Juventus senza Pogba – will they survive without their talisman?

by Jack Unwin

It is final then, Paul Pogba is going back to Manchester United for a fee that varies, but can safely be called large.

He leaves Juventus after four years, where he four successive league titles, two Coppa Italias and reached a Champions League final.

Pogba will be much mourned in Turin for his athleticism and worldwide appeal, but Juventus’ history shows that his departure will not be missed for too long.

 

There are three examples that prove this. Back in 1982, Juventus were on the verge of a second championship in a row, and their fourth under Giovanni Trappatoni.

They had been led by the mercurial Irishman Liam Brady, but there was an issue. Juventus wanted to sign Polish striker Zbigniew Boniek and one of the world’s best players, Michel Platini.

The rules prevented Italian clubs from having more than two foreign players at one time, so Brady, despite being the star of the side, was sold.

Brady famously scored the penalty that won Juventus the title that year, even though he knew he was leaving.

Fast forward to 1995, Juventus had a problem called Roberto Baggio.

Baggio was perhaps the world’s best player, but he was seen as a luxury in Marcello Lippi’s hard working side.

He had also played a minor role in Juve’s title win due to injuries.

The Bianconeri were led instead by Fabrizio Ravanelli and Gianluca Vialli, alongside a young man named Alessandro Del Piero. Baggio, despite his status in world football, was allowed to go to AC Milan, whilst Juventus moved on to win the Champions League, trusting in Del Piero to take their legendary number 10 shirt.

Finally, in 2001, Juventus happily took £46 million for undoubtedly the world’s greatest player, Zinedine Zidane.

The deal made perfect sense, they gained a huge amount of money for a 29-year-old, and one who had been part of a side who had not won anything of note between 1998-2001.

With that money, they reinvested it into three world class players, Gianluigi Buffon and Lillian Thuram from Parma, and Pavel Nedved from Lazio.

These players led Juve to four league titles in five years (two were obviously revoked, thanks to Luciano Moggi’s machinations) and a Champions League final.

 

Recent history, therefore, shows that Juventus survive and thrive when they sell their best player, but will it be the same this season?

It certainly looks that way. With supreme arrogance, they have directly weakened their rivals by taking Miralem Pjanic from Roma, a good signing, and Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli, a questionable one.

Higuain cost €94 million, an astonishing fee for a soon to be 29-year-old, and one with a history of bottling it on the biggest stage.

Higuain may score 30+ goals for the club next season, but he might also miss a vital chance in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Mind you, even if Pjanic and Higuain struggle next season, Roma and Napoli will be poorer without them, and Juventus are still stacked with talent in midfield and attack.

This leads into one of two potential problems. Juventus are so far ahead of every other club in Italy it is embarrassing.

Their revenue in 2015 was €323.9 million, whilst no other club in Italy earns over €200 million.

Even last season, having gained just 12 points from 10 games, they powered on to win 26 of the next 28 games to win the title by nine points.

Serie A has become a procession for them, so to come anything other than first would be a humiliation for the club.

The yardstick for this season will be the Champions League, where they must improve on last season’s disappointing exit at the hands of Bayern Munich.

 

The other concern is Juve’s defence, which is either very experienced or ageing depending on your point of view.

Two of their full backs, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Patrice Evra are 32 and 35 respectively, whilst they were joined by 34-year-old Dani Alves on a free transfer this summer.

Meanwhile, Giorgio Chiellini is approaching 32 and is beginning to be struck by regular injuries, and Andrea Barzagli cannot continue to defy the laws of time at the age of 35.

Young Daniele Rugani deputised for the injured Chiellini last season and effortlessly fitted into the side, but he has fallen down the pecking order due to the arrival of 29-year-old loanee Medhi Benatia.

How much more can these old men give?

Juventus will move on from Pogba. He was a very good player who improved the team, but Juventus were not built around him like Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid for example.

They have invested well in the midfield to work around his absence with Pjanic and Croatian Marko Pjaca.

The big question is whether their old defence can work as well as it has done for another season.

Many people have handed Juventus Lo Scudetto already, can they finally succeed in Europe without Paul Pogba?

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