Welcome back, friends.
Juve’s preseason training camp at Val d’Aosta is now in full swing, chock full of two-a-day practices, player meet-and-greets with tifosi and a general festival atmosphere. And that’s even before the return of the Bianconeri’s internationals, still presumably enjoying some much-needed relaxation before being Conte’d for another 11 months.
Meanwhile, Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici are still hard at work shoring up what looks to be the deepest Juve squad in recent memory. There are official and semi-official exits to report, as well as the ongoing search for another winger (see Lightning Round).
We’ve got all that covered here, but before we begin:
Last week, we reported the sadly imminent, take-one-for-the-team’s-finances departure to Sunderland of Emanuel Giaccherini. Now that deal’s official, inspiring a very heartfelt message of farewell from the official site, as well as one last gloriously horrible pun from Tuttosport (“Union Giak”).
Addio, Giacch. This one’s for you.
Latest from Val d’Aosta: Tevez and Llorente In Sync Already
Five days into training for the new season, Antonio Conte’s men are already showing signs of the fierce focus required to win a third straight Scudetto and challenge the best of Europe.
The squad are, by all reports, impressing fans at Val d’Aosta with their early commitment towards achieving those insane Conte levels of fitness, in addition to dazzling them with casual displays of expert ball skills and a sneak preview of what we all hope is an offensive onslaught this season.
Electrifying the proceedings is the unmistakable intensity that is now the hallmark of Juventus under Conte (just ask Carlos Tevez). Even the climate is intense, if you believe Juventus.com’s description of “unrelenting beautiful weather” at the Stadio Brunod. Is Conte writing the web updates himself?
Here’s what went on this morning:
The ground was full of fans here to see their heroes in action, but Antonio Conte’s eyes were firmly fixed on monitoring his players’ condition as he strode around the pitch.
A variety of passing drills began the session, while Simone Pepe and Luca Marrone continued to make separate preparations for the season ahead, pushing themselves hard to be at peak fitness for the start of the season with multiple laps around the pitch.
The Bianconeri were clearly enjoying themselves in a dribbling exercise that involved chasing each other, but the fun was now over. They may have been given a break from the running that has been such a marked part of the week so far during yesterday’s sessions, but they were back with their trainers on their feet this morning as they did laps of the pitch in staggered groups.
The laps were followed swiftly by runs up and down the length of the pitch. It was perhaps their toughest fitness test yet in the blazing sun.
As the players’ session drew to a close, the goalkeepers were just beginning after spending the morning in the team gym. The four keepers training in Chatillon practiced coming out to collect a ball bouncing towards them and saving shots fired at them by goalkeeping coach Claudio Filippi.
And that’s just this morning: The afternoon session saw a full 11-a-side match notable for the official premiere of the Old Lady’s new striking partnership. It reportedly didn’t disappoint:
Conte made the decision to try out the striking combination of Tevez and Llorente by placing them on the same team, and it was a rousing success. The Spaniard volleyed in an excellent cross from Paolo De Ceglie, before rifling a pass from the Argentine into the top corner. The two combined to perfection throughout.
Mirko Vucinic was then added to form a three-pronged attack and things only got better. The 29-year-old stole the ball from an opponent before sliding it to Tevez, who couldn’t miss.
Very refreshing to hear news of a “three-pronged attack”: There were times last season where we were running on half-a-prong.
Yesterday’s sessions featured mini-matches, starting with a six-a-side affair on an “extremely reduced” pitch:
Antonio Conte had all his players rotating positions and forcing them to play it out from the back through the tight gaps, a useful exercise in build-up play.
Highlights from the matches included a “classy chip” goal from Llorente (sometimes I feel like the Spanish own that shot), which comprised one-third of his hat-trick for the day. And apparently, his talents were not limited to goalscoring: Fernando had a whopping five assists, including what the Mothership considers this highlight:
…a particular standout being his excellent control of a long ball before slipping it to Vidal to run into the target zone.
Other notable goals were scored by Alessandro “Always Think Twice Before Selling Me” Matri and Arturo Vidal, who managed to slide it past three diving defenders. Always a good sign to see Arturo scoring, although he will hopefully not have to carry so much of the offensive load this season.
The sessions ended with a round of that often cruel childhood game “piggy-in-the-middle,” as well as a climactic 10-a-side match:
The 10-a-side match, which kicked off after a round of piggy in the middle, proved an exciting showcase for the club’s new signings. Angelo Ogbonna played the ball well from the back and pulled off an important slide tackle to deny an opponent reaching the target zone. Carlos Tévez was in the mood for a goal, and only some impressive saves from Rubinho prevented him.
Conte, as always, received an adoring cheer from the fans in the stands of Stadio Brunod. He once again emphasized the importance of teamwork in today’s session, shouting for his players to support each other in attack.
I know every other club is participating in similar activities, but everything just seems better, brighter — just generally more impressive at Juventus, no? I can’t imagine the same festivity at, say, Napoli (especially now that Cavani’s gone).
And what takes place at Inter? I know the backroom staff get free lessons on how to shop for referee designators, but what happens on the pitch?
It just doesn’t seem as hopeful outside the Ju-niverse.
Ogbonna’s 1st Interview as a Juventino
Angelo Ogbonna is the latest addition to the squad, an urgent reinforcement for a defense that, while not ancient, isn’t getting any younger or faster.
The completion of Angelo’s transfer was admittedly overshadowed by all the hoopla over the start of preseason (not to mention dulled by the protracted negotiating process). Now, the brand-new Juventino has given his first official interview from Chatillon.
Ogbonna, who may have set a record for the shortest transfer distance (maybe the Manchester or Madrid clubs have a horse in that race—anyone have a ruling on that?), was, as one would hope, incredibly happy to be Bianconeri:
I’m very proud to be here. Juventus are one of the biggest teams in the world, comprised of great champions. I’m an ambitious person and this represents a great opportunity for me to develop as a player.
My task is to help my teammates and give the manager a selection dilemma. It’s an immense satisfaction to play for a team that’s won back-to-back titles and is involved in the Champions League.
Fun fact: Ogbonna is only the 11th player in history to make a direct crosstown move Torino to Juventus. Normally, such a move would be more than a bit controversial, but the muted response this time around seems to reflect an era of improved relations between the clubs and their tifosi (either that, or a crushing indifference).
Whatever the case, Angelo certainly hasn’t felt the pressure of any divided loyalties or factionalism:
I’ve been warmly welcomed by the Juventus fans, Conte and my teammates. I knew almost all of the lads already, living in the same city makes these kinds of things easier. I always look at the present and future. I don’t consider myself a traitor because I’ve always underlined the fact that we’re professionals.
I’ve always had a great relationship with club president Cairo, manager Ventura and all my ex-teammates. We parted on good terms. Torino fans? The majority of people who know me know what I’m like and fortunately I’ve always surrounded myself with the right people. I’ve received more advice than criticism over the past few days.
If Ogbonna’s composure in defense this season is as good as his media training, then we should consider the transfer a smashing success. Talk about controlling a narrative: Angelo’s already pretty adept at deflecting speculation about the relatively distant future, espousing the “first things first” mentality that has no doubt made for some frustrated journalists (and readers):
Our first target is the Italian Super Cup. Then we’ll look to achieve our third Scudetto. As far as the Champions League is concerned, we know we’re a great team, but there are also other great teams in Europe. We’ll look to work consistently in order to be prepared for the competition.
You’ll do fine, kid.
Lightning Round: Maxin’ But Not Quite Relaxin’
Certainly not chillaxin’. Even the Bianconeri on vacation are still apparently on the clock. And so are we, sorting out the good, the bad and the bizarre from around the Ju-niverse.
- Let Gigi Buffon rest! Our captain took a much-deserved weeklong vacation in Sardinia—at a resort which happens to be hosting a summer training session for youngsters as part of a Juventus Soccer Schools promotion. Autographs, pictures and friendly advice ensued. Hope his room was comped.
- Mauricio Isla will reportedly move to Inter by week’s end. The two sides have compromised on a transfer fee of €6.8 million. Not a bad price for someone who didn’t work out. Still, it’s sad — I wouldn’t wish Inter on anyone.
- A new wrinkle in Juve’s quest for Napoli winger Juan Camilo Zuniga: According to several Italian sources, the Bianconeri may offer one or both of Alessandro Matri and Paolo De Ceglie to avoid paying in full the €10 million Napoli want for him. Beware, Neapolitans: Giuseppe Marotta isn’t afraid to low-ball each and every one of our mortal enemies. It’s actually getting pretty heroic now — if you can call haggling heroic.
- Liverpool are also reportedly interested in Matri as a possible replacement for the potentially outgoing Luis Suarez. While Matri may not have the same goalscoring acumen as Suarez, he has the edge in maturity. After all, Alessandro left his teething stage behind while still an infant.
- Oh, glory! Felipe Melo is officially EX-JUVE. We sold the old ne’er-do-well to Galatasary for a cool €5 million, a sum as underwhelming as his performance for us. See you in the Champions League, Felipe, where you will hopefully give us a hand and get red-carded.
- Clubs in line for Luca Marrone, according to various reports: 4 (Norwich, Sunderland, Southampton and Atalanta). Number of above-mentioned clubs that were linked to Luca by Tuttosport: 3. Number of reasons to believe Tuttosport: 0.
- Congratulations to Paul Pogba, who captained his U20 France side to a World Cup over Uruguay. Check out his sudden-death penalty, which you’ll agree just ever-so-slightly crosses the line between “cheeky arrogance” to “bit of an asshole.” Bravo, ragazzo!
If you haven’t visited the Mothership’s official site recently, you’re missing one thing in particular: hundreds and hundreds of pictures. To say the new site design is visually oriented is a colossal understatement.
For instance, there are multiple galleries for the preseason training camp, including the above-mentioned
11-on-11 match, various training sessions, and the multimedia, interactive festival that is Juve’s Summer Village at Chatillon.
Check them out now, before they’re archived in the difficult-to-navigate, labyrinthine bowels of the new-look website and are lost forever to Internet indifference!
Ciao for now. Check back later this week for the very latest transfer confirmations and rumors, as well as more coverage from Val d’Aosta.
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