Rarely has a club been so determined to regain its status among Europe's elite. And, even more unique among Italian clubs, where improvisation and procrastination have been the order of the day, the "Bianconeri" – who travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea on Wednesday – seem ideally equipped with a long-term plan for a post Financial Fair Play world.
It started a year ago with the opening of the 41,000-seat Juventus Stadium. Finally, an Italian club who actually own their own ground, meaning matchday revenues can at last be properly expoloited. Last week the club opened something called "Juventus College". It's a high school located on the Academy training ground and the idea is it will give Juve an edge when recruiting kids to their youth ranks. Youngsters will join Juve's academy to play football, yes, but they'll also have a chance at a top-notch education. And for parents who are well aware that a tiny proportion of academy graduates actually make it as professionals, it could make a difference.
If you contrast what Juventus are doing with their Milanese counterparts – Inter and Milan – who have only just realised that it's time to cut costs, the future looks brighter for the Bianconeri than any other side in Serie A. Of course, their squad has a lot to do with it. They were undefeated in winning the "Scudetto" last season and field what is essentially Italy's starting back three – Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leo Bonucci – plus the Azzurri's standout goalkeeper and captain, Gigi Buffon (who has been around for so long you could be forgiven for thinking he's in his forties...he's not, he's 34).
But where Juve are most impressive is in midfield. In fact, you could argue that the central trio of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal are as good a middle of the park as any in Europe outside of the Camp Nou. The latter two are the kind of modern, box-to-box all-rounders who are ready-made for manager Antonio Conte's high-intensity game. The former, of course, needs no introduction.
Up front, the club spent much of the summer talking about how there was some £30 million set aside for what they called a "top player". They did chase, first, Luis Suarez, then Robin van Persie and then Fernando Llorente before ending up with, well, Nicklas Bendtner. Club officials were quick to point out that Bendtner is not the "top player" they were talking about and that they were still in the market for Llorente, who is currently awaiting the expiration of his contract at Athletic Bilbao. So up front, for now, it's down to Mirko Vucinic and the "Atomic Ant", Sebastian Giovinco. It's a decent partnership but obviously one that will need to be upgraded at some point.
The tide is definitely turning back towards the Turin club who dominated Italian football for so long before crumbling in the aftermath of the "calciopoli scandal" which saw them implicated in a match-fixing scandal and relegated to Serie B in the summer of 2006. It has been a long time coming, with plenty of false starts along the way. But you get the sense that this time around they have finally nailed it and are ready to scale Europe once again.
Manchester City's trip to the Bernabeu is the pick of the Champions' League Matchday One ties. And if there is a good time to enter Jose Mourinho's lair, maybe this is it. Real Madrid have had an indifferent start to the season and, more to the point, the "sadness" of Cristiano Ronaldo has cast a giant shadow over the club.
Ronaldo, who famously didn't celebrate his goals the last time he stepped on the pitch for Real because of this supposed "sadness", says it's not about money and it won't affect his desire to "win everything" with Madrid. It may not be about "money", but it certainly does appear to be about contracts. His current deal expires in 2015 and, because a club ideally never wants to let its star player's contract run down to the final 24 months, logic would suggest putting pen to paper this season.
Except that's far from straightforward since, when he signs his new deal, the so-called "Beckham Law" loophole – a dubious piece of fiscal legislation allowing some foreigners to pay just 24 percent in income tax – will no longer apply to him. And that means Real Madrid will have to pay through the nose even if they were not to give him a pay rise (and you'd imagine the possibility that he might not get a rise hasn't even crossed his mind).
The guy caught in the middle of all this is Mourinho. He's not getting involved and you can see why. While it may be his job to look after Real Madrid's best interests, his agent, Jorge Mendes, also happens to be Ronaldo's agent. It's the epitome of a conflict of interest, which is why it's best that Mourinho stays as far away from this one as possible.
When Tottenham take on Reading today their new £12m goalkeeper, who also happens to be the captain of the French national team, will be rooted to the bench. In his place, will be the 41- year old Amerian keeper who is set to retire at the end of the season.
Andre Villas-Boas told Lloris that he is the future of Tottenham, but Friedel is the present. That won't be much of a consolation to Lloris who left Lyon thinking he'd be the number one. This is a textbook case of bad planning. Lloris is now, clearly, unhappy, not least because he fears for his place with Les Bleus. But if you give him the nod, you're being patently unfair to Friedel who, rightly, didn't plan to spend his last year in football watching from the bench.
The logical thing for Tottenham to would have been to loan out Lloris for a season, maybe even leave him at Lyon. Or, alternatively, tell Friedel that he could find himself another club. But, of course, Lloris only arrived at the tail end of the transfer window and there was no time to do any of that. This is one massive headache Villas-Boas could have spared himself.
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