Are expectations too high at Juve?
After winning promotion to the top flight, most clubs would be happy just consolidating their position for a season. But not Juventus.
Claudio Ranieri’s side are third in Serie A, an excellent achievement following their demotion for match-fixing two seasons ago and the loss of Fabio Cannavaro, Emerson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Patrick Vieira, Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram.
Yet Juve are such a big club in Italy that some fans expected them to be challenging for the scudetto immediately. Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at Palermo ended any hope of a late title bid, but surely the Turin club should be ecstatic that they are in a Champions League spot?
Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon, David Trezeguet, Pavel Nedved and Mauro Camoranesi all stayed to win promotion from Serie B and battle back to the upper reaches of the top flight. Keeping those players was a wonderful coup for the club, which also held on to a fan base from across Italy (they have few fans actually in Turin).
Getting into third spot is even more remarkable given the financial constraints at Juve. Redevelopment of the Stadio delle Alpi, board restructuring following the match-fixing scandal, and an unwillingness from the club’s FIAT backers to plough in lots of cash have all hit the coffers.
They were also not helped by Ranieri buying two midfield duffers in the close season. Sergio Almiron arrived from Empoli but was so ineffective he was quickly shipped off to Monaco while Portugal’s Tiago played his first decent pass all season at Palermo.
Despite all this, Juve have regained the swagger of old where a defeat is so rare it really hurts. The fans should be overjoyed, the club could have sunk like Nottingham Forest and Leeds United have in England.
If Juve can buy a top class creative midfielder, with Werder Bremen’s Diego heavily linked, a championship bid next year might not be so fanciful.
Mark Meadows, Milan