Juventus’ domestic dominance came under serious threat last year, but still they emerged with a league and Italian cup double to parade. Scudetto contenders Napoli toiled to dethrone them but ultimately fell short, despite stealing the initiative in Turin.
Frustration tainted the campaign, however, as the Bianconeri faltered in Europe once again. Some 22 years since the club last tasted Champions League glory they’ve made a bold move to address the situation, signing one of the top-two players in the world.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid did not come as a surprise — leaks suggested he wanted out — but his destination raised a few eyebrows.
Can the 33-year-old deliver the trophy the club craves so much?
2017/18 Season Review
It was a testament to Napoli that the title race was still open with four games to go. Juventus barely put a foot wrong all season and only Maurizio Sarri’s men beat them after the winter break. Their points total was their highest since 2014, yet they only had a four-point advantage on the final day.
For a team that had every excuse to be complacent in the league, they remained focussed to the end, despite battling their European demons.
Their Champions League campaign ended in controversy as the referee awarded Real Madrid a crucial late penalty in the second leg of their quarter-final match, Gianluigi Buffon leading the Italian protests to no avail. Ronaldo scored from the spot and eliminated Juventus, prompting furious reactions.
During the first leg of the tie in Turin, Ronaldo received a standing ovation from the home crowd after scoring a spectacular overhead kick — a moment that could have influenced his decision when considering a move.
The signing of Ronaldo has created a buzz in Serie A and there is hope the transfer will be the catalyst for a new golden era of Italian football. But the sheer numbers involved feel unpalatable when so many Italian clubs are struggling to survive outside the top flight. Only time will tell if it benefits anyone outside Turin.
The Old Lady's spending spree did not end with Ronaldo. Former defender Leonardo Bonucci returned from AC Milan in a cash-plus-player deal and right-back Joao Cancelo made the £36 million move from Valencia.
The club also signed former Liverpool midfielder Emre Can on a free transfer while goalkeeper Mattia Perin arrived from Genoa to provide competition between the sticks.
Ronaldo’s arrival prompted surprise departures. Most notably, Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara who were both offloaded to Milan as part of the Bonucci deal, a move that may bear further scrutiny as the season goes on.
Promising young midfielder Rolando Mandragora has also left, joining Udinese in an £18 million deal that includes a buy-back option, whilst veteran 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon left for Paris Saint-Germain.
Ronaldo will be the focal point of the Juventus attack supported by Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa in a 4-3-3 formation. This would provide balance and make best use of the new recruits.
However, we may see Max Allegri use different formations throughout the campaign depending on the opposition.
The Key Question: Can Ronaldo lead Juventus to European glory?
As a five-time Champions League winner, Ronaldo is the natural choice to lead the Old Lady's European quest, but the club are not relying on him alone. They have strengthened elsewhere and look better equipped to compete this time round.
They are in a group of teams, along with the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and PSG, who have a great chance of reaching the latter stages but with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City all looking strong it will take an incredible effort for Juventus to come out on top.
Serie A winners and Champions League semi-finalists.
Even with their focus on Europe, Juventus should still dominate the league. A worst-case scenario is an early exit from the Champions League.
Both Milan teams look stronger, Roma and Lazio have done some shrewd business and Napoli have one of the most decorated coaches in the sport at the helm, but Juventus are still favourites to win the league. And with an even stronger team than last year, they could achieve it with a greater winning margin.
Whatever the outcome, this Serie A season will fascinate for the Ronaldo factor alone. Will he adapt? Will he stay fit? How will he work with Dybala?
These are the questions posed and millions will tune in for the answers.
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