Two weeks after being ousted by Bayern Munich by a 4-0 aggregate margin in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, Juventus gave their faithful reason to celebrate by winning their second consecutive--and 29th all-time-- Italian Serie A title. What pretty much the entire Italian and world soccer communities knew would happen officially happened on Sunday when Juventus defeated Palermo 1-0, confirming them as Italy's 2012-2013 league champions.
With three games left in the season, Juventus, who are 14 points ahead of second place Napoli, can switch on cruise control as they enter the off-season.
In truth, Juventus have been cruising for the last two years. Last year, they earned the Serie A title, going undefeated through the entire 2011-2012 season. And though they lost three games this season, Juventus still managed to finish in first place despite the added pressure and fatigue of a long Champions League campaign.
Their recent success should earn them more recognition next year among followers of world soccer, who tend to exclusively follow the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, and the German Bundesliga. To many, the style seen in the Italian league isn't flashy or exciting enough. But while many of the other Serie A teams aren't as intense as some teams in other leagues, Juventus have definitely gone about their business in style.
Just see a clip of Andrea Pirlo crossing the ball or creating space with an inch-perfect pass. Take note of Gianluigi Buffon's prowess between the goal posts. Look at Claudio Marchisio control the midfield. See Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli combine to anchor one of the stingiest defenses in the world. And take note of how many different scoring options Juventus have on the field.
What's more, Juventus are a living, breathing phoenix metaphor. Forced down to the Italian Serie B second division by the Italian Soccer Federation in 2006, Juventus lost most of its core after being found guilty of participating in betting.
This caused most of Juventus' best players to move to other teams in Europe, forcing the club into re-birth.
So from 2007 to 2011, most of Juventus' mission was re-branding. It's been a very bumpy road. During that stretch, Juventus were dreadfully inconsistent. They struggled to rebuild their core. They were perennially absent from Champions League. They were no longer thought of as favorites to win the league title.
Last year, everything seemed to fall into place when they opened up a new stadium, won the title, and qualified for Champions League. The phoenix was re-born and the re-branding was complete.
Only one thing is still missing: when the Federation relegated Juventus in 2006, they also stripped them off "due stelle"--two stars, in English-- the two league titles they won during the alleged betting scandal.
Many of Juventus' players and fans insist that those titles should never have been taken away, to the point where the phrase "30 sul campo" (30 on the field) is embroidered on their jerseys below the crest.
Next year will be especially critical for Juventus, as it's their chance to win the 30th star.
That kind of story shouldn't go unnoticed.
Aside from that, the fact that Juventus have performed this well is impressive. They went toe-to-toe with Italy and Europe's best. Though they didn't go undefeated in Serie A this season, they suffered just three losses. The highlights of their Champions League campaign include going undefeated in the Group stage to finish first and preventing Chelsea from reaching the knockout round.
And though they lost to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, they fared much better than Barcelona, who lost to Bayern in the semi-final by a 7-0 aggregate score.
Juventus may not have a Lionel Messi and may not quite be good enough to be considered the best team in the world. They do, in truth, have more winning to do. But they are, for certain, one of world's best football clubs.
That 30th star may not be too far away.
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To our readers,
We've added a translation feature to the Corner Kicks blog to assist readers who may be more comfortable reading another language.
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David Beard, Editor, Boston.com