another milestone. Once given the nickname ‘Pinturiccio’ by the late Gianni Agnelli, the apprentice became an undoubted master of his craft. It was Serie A goal number 179 for Del Piero, taking him past Giampiero Boniperti’s top flight record. Another day, another record, the latest chapter in what became an almost relentless march to greatness.
To witness such a career was an honour. To see that quiet unassuming substitute mature into a legend shaped my love for the game and this club. To watch records tumble one after the other showed we truly were witnessing greatness. Through it all he showed dignity and class, saying he is just a fan, “a part of the great Juventus flag.”
Even now, as his story continues in Australia, to count him as one of us is the real privilege for Juventus fans. For me, seeing Alesandro Del Piero’s legacy writ large in Juventus history will always take me back to that late summer afternoon.
Grazie Capitano for twenty years of wonderful memories.
Last week, as Serie A returned, Luca Toni and his newly promoted Hellas Verona grabbed the headlines after the big old striker inspired an unlikely win over Milan. His trademark celebration failed to make an appearance this past weekend however, as the Gialloblu were one of only two sides not to get on the scoresheet in Week Two.
The rest of the league had no such problem, scoring from all angles as the round featured no fewer than 43 goals. Yes, forty three times the net bulged, yet still commentators will discuss ‘cat and nacho’s’ next time a team from the peninsula dares to defend properly in European competition.
Indeed, looking back at this weekend’s action, a number of sides could do with a few defensive reinforcements before the transfer window slams shut later today. The flood of goals began in Saturday’s early kick off as Napoli took on Chievo. The Partenopei have often struggled against the ‘Flying Donkeys’, especially once the Stadio Bentagodi pitch begins to resemble a potato patch. For the moment however, its grass is real rather than painted on, and Rafael Benitez’ new look side took full advantage.
Two goals from Marek Hamšík, another from José Callejón and Gonzalo Higuaín’s first official goal for the club gave them the three points, despite Pepe Reina making a real mess and gifting the outmatched opponents a lifeline. The performance prompted the coach to say Hamsik “lacked Steven Gerrard’s strength, but is a more tactically intelligent player.” Judging by the response from posting that comment on twitter, insulting a man’s tactical intelligence must be Scouse for something concerning his mother.
The goals continued to rain in as the action shifted to Juventus Stadium, which hosted Lazio and a Super Cup rematch. “The difference between the teams is not four goals,” promised coach Vladimir Petkovic two weeks ago, but he will be disappointed that his players only reduced the deficit to three.
The Bianconeri backed up their 4-0 demolition with an equally commanding 4-1 rout this time, although their cause was significantly aided by a red card for Hernanes. For his part, Antonio Conte berated his own midfielders for relaxing too much, no doubt ensuring that the two-time title winners stay hungry over the international break.
Sunday afternoon saw Milan comfortably despatch Cagliari, despite the Rossoneri still awaiting the return of Kaka to shore up their ailing defence, or reduce the playing time of Stefan El Shaarawy. Whichever.
Atalanta posted a smart 2-0 win over Torino - the other side not to score - just as Hellas were capitulating in Rome. I’m not sure what their game plan was, but it’s safe to assume coach Andrea Mandorlini didn’t instruct fullback Fabrizio Cacciatore to turn crosses from Francesco Totti into the back of his own net.
Yet, just a few minutes later, the 53 year old was himself applauding Roma’s second goal, a sublime chipped effort from Miralem Pjanic. Their evening took a sour note later however, with Roma fans attacking the Hellas team bus so badly the players were forced to spend the night in the capital.
A statement from club president Maurizio Setti noted that “miraculously, no one was hurt,” but the reputation of Italian football is once again left battered and bruised at the hands of a few mindless idiots.
1. Manolo Gabbiadini celebrated his call up to the Italy squad with Sampdoria’s equaliser against Bologna. With Mario Balotelli and Pablo Osvaldo suspended on Friday, the Azzurri will hope he can snatch them a goal.
2. Fiorentina continue to impress, putting five past Genoa as Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez flourished, prompting coach Vincenzo Montella to say the pair were “born to play together.”
3. Walter Mazzarri and Inter won again, recording an impressive victory away to Catania. Still early days but things look promising for the Nerazzurri.
4. The same cannot be said for Sassuolo, losing badly again this week, this time a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of fellow new boys Livorno. They should prepare now for their 2014-15 Serie B campaign.
5. There was one bright note for Lazio as Miroslav Klose finally netted against Juventus. Straw. Clutched.
Week Two Results; Chievo 2-4 Napoli, Juventus 4-1 Lazio, Roma 3-0 Hellas, Milan 3-1 Cagliari, Atalanta 2-0 Torino, Bologna 2-2 Sampdoria, Catania 0-3 Inter, Genoa 2-5 Fiorentina, Sassuolo 1-4 Livorno, Udinese 3-1 Parma
Serie A Week One Round Up: It's Like You Never Left...
Some columns this morning will tell you how great it is that Serie A is ‘back,’ and eulogise over how long it seems since the Calcio stopped and the summer began. However, any true fan of Italian football will tell you that the action is endless, that even when the games are scheduled they’re often just a side note in the circus which continues in boardrooms and smokey corridors 365 days a year.
This summer has been relatively quiet by the peninsula’s usual standard, yet we’ve still had another/more/the same match fixing investigation taking place. This time Lazio are at the centre with their captain Stefano Mauri now appealing a ban for his role in a wide reaching betting operation.
Transfer sagas have raged as, following the departures of Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javier Pastore, more recognisable faces have departed, although not all of them to Paris Saint-Germain. Well, Edinson Cavani did (wouldn’t it have been easier for their owners to buy an Italian club?) but Stevan Jovetic headed to Manchester and Pablo Osvaldo took talents (and his life size Mick Jagger statue!) to Southampton.
Yet there were still plenty of reasons to look forward to the 2013-14 season. Big names flocked to Serie A, with Turin’s Old Lady proving two consecutive league titles will quickly make men forgive and forget. Antonio Conte’s reigning champions have another restoration project on their hands in Spanish international Fernando Llorente, but it seems Carlos Tevez is ready to go from the first whistle.
Having helped Juventus demolish Lazio in the Italian Super Cup last weekend, the Argentinean was at it again on Saturday night. His strike proved to be the only goal of the game away to Sampdoria as the Bianconeri overcame a side who beat them twice last season.
However, earlier on Saturday it was some older names who stole all the headlines. Hellas Verona returned to Serie A for the first time in a decade and played host to Milan. The Rossoneri have been incredibly quiet on the transfer front and the build up to the game mostly centred on the level of abuse Mario Balotelli would suffer at the hands of the home side’s notoriously racist Ultra.
But the Brigate Gialloblu turned in a performance they can be hugely proud of, giving Milan and their star striker a warm welcome onto the pitch. Massimiliano Allegri’s men seemed determined to be equally gracious, gifting 36 year old Luca Toni a virtually free header in the box. That goal gave the newly promoted side a famous 2-1 win and prompted endless repeats of this…
Sunday’s games would return to promoting the new over the tried and trusted. Roma have once again spent the time between May and August acting like a teenage girl after a bad breakup. Just as they did with Luis Enrique, anything which might vaguely remind them of Zdenek Zeman has been burned, buried or sold, and Rudi Garcia is now the next victim, sorry, I mean new coach.
He got off to a good start, not only recording a 2-0 win away to Livorno but coaxing a superb performance from Daniele De Rossi. The Frenchman did cause a stir however, picking up the phone when his radio link to the stands failed. He will likely face a fine from the league authorities, we must just hope he hasn’t got a Swiss SIM card…
Napoli too are filled with new faces, a real (Real?) Spanish flavour to Rafael Benitez’ side. With Pepe Reina, Jose Maria Callejon and Raul Albiol joining Gonzalo Higuain, the Southern side have reinforced well and a comfortable 3-0 win over Bologna bodes well for the campaign ahead.
A good start is vital in the capital and neighbours Lazio rebounded well from that Super Cup loss to defeat Udinese 2-1. Hernanes and Antonio Candreva’s goals proved too much for the Friuli side who are having their traditional August struggle.
Fiorentina have spent as well as anyone, and yes, that includes free-spending Tottenham, who perhaps should’ve checked their Spanish lottery numbers before running out and blowing the jackpot. Vincenzo Montella’s squad now boasts not only a now healthy Giuseppe Rossi and Josip Ilicic, but the Stadio Artemio Franchi has also had a Mario Gomez button installed.
The Viola caused some serious panic in Milan last season, when it looked as though they might steal the final Champions League berth. Tonight (Monday) they host Catania, and if the new faces gel there may be one or two bigger clubs looking slightly worried.
Oh Serie A is back, but in truth it never really went away!
1. Udinese always struggle in the early part of the season but may have overdone things this term. With the owners focused more on Watford, Francesco Guidolin may not have the loaves and fishes his usual miracle requires!
2. It looks like a long slog is in store for Sassuolo. Losing 2-0 to Torino in the club’s first ever top flight match does not bode well for their survival hopes.
3. Hold judgement on Inter. Yes they recorded a win over Genoa but it was as ugly as they come. Neither side managed a single shot in the first half, Yuto Nagatomo’s goal arrived via a huge deflection and the Grifone may well be among the favourites for relegation.
4. The same goes for cross town rivals Milan for whom nothing counts until the transfer window closes. Adriano Galliani is the undisputed king of last minute shopping and he could yet pull off another masterstroke to transform their squad.
5. “I’m fed up of this situation… I have neither the time nor the desire to wait for him!” said Vincenzo Montella when asked about Adem Ljajic. With his contract expiring and Fiorentina backing the coach, expect the Serbian to be finding a new home very soon.
Week One Results; Hella 2-1 Milan, Sampdoria 0-1 Juventus, Inter 2-0 Genoa, Torino 2-0 Sassuolo, Cagliari 2-1 Atalanta, Lazio 2-1 Udinese, Livorno 0-2 Roma, Napoli 3-0 Bologna, Parma 0-0 Chievo, Fiorentina P-P Catania (Monday)
“I have already made friends with everyone in the locker room. For me it was very important to learn Italian before getting here. I’m glad I made the effort to learn, I already feel like a part of the group”—New signing Fernando Llorente
Following on from a comprehensive look back at the players of the Juventus Primavera, we bring you a look at those players who spent 2012-13 away with other clubs. With this year’s co-ownership deadline set for June 20, many of these names may feature regularly in the coming days as management makes decisions on the immediate futures of many of the young talent currently on the club’s books.
Juventus Primavera Latest: 2012-13 Season Review & Pagelle
As you will hopefully have noticed, the JuventiKnows crew have been busy compiling our end of season pagelle for the first team. While Antonio Conte’s men are always the major focus, I also try to bring you coverage of the club you cannot find elsewhere with Youth Sector reports and here you’ll find ratings for the entire Primavera Squad.
Those who hold Juventus close welcome the return to their old values under Antonio Conte and it seems they have taken that same approach into the transfer market. Having reclaimed their place at the top of the Serie A standings, the lack of a regular goal scorer was identified as their biggest weakness, and Beppe Marotta duly made a €16 million bid for Spanish striker Fernando Llorente. Along with Fabio Paratici and Conte, the Director had identified the Athletic Club striker as their chief target…
When it comes to selecting a team of eleven players to represent the best Serie A had to offer this season, it would be very simple to choose the Juventus midfield, defence and goalkeeper, before tagging two goalscorers on to lead the attack. The performances of Gigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal would make such a decision entirely valid, but I’m told fans of other clubs would find it rather biased.
Read who I actually chose over on BettingExpert.com
Don't Stay Silent When You Should Be Screaming #NotInMyName
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke
As you are undoubtedly now aware, Roma’s travelling fans racially abused Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng during their game at Milan’s San Siro on Sunday. The Rossoneri in attendance responded by answering Roma fans’ monkey chanting with cries of Nerone, bruciali tutti! – a clever word play on Nero watching Rome burn in 64 AD which effectively translates as “burn them all, big blackie!” Supporters may wish to excuse that, and claim their fellow fans were indeed displaying intimate knowledge of Roman history, but it is basically the same as Juventini asking Mount Vesuvius to purge Naples in recent seasons.
As has become customary, the Lega Calcio issued fines at lunchtime on Monday, assessing Roma a €50,000 punishment for their continued racist onslaught. That in turn, led to the inevitable Twitter merry-go-round comparing it to everything from Milan’s own penalty – €15,000 – for their fans using lasers during the same game, to Nicklas Bendtner’s endorsed pants.
But it is no longer time for grandstanding, or petty one-upmanship. Italian football is suffering at the hands of inaction, and we are all guilty. Racism is rife at Serie A stadia, and is allowed to be so, because we supporters have excused it for so long. Discussing an imaginary ‘one or two idiots,’ or ‘ignorant minority’ has become the fashionable way of handling the situation, calling those responsible, ‘so called fans’ in order to separate them from the rest of us, so we are not tainted by the association.
Yet, those quotation marks are themselves partially to blame. They excuse the actions of those responsible, and excuse the clubs from taking a stance against the crimes – yes, crimes – of those in question. The same can also be said for discussions over what the League, FA or UEFA and FIFA can do to help or the general social malaise affecting Italy.
While all those remain valid points, education may well be lacking in Italy with regards to these issues, but that is not an issue to be addressed by football. The authorities have proven time and again to be inept in even the most straightforward matter, and there is something more – something so very simple – that we can collectively do. Football supporters of each and every side should be inundating their club with requests for action. You – yes, you, me, your brothers and sisters – need to hammer on the door until OUR clubs listen. The issue has gone unanswered too long.
Take to your club’s social media platform and urge them to end the disgusting tolerance of racism at YOUR stadium, regardless of whether the footballing authorities have found your club guilty or not. Look at the amount of followers these accounts have, and realise the difference WE can make. Say it loud and then say it again; NOT IN MY NAME!
€15million sounded a lot. When Juventus announced the signing of Leonardo Bonucci from Genoa in the summer of 2009 it looked like they had, despite the arrival of a new and supposedly more astute management team, once again overspent on a player. His early showings in the Bianconeri shirt did little to appease those fears among supporters who had seen defenders such as Jorge Andrade, Jean-Alain Boumsong and the disastrous return of an aging Fabio Cannavaro all flop in recent years.
The perception was that once again the club had failed to find a solid addition for the back-line and brought in yet another player unfit to follow in the footsteps of names as illustrious as Gaetano Scirea, Ciro Ferrara and Lillian Thuram. There were even those who believed Beppe Marotta had signed the wrong member of a relatively successful Bari side, instead lamenting that Andrea Ranocchia wasn’t the one brought to Turin.
“I don’t want to play behind closed doors because of these idiots. It would be very damaging, especially at this crucial stage of the season, if we were to get a home ban.”—Antonio Conte on racist Juventus fans
It ended with them besieged by their own supporters who, hungry for souvenirs, preceded to strip their heroes of those famous Giallorossi shirts, shorts, socks, vests, literally anything they could get their hands on to remember the occasion. It was a day they would never forget.
Everything about that sunny afternoon back in June 2001 was almost perfect for AS Roma as they ensured they took the points necessary to guarantee what would eventually prove to be only the third league title in the club’s history. Even the three names on the score-sheet – Francesco Totti, Vincenzo Montella and Gabriel Batistuta – perfectly reflected a season which had seen them lead Serie A from start to finish. It was a campaign that was perhaps the most dominant by AS Roma since they were formed back in 1927.
Midfielders At The Heart Of Juventus vs Napoli Clash
This Saturday sees the resumption of what is quickly becoming the hottest battle in Serie A as Napoli once again travel north to face off against Juventus, the team who represent everything supporters of the Partenopei despise. Seemingly their entire ethos is to rally against the establishment, painting themselves as outsiders, happy to live in the shadow of Vesuvius but never content to be put into the shade by Italian football’s biggest clubs.
Player Focus: Angelo Ogbonna Worth The Asking Price?
Angelo Ogbonna is currently one of the most in-demand defenders in Italian football with rumoured interest from Manchester United, Juventus, Arsenal, Everton, Bayern Munich and Milan being reported on a daily basis. Yet outside of the peninsula not many will have heard his name, with even fewer still having actually watched him play. There is a simple reason why the central defender is so unheralded; he plays for Torino FC, a club that has spent the majority of the last sixty years in the shadow of city cousins Juventus and have only been in Serie A for two of the 24 year olds seven seasons as a professional.
"Chaos in Milan. It’s never this bad!" cried the front page of Corriere dello Sport last Monday, reacting to seeing the city’s two clubs both lose the previous weekend. Indeed, before Milan’s midweek win over Cagliari, the pair had combined to take just three points from seven home matches following three draws and four losses, with Milan themselves having already lost three league games this term.
To those of us who love a good stat, the regular output of various twitter accounts are like manna from heaven, allowing our inner geek to be continually nourished with the wonderful droplets of information dispensed. Whatever the league, player or competition in question, we read it, store it in our memory and then recycle it - incorrectly of course - a number of weeks later when it once more becomes relevant. In recent weeks and months however, a certain number of these stats have begun to be increasingly irritating, largely due to the sheer number of times they are reproduced and quoted.
Juventus make welcome return to the Champions League
It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys but finally they are back. When the Champions League anthem is played over the Stamford Bridge PA system on Wednesday evening, the eleven men wearing the famous black and white stripes of Juventus will be the first to do so in almost three years.
Indeed, the last time the Turin side played a fixture in Europe’s elite competition was a 4-1 humbling at the hands of Bayern Munich in December of 2010. That loss saw them fail to progress from the group stage, and having been eliminated by Chelsea in the Second Round the previous season, the grand Old Lady of Italian football will be looking to give a better account of herself than anytime in recent history.
As is now customary, Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport has published the salary of every player in Serie A. The figures are given in terms of annual salary paid after tax and includes no bonus payments of any kind, allowing the most simplistic of comparisons across the teams, players and nationalities of the leagues players.
Among the breakdowns published by the famous pink paper is a ‘Highest Paid XI’, a fantasy team made up of the best paid player in each position, making an arbitrary selection in terms of formation and personnel. Of course, WhoScored.com has a very similar system when it comes to the ‘Team of the Week’ choices and so – in true off-the-cuff fashion – we have compared the two sides, pitting the big money earners against the Team of the Season (thus far) according to the WhoScored player ratings.
Whether through drunkenness or as part of a publicity stunt he shows off his pants. He’s got a terrible attitude and thinks he’s the greatest striker alive today. These criticisms – plus many others that are unrepeatable here – have reigned down upon Nicklas Bendtner and Juventus since the former Arsenal man joined the Turin giants late last week.
That Watford & Udinese Thing: Reasons To Be Cheerful
In the summer of 1986 Udinese were in trouble. As punishment for their part in ‘Totonero bis’ – a match-fixing scandal which tore through the game and left many of its players and clubs tainted forever – the Friulian club were relegated to the second tier of Italian football. While his arrival may not have had the global impact of Silvio Berlusconi’s landing at Milan some four months earlier, Giampaolo Pozzo’s arrival would prove to be a watershed moment for a club who bear little resemblance to the one he bought 26 years ago.
Daniele De Rossi recently reaffirmed his commitment to home-town club AS Roma, citing the affection shown to him the previous weekend when the Giallorossi played their first friendly of the new season at their Stadio Olimpico home. The 29-year-old midfielder spoke in reverential tones of his love for everything Roman and the deep-seated loyalty he feels for the club and its famous colours.
In rejecting the sustained approaches from Manchester City, De Rossi proved once again that, for footballers, the old ‘there’s no place like home’ adage can resonate as loudly as it does in any other walk of life. Even without home-field advantage, the comfort of familiar surroundings or the adoration of local fans afforded to De Rossi, most players quickly become accustomed to what they forever refer to as ‘their’ club.