Comparing the 1996 Juventus Champions League winning side with the class of 2017

Our Serie A expert compares the Juventus team which last won the Champions League to the current side from goalkeeper to attack

Adam Digby
by Adam Digby
1st June 2017

article:1st June 2017

As an exhausted Gary Neville left the field following a tense 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich back in 1999, he was asked for a brief television interview.

Waiting in the Old Trafford tunnel for the first question he asks if Juventus have qualified for the knockout rounds, which he is then informed he did.


The England international reacted by rolling his eyes in a mixture of disbelief and disappointment, fully aware of the danger posed by the Italian giants.

Indeed, that version of the Bianconeri had dominated in Europe, winning the competition in 1996 before reaching the final in each of the next two seasons.

They lost in both of those editions, and were famously eliminated by United in the 1999 semifinals, but that side seems to have won the eternal respect of Alex Ferguson and his players, with Neville and his team-mates repeatedly admitting that they saw the Old Lady as the standard-bearers they had to overcome.

“When I think of Juventus, it immediately brings back fond, but sobering, memories of my time at Manchester United during the mid-1990s when we were growing as a team and learning all about how to succeed in the Champions League,” Neville wrote in a newspaper column last year.

“Juventus were the benchmark, with Marcelo Lippi’s team reaching three consecutive finals during that period, and we came up against them eight times in the space of seven years.

“We measured ourselves against them and I still look back on the team of Alessandro del Piero, Zinedine Zidane, Alen Boksic and Didier Deschamps as the best I ever faced. They had everything that I would love to have in my team.”

Now, as today’s Juventus team look to repeat what their predecessors accomplished, it provides an ideal opportunity to see how the 2016/17 version of the Bianconeri stacks up against the team who won the Champions League 21 years ago.

GOALKEEPER

Marcello Lippi was fortunate to have a reliable goalkeeper in Angelo Peruzzi, a man who is often overlooked when discussing the very best to have pulled on the gloves for the Italian national team.

However, despite winning three Serie A titles and seven other trophies, he is no match for Gigi Buffon. Currently the club captain, “Superman” has broken record after record and won almost every honour available.

Yet the Champions League is the one winners medal he has yet to collect is the one on offer in Cardiff this weekend, something the 39-year-old will be looking to correct before ending his career.

WINNER: 2017

Buffon

DEFENCE

Much like with Peruzzi, Lippi had a defence that was consistent, well-organised and difficult to beat.

Lining up as a four-man unit, Italy internationals Ciro Ferrara and Pietro Vierchowod were no-nonsense central defenders, flanked by tireless full-backs Gianluca Pessotto and Moreno Torricelli.

Again it is difficult for that quartet to be compared to today, where Max Allegri can tailor his system to suit any opponent.

With Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini the Coach is blessed with three of the finest centre-backs in the world, while Dani Alves and Alex Sandro provide pace, power and an attacking outlet on the flanks.

WINNER: 2017

Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli

MIDFIELD

Here is where the 90s version really thrived. From the gritty steel of Didier Deschamps and Antonio Conte, Lippi had men who could protect his defence, while Paulo Sousa gave an air of class and creativity.

The current side, particularly since Allegri moved to his 4-2-3-1 formation, are playing more limited roles, holding their position and being functional to allow those around them to shine.

It is difficult to imagine Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic being able to stand their ground against their predecessors in the centre of the pitch.

WINNER: 1996

Sousa, Vierchowod, Ferrara, Conte and Torricelli

ATTACK

Talk about a tough question! Alessandro Del Piero, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Gianluca Vialli or Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic?

There are lots of similarities between the two trios; a veteran striker signed for a record sum (Vialli/Higuain), a promising youngster who has started to deliver in big moments (Del Piero/Dybala) and a hardworking runner who willingly sacrifices for the benefit of the team (Ravanelli/Mandzukic).

It is difficult to choose between them, but the crucial difference is sadly all too obvious. The 1996 team won the Champions League, something Juventus have failed to do ever since, but perhaps Higuain and Dybala can change that on Saturday evening and end the Old Lady’s bad run of results in the final.

WINNER: 1996

Del Piero


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