Juventus triumph again, but Conte fears for Europe
Juventus cemented a 29th title triumph on Sunday after another near flawless campaign, but for coach Antonio Conte hoisting the club back among the giants of European football will continue to be hampered by a cash-strapped Serie A.
It was following Juve’s quarter-final humbling by Bayern Munich in Europe’s premier club competition last month that Conte lashed out.
“In Italy, people are more interested in following futile stories than looking at how we can go about improving the state of our football,” he said.
“The answer is, we have to work hard and try to take our football to a new level and to do that we have to increase the budget that’s available to us.”
Last year Juventus put paid to two consecutive seventh-place finishes in Italy’s top flight by remaining unbeaten on their way to a 28th Scudetto.
With only four defeats in 35 games so far this season, the Turin giants have again been virtually untouchable in a campaign in which traditional rivals AC Milan and Inter faltered.
Veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo said consistency had been key.
“We’ve been the most consistent team. Last year the title was unthinkable at the start of the season and what we did was an extraordinary achievement,” said Pirlo.
“This year we set out with the aim of repeating that success and we’ve shown that we’re a notch above the rest.”
Juventus had only one real contender in this year’s season. But where the Old Lady of Turin was mostly steady on her feet, Napoli kept the nerves of their passionate fans frayed on a regular basis with a series of highs and lows which, nevertheless, will see them return to the Champions League and their Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani top the league scoring charts.
Pirlo, meanwhile, was quick to praise the “tactical acumen” of Conte, who in his two years as coach at his former club has tested numerous tactical formations including a 4-2-4, 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3 and, this season, a 3-5-2 and 3-5-1-1.
“I was surprised by the gaffer’s tactical acumen but also what he does on a daily basis,” said Pirlo, who gave the club good news recently on announcing his international retirement after the next year World Cup.
But having witnessed first hand the might of Bayern Munich, Conte gave a stark prediction for any Italian side’s hopes in Europe next season.
“Playing Bayern was a good opportunity to see where exactly we are compared to the big boys in Europe. Where are we, what’s missing and how do we remedy it?” he said.
“We have to look elsewhere, to Spain, to England and to Germany to see what lessons we can learn.
“But if you have the money, you can buy (players) and win. Otherwise, it takes a lot of patience. The way things are right now, I don’t see any Italian teams winning the Champions League for the next several years.”
With Italy, and therefore Serie A, in the middle of a financial crisis, one of the world’s top football leagues does not have the attraction, nor the spending power it once enjoyed.
And that means that even Juve, whose finances are in rude health compared to their domestic rivals, still cannot afford to splash out millions on one player the same as Bayern, Chelsea, Manchester City or Real Madrid.
Juventus’s top scorer this season so far has been Chilean attacking midfielder Arturo Vidal, who had nine league goals and 14 in all competitions prior to the Palermo match.
It has highlighted the squad’s need for an out-and-out goalscorer and the Bianconeri will hope that new striker Fernando Llorente, who will join Juve from Athletic Bilbao on July 1, helps fill that gap ahead of their title defence next season.