It simply isn’t enough for Juventus to win Serie A for the umpteenth time. The prize they covet is one they have not possessed since 1996.
The length of that staggering Champions League drought remains an embarrassment for the Old Lady. Is their embarrassment of riches enough to expunge it from the history books this season?
Below, we have rated Cristiano Ronaldo and company one-by-one ahead of the new Serie A season, which they kick off against Parma on Saturday.
I’m sure you’ll agree with every word written. This is the internet, after all …
***** – top three in his position
****1/2 – world class
**** – excellent first-team player
***1/2 – good first-team player
*** – solid rotational piece
** – fringe player
Potential – could improve rating during season and beyond
Wojciech Szczesny – The return of a living legend won’t be enough to shift Szczesny from between the sticks. Forget the Arsenal version – not only is the Pole a superb keeper, but a latest leader of an historic Juventus defence. ****1/2
Gianluigi Buffon – The venerable shot-stopper found affection in the city of love, but he’s cut his stint in Paris short to return home to an adoring public. He’s 41, but as he won’t be called upon week-in, week-out, who else could you ask for as a back-up? ****
Mattia Perin – The presumptive heir to Buffon is a long way from the throne room now. Woeful injury luck for the former Torino custodian hasn’t helped but, still only 26, a move before the window shuts would serve as a reboot. ***
Carlo Pinsoglio – Pencil him in as the starter for the final game of the Serie A season, though Buffon’s arrival may have ruined what was close to becoming a tradition. A footballing keepsake. **
Matthijs de Ligt – Having accomplished with Ajax what most teenagers can only dream of, the 20-year-old veteran has chosen to continue his progression at Juventus. The presence of Chiellini will surely help to smooth out any rough edges. ****1/2 (Potential *****)
Giorgio Chiellini – Father Time is just about the only attacker the 35-year-old has no hope of defeating. The gnarled warrior must manage his minutes with injuries becoming a concern. Now has a young whipper-snapper to take some pressure off. ****1/2
Alex Sandro – The hope is that new boss Maurizio Sarri’s penchant for marauding full-backs will benefit Sandro, who lost his way under Max Allegri. If he finds his toolbox again, there will be plenty in there to work with. ****1/2
Leonardo Bonucci – Not the same player he was in his first stint with Juventus and don’t remind him about the ill-fated move to AC Milan. Few can play a pass out the back like him, but can he get the defensive basics right again this season? ****
Merih Demiral – According to Juve chief Fabio Paratici, both Manchester United and AC Milan tried to prise him away from Sassuolo. The Bianconeri won the race and have got a no-nonsense, physically gifted 21-year-old who could potentially replace Chiellini. ***1/2 (Potential ****1/2)
Danilo – The Brazilian had been lost in the wilderness outside the Etihad for the past two seasons and has arrived in Turin with cash after Joao Cancelo went the other way. More of an all-rounder than the attack-minded Cancelo, but is he good enough as first-choice right-back? ***1/2
Mattia De Sciglio – Juve’s swiss army knife will never be the club’s sharpest weapon, but as someone who can fill a hole on both flanks – in defence and midfield – his value should not be underestimated. ***1/2
Daniele Rugani – On to the centre-back successor that never was. It has never come together for the lanky defender in Turin, though Roma are reportedly willing to believe the 25-year-old can find his feet with them. *** (Potential: ****)
Juan Cuadrado – The Colombian is sticking around at the Allianz for at least another year after being told he will provide cover at right-back. His defending can be, shall we say, questionable at times. ***
Miralem Pjanic – Goes underappreciated next to peers such as Toni Kroos and Sergio Busquets but he’s in the same ballpark. Laser precision passing, a set-piece specialist and a canny interceptor of the ball – you’d just like to see a little more Champions League production. ****1/2
Rodrigo Bentancur – This is the season in which Bentancur needs to convert more promise into pure ability. Sarri is notoriously reluctant to rotate and that could be a problem for the 22-year-old pass-master, who has yet to grab a first-team spot by the horns. **** (Potential *****)
Adrien Rabiot – Not content with their 1,001 midfield options, the Bianconeri decided to add the French firebrand to the mix. Mobile with a dash of flair, could very well boost a sometimes ponderous midfield. **** (Potential: ****1/2)
Aaron Ramsey – Another man who has an aversion to keeping upright but is a potential game-changer when he does. Can switch at will between power and subtlety, particularly in the final third. A novel addition to Juve’s stash of mostly deeper-lying midfielders. ****
Emre Can – Where exactly does the German fit into this mish-mash of midfielders? His first season at Juve wasn’t hugely impressive and while he can give a team a solid platform at the base of midfield, more dynamism is what Juve need. ***1/2 (Potential: ****)
Blaise Matuidi – Along with Kante, a limitless ball of energy in midfield that helped France win the World Cup. His time at Juventus may well fizzle out, however, as his full-blooded approach is likely to be incompatible with Sarri’s philosophy. ***1/2
Sami Khedira – After a wretched season in which he was forced to undergo heart surgery, he’ll reportedly stay for a Sarrismo audition. Has definitely lost a yard but at his best, has always been intelligent with his runs and movement. ***
Cristiano Ronaldo – The Portuguese piston engine may need a little more maintenance at 34, but his hat-trick against Atleti last year only underlines that if he has the right 10 bodies around him, he can still single-handedly destroy teams. ****** (six stars)
Paulo Dybala – Despite desperate attempts by Man United and Tottenham to whisk him away, Dybala remains in Turin. On the face of it, he should be a perfect fit for Sarri, given Napoli’s miniature forward line under the Italian’s watch. Why then the attempts to sell? ****1/2 (Potential: *****)
Douglas Costa – If he’s fit, it is no exaggeration to describe Costa as one of the most exciting wingers in world football. That ‘if’ has sadly been lingering for what seems like forever over his career. Coming off a poor season at 28, what will 2019/20 hold? ****1/2
Federico Bernardeschi – The do-it-all attacker has been told by Sarri that his long-term future lies solely on the right wing. Great left foot, eye for goal, technically pristine – he now needs to get his decision-making up to standard. **** (Potential: ****1/2)
Mario Mandzukic – Still has great value at 33, but perhaps not for Sarri. A voracious presser of the ball – a backline always known when the Croatian is on the field – there’s a chance he won’t take it to it under his new boss. ****
Gonzalo Higuain – Sarri demanded that Higuain joined him at Chelsea during the January window last season and he was hardly worth the energy expended – mostly because he was too sluggish to contribute much himself. How many goals does he have left in him? ***1/2
Marko Pjaca – A mediocre loan at Fiorentina last season ended in further misery, suffering a second serious knee injury of his career. Back at Juve, it will take an injury mega-crisis for the former Dinamo Zagreb winger to see much action if he stays. **
Maurizio Sarri will miss Juventus’ first two Serie A matches as he recovers from pneumonia.
The 60-year-old former Chelsea manager underwent further tests on Thursday which showed his condition had improved over the last couple of days.
However, although Sarri subsequently visited the training ground to speak to his staff he will not be on the bench when Juve kick-off the defence of their league title.
“To completely recover from the pneumonia that hit him over the course of the past few days, the coach will not sit on the bench for the first two Serie A matches against Parma and Napoli,” said a statement from the club.
“The decision was taken to allow the coach, who even today went to the JTC (Juventus Training Centre) to co-ordinate work with his staff, to resume regular activity as soon as possible.”
Copy provided by Press Association Sport
The Italian, who left Stamford Bridge for Turin in June, underwent tests after being forced to sit out a training session on Monday due to persistent flu symptoms.
Sarri was not in attendance for Juve’s final pre-season friendly at Triestina on Saturday.
“Maurizio Sarri, after having observed rest over the weekend, was at the JTC Continassa today where he coordinated the work of his staff,” read a statement issued by the club, who begin their Serie A campaign at Parma this weekend.
“Unfortunately, he could not conduct the training on the field due to the persistence of his flu, which struck him over the course of last week.
“In the late afternoon, he underwent further tests that confirmed he has pneumonia, for which specific therapy has been prescribed.
“The coach has authorised the club to communicate his state of health.”