Goal’s Mark Doyle previews Juventus and all of their traditional rivals – including AC Milan, Inter, Roma and Napoli – ahead of the 2016-17 Serie A season
While looking ahead to the new Serie A season, AC Milan defender Luca Antonelli, argued, “Other than Juve, there aren’t many teams better than us.” It was an unintentionally damning indictment of the current state of Italy’s top flight. Essentially, there is Juve – and then there are the rest.
The Bianconeri have won each of the last five titles, equalling the record set by ‘Il Grande Torino‘ between 1943 and 1949. Nobody doubts that the Old Lady will collect a sixth successive Scudetto next summer. As former Italy international Marco Tardelli recently told the Gazzetta dello Sport , “There is no rival in Serie A for Juventus.” This is in spite of the fact that this summer the Bianconeri lost their most prized possession, Paul Pogba.
However, unlike Bologna’s Amadou Diawara and Torino’s Nikola Maksimovic, Pogba didn’t just go AWOL, he returned to Manchester United with the consent of Juve, who were compensated to the tune of €105 million for a player that they prised away from Old Trafford four years ago for just €920,000 in compensation. While the France international has not yet been directly replaced, which is a concern for a side shorn of the services of Claudio Marchisio until November at the earliest, it is likely that Juve will sign one – if not two – new midfielders before the close of the transfer market on August 31. Roma’s star man Miralem Pjanic has already been purchased for a bargain price of €32m in order to bring extra technique and creativity to the middle third of the pitch.
Furthermore, the Bianconeri have already strengthened excellently elsewhere, adding depth to the best defence in the game today by signing Medhi Benatia from Bayern Munich, as well as boosting their attacking options out wide with the arrival of the still dynamic Dani Alves from Barcelona. However, Juve’s most eye-catching acquisition was that of Gonzalo Higuain. Ninety million euros is an obscene amount of money for a 29-year-old but Juve believe that the Argentine attacker is capable of firing them to Champions League glory. Doubts remain over his ability to deliver on the game’s grandest stages, but he is coming off the back of the most prolific single season in the history of Serie A.
Of course, it is disconcerting that he arrived in Turin carrying a few extra pounds. “I was shocked to see Higuain [turn up at Juve overweight],” exclaimed Robert Prosinecki. “He is even fatter than I! They paid €90m for him and he arrived looking like a little pig!”
However, the former Croatia international added, “They will get him fit soon.” And when they do, he should form a lethal partnership with compatriot Paulo Dybala, who has picked up in pre-season where he left off last term by producing sublime strikes with a wondrous left foot. He is, as Arrigo Sacchi stated recently, “a phenomenon”. Thus, the feeling is that even if Juve start the season sluggishly, as they did 12 months ago, they will once again have far too much firepower for any other side in Serie A.