On August 8, 2020, Juventus officially announced that Andrea Pirlo would take over as the manager for the team for the 2020-2021 season. The club made its decision soon after it relieved Mauirizio Sarri off his managerial duties a few hours prior. Though he delivered the club an unprecedented ninth consecutive Scudetto, the Coppa Final defeat to Napoli and, more importantly, the early Champions League exit to semifinalists Lyon; left an unsettling feeling of underachievement in the minds of Juventini around the world. Ahead of a season in which the club made a managerial change after just one term for the first time since 2011, I spoke to @ITruth98, better known as Inconvenient Truth on Twitter, to discuss the expectations for the season, as well as all things Juventus.
Inconvenient Truth (“IT”) has only been on Twitter for a little over a year but has garnered a following through well-reasoned, balanced opinions on the platform. In an era where the prevalent accounts gain popularity and traction through reactionary takes, IT stands in contrast as a voice of calm, often finding the positive side to what many would consider major controversies. He's a lifelong, fourth-generation Juventino from Canada with Calabrese heritage and works in journalism and media.
We discussed the state of the club today, in which the team has consistently and decisively dominated Italian football, in large part thanks to the ownership. A commitment to a long-term project has been integral to Juventus' growth in the last decade, and the ambition to continue forging that path is evidenced by Andrea Agnelli's statements at the October 2019 shareholder meeting. "These numbers seem enormous when compared to the Italian reality, but our point of reference is the great European clubs. We can affirm that Juventus is the biggest club in Italian football, but also one of the biggest clubs in Europe. We must be extremely proud of our development and our growth rates, but we must keep with the pace." Said the Juventus President, while asking shareholders to approve a €300m capital increase for a five-year development plan. Likewise, IT echoed Angelli's sentiment when discussing the role of stability in Juventus' achievements:
"Stability has been a key component to our sustained success over the course of this decade," asserted IT. “Elsewhere, a commitment to growth in all phases, led by Andrea Agnelli’s vision of the club has been at the forefront of Juventus’ ability to equalize with the mega-rich Euro powers in the wake of Serie A’s financial deterioration around 2010.”
It is clear, to anyone who watches closely, that the organization is not in the same financial position as it was a decade ago. Juventus' value has increased more than €650m since 2010 and, as of 2019, it is worth more than €1.2b. Its spending power has increased, its global brand and recognition have grown, and its ambition for victory on the pitch has never been clearer. IT recalled Antonio Conte and his now well-known assertion that the club simply did not have the resources to seriously compete in Europe:
"We often look back at Conte's infamous line, 'you can't enter a €100 restaurant with a €10 note,' but we don't speak this way in 2020. Juventus is a club no longer limited by financial constraints and that's largely due to Agnelli’s ability to ensure the club finds sustained success."
As IT noted, Juventus today is not the same Juventus of years past.
While prudent and innovative business decisions have allowed Juventus to grow as a brand, football matches are ultimately won in the pitch. Players have made their mark at important moments through recent campaigns, contributing to the collective goal of establishing a historic dynasty in the club's history. Much of that success is due to some key figures who have given the team a sense of leadership, continuity, and stability:
"For me, Giorgio Chiellini and Gigi Buffon are 1a, 1b in terms of importance to this period of Juventus. They are essential figures."
said IT of the current and former Juventus captains. Though they were at highly different stages of their respective careers at the outset of the 2006-2007 season, Buffon enjoying the arguable pinnacle of his journey as a footballer, and Chiellini playing only his second season at the club as a young defender, both became the backbone of what Juventus today. IT also highlighted the newly-appointed manager who, as a player, created a cohesive unit in the middle of the field.
“Andrea Pirlo expedited the growth of Conte's early teams and became the reference point by which all play - and subsequent success - ran through."
Most of the players to experience a spell at Juventus have served their purpose in elevating the club but in IT's mind, there are two who deserve higher praise than they have received.
"Among the 'underappreciated,' I often think back to Stephan Lichtsteiner, simply because he was a pillar piece in both the Conte and Allegri years. The ultimate Juve-first player in many ways."
Lichtsteiner played more than 250 matches for Juventus over seven seasons, registering 15 goals and 30 assists for the club.
"Carlos Tevez represented one of the early ‘gambles’ for the club in an on-field sense. He was a crucial element to Juve going from the underdog on the European level to elevating the club’s profile. Like a great firework, it didn’t last long - but it was brilliant to watch."
Tevez only spent two seasons at Juventus, a spell that would not allow just any player to create a lasting impact on the fans. Yet, during his stint, Tevez added 50 goals and 18 assists to his personal tally in 96 matches. He currently ranks just outside of Juventus' top 30 goalscorers of all time, at the 32nd spot.
Truly appreciating the unparalleled level of success Juventus have enjoyed in the modern era requires reflecting on the club's dark chapters. For many like IT, victory and notoriety taste sweeter after injustice and heartbreak. Fans may spend time speculating how history would be different without Calciopoli gravely stunting Juventus' trajectory. However, in a lot of ways, this major setback also propelled the squad to heights it had never previously reached.
“The success you see in present-day is born of the ashes from 2006. There’s an air of vengeance in Agnelli when discussing the desire for Juventus to maintain its monopoly of Calcio," remarked IT.
Setting whatever the lasting effects from the scandal are now aside, the all-elusive Champions League trophy has proven to be a difficult hurdle for the club in the last decade. Fans, who still vividly remember the Champions League iterations of 2015 and 2017, may recall two inspired runs into the tournament's final, both with Massimiliano Allegri at the helm. On both occasions, it appeared as though the team was ready to cement itself in history as victors of Europe once again. But in both instances, the team experienced a devastating defeat to stronger finalists, losing 1-3 to Barcola in 2015 and 1-4 to Real Madrid in 2017. Both losses, taking place while being one win away from claiming the title, have created an atmosphere of impatience with fans who believe the trophy is a requisite for the current Juventus to be the greatest to have existed. But IT suggests objectively contextualizing the losses given what history has taught us.
"When evaluating our two UCL finalists in this period, we’ve encountered arguably the greatest attacking trio in the sport’s history in Barca’s Messi-Suarez-Neymar in 2015 and a CR7-led Madrid team that fielded one of the strongest starting 11s the sport has ever seen as well.”
And he believes that composure is essential from fans who long to see the Juventus captain hoist Europe's ultimate prize in the air.
"It's not easy to win, despite the appetite some have for it. But patience is a virtue, and all good things come to those who wait.”
And waiting is all that is left to do right now. With Serie A set to start on September 19, 2020, management and fans alike gear up for an exciting new season, full of mystery and anticipation. Some might expect the victories to cease during a trophy-less season, while others expect the team to finally achieve the famous treble. For IT, tailoring expectations to the present circumstances is paramount. Domestically, he is confident that Pirlo has enough resources at his disposal to secure another Scudetto and finish off Agnelli’s dream of 10 consecutive titles.
Pirlo has inherited more than enough individual quality (with more to come) to continue the winning tradition domestically, and it’ll help him learn on the fly this season,” says IT. As for Europe, he believes that “the team must get out of its own way, but also get over the hump.” Ultimately, his expectation is one that combines cautious optimism with a realistic understanding of the current state of affairs: “A tenth Scudetto, a Coppa Italia final appearance and an inspired run in the Champions League.”
Regardless of whether IT's prediction for this season will be accurate, it is inevitable to wonder, albeit momentarily, how sustainable this Juventus side is. At the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, no one could have envisioned that the club would be one Scudetto away from completing 10 consecutive titles or that a Champions League trophy would be a realistic objective for the season. The present expectations are a testament to the trajectory that has existed on Agnelli’s mind since the beginning of his tenure as President. While IT believes that sustainability cannot be predicted with precision, he reminds us that "this period of winning has lasted multiple directors, innumerable players, and three coaches." Changes have been made to the squad, to the management, to the brand, and even to the Juventus logo itself. Opponents in Serie A have improved financially and continue to acquire new talent. It always seems, at least to everyone who is not a Juventino, as though the bianconeri’s days are numbered. But the team has continued to perform, capitalize on the big moments, and, above all, win. That why is IT remains willing to fight the battles as a supporter, as Agnelli is to lead the charge from the top of the organization, both supporting the club unconditionally. “I am not remotely close to ready to concede the title yet and we all know Agnelli isn’t either.”
But if, or when, the club encounters a winless stretch, the fans will be there to support the Old Lady. That is because Juventus is more than just a club to us. With nearly 123 years of history, triumph accompanied by defeat, joy coupled with agony, and an unmatched desired to conquer all, Juventus have congregated the largest family of tifosi in Italy and abroad. Juventini feel a “deep-seated affinity for the stripes of the Bianconeri," says IT. "It's a way of life, really. Black and white, with no shades of grey." So, even if this is the beginning of the end because nothing good lasts forever, IT thinks it is best to “be positive and enjoy the ride.” He left us with some parting thoughts, which may be more relevant now than ever: “Many of us have been around long enough to remember the down years between 2007-2011. Dark times, steered by truly inept individuals. This period that we’re in is abnormal… never mistake that truth.”
An Q&A by GiankaJuve with IT