The Old Lady Rises From The Ashes Of Scandal
Tonight’s Coppa Italia final between Juventus and Lazio is another landmark in the meteoric rise from the ashes of the Old Lady of Italian football.
Having already been crowned champions a couple of weeks ago – their fourth consecutive title – Juve will look to seal the second leg of a quite remarkable treble at the Stadio Olimpico later this evening.
It has been just nine years since Juventus – arguably the country’s most illustrious footballing institution – was languishing in the second division of Italy.
They – along with Fiorentina and Lazio – had been relegated to Serie B and stripped of their 2005 and 2006 titles after being caught up in the biggest ever scandal to hit Italian football, entitled the ‘Calciopoli’.
Juventus executives, Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo, were charged with creating a network of contacts within Italian refereeing circles and attempting to influence decisions that would favour their club.
In essence, they were accused of bribing referees to make sure important players from opponents were booked and then suspended in upcoming games against their side.
Moggi was sentenced to five years in prison with Giraudo facing 36 months. Both terms were thrown out upon appeal but their life expulsions from football activities remain.
Automatic relegation for three of Serie A’s most famous sides was devastating for Italian football but particularly Juventus. They, along with AC Milan, had dominated the Italian footballing landscape for much of the last two decades and were gutted by the scandal.
They lost many of their stars with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Patrick Vieira & Lillian Thuram among others all sold but they were served faithfully in the lower tier by the likes of Gigi Buffon, Mauro Camoranesi, Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero with youngsters like Sebastian Giovinco and Claudio Marchisio integrated amongst the remaining talent.
They began that season in Serie B with a -7 points difference but finished champions, six points ahead of Napoli, and were promoted back to Serie A at the first attempt.
New president Andrea Agnelli has been the visionary behind the renaissance of Juventus. The regeneration didn’t go smoothly at first, though.
Various coaches came and went with Claudio Ranieri, Ciro Ferrara and Luigi Del Neri falling to restore the Old Lady to their former glories, but Agnelli was unperturbed.
The installation of former Juve legend, Antonio Conte, as their new coach in 2011, and their subsequent move to a new, state-of-the-art stadium, heralded a new dawn in the history of the club.
Unlike other major European clubs, the majority of Serie A sides don’t own their own grounds. They are council-owned and so revenue is nowhere near as much as it could be for Italian clubs.
The Stadio Delli Alpi, their former stomping ground, was an archaic, backwards monument with poor attendances and a lack of atmosphere a plague upon the Bianconeri. Their move to the new Juventus Stadium, however – a 41,000 all-seater with an incredible, vibrant buzz – meant revenue soared with a lot of the funds pumped into the grassroots of the club.
Conte’s work with the first team squad was impressive, too. His side would be built on a bedrock of domestic talent with the likes of Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and Claudio Marchisio forming a formidable foundation that has carried the club to greater and greater heights over the next four or five years.
Andrea Pirlo’s signing back in 2011 was arguably the catalyst for this Juventus 2.0, though. Still just 31, the former AC Milan maverick completed a free transfer and, alongside the €10.5 million signing of Arturo Vidal from Bayer Leverkusen, they would cut a swath through the rest of Serie A.
Together, Agnelli and Conte would continue adding quality to the playing roster at a relatively low cost.
They swooped for the talented young French midfielder, Paul Pogba, snagging him from Manchester United for nothing.
Fernando Llorente, the Spanish international striker, also joined on a free transfer from Athletic Bilbao. Carlos Tevez, the inspirational Argentinian, signed for just £12 million.
Their rise under Agnelli’s leadership has seen Juventus become a self-sustainable club in an era of Italian football that is still drenched with financial mishaps.
With new coach, Max Allegri at the helm, they have soared to new heights in 2015 with a Champions League Final against Barcelona to come in two weeks’ time – their first in twelve long years.
Many still doubt their legitimacy and will always use the Calciopoli scandal to blacken their name but, under Agnelli, it cannot be denied how far they have come in such a short period of time. It is a triumph for wonderful management and a triumph for Italian football after a long period of darkness.