This post was guest-blogged by Vittorio Pazzini. Follow him on Twitter (@vittoriopazzini)
Welcome, amici, to Friday’s STTBS.
This has been an eventful week for our Vecchia Signora. She finally received a promise ring from that Spanish fellow she was courting, renewed her commitment to a living saint goalkeeper, and celebrated the legacy of one of her most faithful companions.
As Juventus prepare for tomorrow’s visit from Genoa, we’ll finally hear from Fernando, re-up with Buffon, worry more about injuries, ignore the media with Giaccherini, and pay tribute to the memory of our beloved Avvocato.
We JuventiKnows are up to our Jeep logos in news. Let’s get to it!
Officially Official: Fernando Is Ours (in July)
The long, six-month saga is finally over, friends: Fernando Llorente has signed on with Juve, effective in July.
We can all go back to our previous pursuits: dreaming of Cavani, speculating on any and all non-Fernando transfers, and once more fully enjoying the Abba song that bears his name.
Per the official site:
The 27-year-old has agreed terms on a four-year deal and will move to Turin when his Athletic Bilbao contract expires at the end of the current season.
While it remains to be seen if Llorente is the solution to our problems in attack, Juventus are whetting our appetites/allaying our fears, presenting our new acquisition in the best possible light:
In nine seasons at San Mamés, Llorente has made 334 appearances and scored 104 goals in all competitions. The striker’s best return came during the 2011/12 campaign, when his 29 strikes helped Los Leones to the Copa Del Rey and Europa League finals.
A fearsome aerial presence coupled with excellent close control has earned Llorente international recognition with his native Spain. He was included in the triumphant World Cup 2010 and European Championship 2012 squads, and has notched 7 goals in 21 caps.
One lives in hope, no?
Meanwhile, there is one great mystery still left here: Why did Athletic Bilbao give Fernando away for free? Why did they ignore all efforts on the part of the Bianconeri to remunerate them for his services?
Loath as I am to source anything from Goal.com, I sometimes find their editorials to be illuminating. Such is the case with the provocatively titled “Why rejecting Juventus’ money for Llorente is seen as a moral victory for Athletic Bilbao” by Ben Hayward.
According to Hayward, Bilbao’s curious decision to release Fernando (a native son, as virtually all Athletic players are) for free is a mix of Basque pride and a strategy to head off any notions of a mass exodus among those who remain.
The decision to retain the striker, who has spent most of the season as a substitute and netted just twice in 2012-13 after 29 strikes last term, owes more to pride than spite, yet is also a message to other wantaway players at the club: Do not mess us about.
Athletic were concerned that if Llorente were to leave in January, other players may follow up with transfer requests or come asking for more money. Athletic already pay extremely competitive wages and are one of the few teams in Spain without debt, but the Basque outfit fear a backlash after the sale of Martinez and the impending departure of Llorente.
Having missed out on the full fee for their Spain striker, then, Athletic took the unusual step of deciding to hold on to a player who is not even in the team at the moment, for a further six months. That means Llorente, already bearing the brunt of the fans’ anger for his poor performances and decision to leave in the summer, is likely to be seen as the main culprit among the fans, who are still—largely, and perhaps surprisingly—backing (manager) Bielsa.
In the end, it seems Athletic Bilbao are simply the latest victims of that poisonous pairing: Darwinian fiscal strategy and good old-fashioned regional stubbornness dating back thousands of years.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
From a player gained to a player retained. But you’ll agree that Gianluigi Buffon is so much more than just a player.
San Gigi has agreed to a new contract extension which will keep him at Juve until 2015.
The deal was announced on Wednesday in a press conference featuring Gigi and Andrea Agnelli, which through the generosity of the club was broadcast live on this very site.
Unsurprisingly for someone with his inherent loyalty, Buffon lost no sleep over the decision to renew:
I haven’t received any other offers over the past few months, but I would have turned them down anyway. Juventus have become a way of life for me. When something gets under your skin, it’s a struggle to see yourself wearing another shirt.
In a refreshing change from the usual selfish haggling (cough*Wesley Sneijder*cough), the agreement between the two parties is nothing if not mutually optimal, according to Gigi:
I had initially just asked for a one-year extension but Juventus made me the counter offer of an extra two years. The club likes to plan and it’s right from their point of view to know they don’t need to look into acquiring another goalkeeper. So, together, we came up with the two-year solution.
Ever the statesman, Buffon was quick to give much of the credit for his legendary tenure at Juve to the tifosi, his teammates, his coaches… indeed, all of the Juventino Diaspora:
“The fans have been an extremely important influence throughout my time with the club. Knowing you’re appreciated and urged on is something that you can’t put a price on. But I also have a great relationship with my team-mates, club staff and management. The recognition and respect as a player and a man have come from various quarters.
I’ll always have a place in my heart for Umberto Agnelli because he wanted me here. But also Marcello Lippi because he was one of those who championed me from the start. Obviously there have been many team-mates but I can’t just mention one. The dressing room will be the only thing I’ll really miss when I stop playing.
And finally, no such press conference would be complete without a statement of intent:
Our hopes for this season are to reclaim the Scudetto and confirm the supremacy we’ve lacked for too many years. As far as Europe’s concerned, I believe Juve are back to being a competitive force and capable of giving as good as they get against any side–that’s what counts. I’d like to win the competitions that have eluded me so far in my career. I’ve won many honours, but there are trophies I still haven’t lifted, starting with the Champions League.
I’ll aim for the World Cup, which is a year and a half away, and think I could also make the European Championships in 2016. But I know how far I can push myself, that’s why I’ve never imposed limits or time frames on my career. Certain people have said that I could retire after the World Cup, but I’ll know myself when it’s the right time to call it a day.
Meanwhile, the agreement was equally effortless and satisfying on Andrea Agnelli’s end:
Gigi is an honest person and has no hesitation in speaking his mind. That’s exactly why it took just one glance a few months ago for us to come to this agreement. I could list all the many recognitions received by Gigi over the years, but I think what really makes him stand out is his personality, honesty and ability to be a leader.
When it comes to the pitch, Agnelli has no reservations in declaring that Buffon is due for world football’s highest individual honor:
History states that from 1978 until 2007, the Ballon d’Or was won by players competing in our championship. After this 30-year period, the trophy has subsequently been away from Italy for five years. My hope is that Gigi manages to halt the negative run by bringing it back in the next two years. Given that just one goalkeeper, Yashin, has had the honour of lifting it, I think it would be a correct acknowledgment of what Gigi represents to Juventus and the world of football as a whole.
Class belongs with class, which is why Gigi and his Vecchia Signora are the perfect pair (no offense, Elena, just had to finish the sentence!).
Right — there’s also a match tomorrow.
The Bianconeri are hard at work preparing for the arrival of Genoa, who will be traveling with a new coach, Davide Ballardini. You will be happy to know that Antonio Conte is leaving no tactical possibility unaccounted for, as evidenced by the diverse activities covered in both yesterday’s practice and this afternoon’s training session:
Warming up, passing, possession of the ball and tactics… The coach has been working on player movement, movement of the ball and as always, has been taking the utmost care with even the smallest details.
One activity conspicuously missing from today’s itinerary was the traditional pre-match press conference. Conte will not speak before the match, but is scheduled to afterwards. There’s some speculation as to why Conte has chosen to keep silent, most attributing it to a sort of media fatigue during this tight fixture schedule.
However, it’s hard not to wonder if Conte’s silence is at least in part designed to call attention to Juve’s recent raw deal concerning the non-penalty call vs. Lazio, or more accurately to the lack of emphasis on said treatment by the media. And he would be right: Why is this not being discussed, yet if the call went for us, we’d never hear the end of it?
And more importantly, why are we paying any price whatsoever for events in 2006 which have been proven in a court of law (I know, I know—it’s an Italian court of law, but still) not only to be false in all particulars, but the product of an active conspiracy by our enemies to sink our fortunes?
But I digress.
There’s no word yet as to the availability of Andrea Pirlo (right calf injury) and Leo Bonucci (bruised hip), who are being closely watched by the medical staff. Of the two, Bonucci might be able to play with the injury, although I hope he doesn’t.
Meanwhile, the status of Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco is in doubt as well.
On the other side of things, the arrival of a new coach in Genoa adds another plot twist to the Ciro Immobile transfer saga. Although Genoa originally refused to send Immobile back to Turin, there is renewed possibility for his return—provided he is deemed surplus to tactical requirements by Ballardini.
Or maybe Genoa will pull a Bilbao and let Ciro waste away for another six months.
Will Guida Bring Good Luck?
Marco Guida of Torre Annunziata is set to referee the Genoa match. This will be his second Juve match in as many months, as he presided over the Bianconeri’s Coppa Italia victory over Cagliari on December 12.
That match was only the fourth Juve contest Guida has officiated. Subject to his whistle, Juventus have three wins and one draw, no losses. The first was, funnily enough, a win over — you guessed it — Genoa in 2011, in Turin. As auguries go, that’s not too bad.
Guida’s linesman will be Fabio Pietro Galloni and Matteo Passeri. Andrea Romeo and Gennaro Palazzino will be watching the touchlines, and as usual, we will be watching them.
Francesco Altomare will play the roles of fourth official/sad intern/himself.
Previous Genoa Encounters
It should be no surprise by now to readers of this column that this particular recurring feature itself features recurring Bianconeri dominance.
Juventus have a thoroughly commanding historical edge over Genoa at home: 35 wins, eight draws and only two losses. The two most common results are 2-0 and 3-1, which have favored Juve seven times each. And if you do the necessary digging, you will find two overwhelming victories: 8-1 in the 1933-34 season, and 7-0 in 1965.
The most recent home win was a 3-2 result which included a comeback effort on the part of the Bianconeri. The equalizer was scored by Alessandro Matri, while the winning goal was put through by Luca “God I Miss Him” Toni.
Say what you will about Luca, but in his brief time at Juve, all of his goals were memorable. There’s no substitute for having the technique and instincts of a true striker. Suffice to say we can use more of that these days—and we shouldn’t have to wait for July.
Coppa Costs a Pretty Euro
Juventus were hit with a 20,000 euro fine for their tifosi’s behavior during the first leg of the Coppa Italia. Apparently, the offense was musical in nature.
According to several sources, the fans “serenaded” Lazio and their supporters with “discriminatory” songs. This is yet another incident of the rogue element (that’s putting it nicely) of Juve’s crowd behaving abominably; of course, they would certainly be the first to report a similar offense by their counterparts.
I have no idea what they sang, or if it was even in tune (I imagine it wasn’t). It must be an interesting job to gather evidence against these idiots. Do you listen carefully and transcribe what you hear? Do you lip-read? As long as these idiots are being idiotic, why not make it easier on these poor people and hand out sheet music?
And what kind of degree would you need to get a job like that?
Never mind. Just stay classy, Juventini.
Giaccherini: Don’t Believe the Hype
If, like us, you feel that the one-loss-equals-doom mindset of the media is getting a bit much, you have an ally in
Mike DG… I mean Emanuele Giaccherini.
Last year, we made a record number of points and were undefeated in a victorious Serie A campaign. So obviously when we don’t win, it’s big news.
The poor ragazzi probably have enough criticism to deal with from Conte. Anything else must be at best a horrible distraction. Giaccherini, like any other Bianconeri, is simply trying to block out the noise, absorb the pressure and concentrate on Conte’s game plan for Genoa, even if it’s hard for him to forget those wonderful memories of the goal he scored against them:
We dream of being able to win everything but we’re keeping our feet firmly on the ground and we’re concentrating on our next game, against Genoa. I scored against them earlier in the season, but that’s in the past. I am staying focused on the present and on Saturday’s game. We have to win, and try to extend our lead at the top.
And in the absence of any other information outside of YouTube videos, he’s sticking to the party line on the immanent arrival of Fernando Llorente:
He’s a great player and he’ll strengthen our team but we shouldn’t forget about our current strikers who are just as good.
Of course, amici, you must understand that “striker” can often come with a different job description under Conte. So when Emanuele claims that our current strikers are “just as good,” he either means it hypothetically, or he means it in the sense that they hold the ball up well (most of the time), often take one dribble too many in the box, and even hit the occasional post.
And I defy anyone to challenge our supremacy in that particular skill set.
Here’s a story out of nowhere, but still a testament to the Bianconeri’s global influence. Welcome to Juve, Jose Francisco Cevallos Jr. As reported by ESPN:
Ecuadorian youngster Jose Francisco Cevallos Jr has signed for Juventus on loan for the rest of the season and will link up with the club later this month. The midfielder, who only turned 18 last week, has scored nine goals in 45 top-flight appearances for LDU Quito and is currently representing his country at the South America Under-20 tournament.
Apparently, two things stand out about this transfer: Jose’s father, Cevallos Sr. played against Italy in the 2002 World Cup; and young Jose seems beyond thrilled to be playing for Juve, as said on Ecuadorian TV:
I am very happy and very proud that after weeks and months of negotiations, the transfer has gone through. I have already signed the contract. As soon as this tournament ends, I will go straight to Turin. I’ll fight to earn my place and I am certain with God’s grace it will go well.
It’s reported Cevallos will most likely play with the Primavera at the Viareggio tournament, but he is hoping to meet Gigi Buffon, seeking the answer to one burning question:
In the 2002 World Cup, Gigi Buffon exchanged shirts with my father. If I get the chance, I’ll ask him if he remembers that.
You may be disappointed, Jose: Gigi may have selective amnesia when it comes to that particular tournament.
Primavera Coppa Derby Win
Juve’s Primavera are more or less mirroring the good form of their older brothers, as evidenced by took their 2-0 victory over city rivals Little Torino in the Coppa Italia semifinal’s first leg, which was played at Venaria.
And much like their big brothers, Marco Baroni’s young men applied our patented offensive pressure but still left it very, very late to snatch the victory—about 11 minutes from full-time. Matteo Gerbaudo collected the parry from Andrea Schiavone’s free-kick to put the Mini Bianconeri ahead.
As often happens, Torino were forced to throw everyone forward to equalize, only for Small Juventus to hit them on the counterattack. Leo Bonatini drew a penalty from the resulting play, and Schiavone converted the spot-kick to add another precious goal to the aggregate score.
The Primavera Coppa continues next Wednesday at Chisola. Andiamo ragazzi!
We end with a tribute to perhaps the greatest patron in our Vecchia Signora’s history.
Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the passing of l’Avvocato, Giovanni Agnelli, and the tributes pouring in are many and varied.
First and foremost, before he became a lawyer, he was in love with his team. In 1947, aged just 26, he took over as president, for six seasons, until 1953. Even after he held the reins, he remained alongside Juve, staying with the Bianconeri with the enthusiasm of a fan and the ability of an expert, either praising the club or making cutting comments. These were however always dictated by his pure passion for the football club.”
Today, ten years on from his death, Gianni Agnelli is an example to everyone. His style, taste and personality have become, or rather, remained, the yardstick in finance, politics and sport. Every area he was prominent in feels not the duty, but the need to make comparisons with what he might have thought. Something which in actual fact masks the desire to appreciate him. Hearing someone say, “Agnelli would have liked it”, shows its value and working hard to achieve it is the best way to honour his memory.
Juve, his Juve, are trying and we believe the club is succeeding. Cesare Prandelli, the Italy national coach, who Agnelli knew as a player, is convinced of it. Agnelli would have enjoyed this. He would have admired the class of Pirlo, the authority of Buffon, the flair of Vucinic, the power of Pogba, the youth of Marchisio and the desire of Conte.
Current president Andrea Agnelli ended Wednesday’s press conference with a tribute to his uncle and his enduring legacy:
I envisage a scene in which I don’t just think about Gianni, but my father Umberto, Edoardo, Giovanni… I like to think they’re proud of Juventus, but also of what John’s doing with Fiat, the work of Alessandro Nasi and of Lapo’s ability. I like to think they’re up there enjoying themselves safe in the knowledge that they’ve left their creations in capable hands.
And from Sydney, Alessandro Del Piero wrote a warm, moving tribute to one of his biggest champions and formative influences as a player and man. Here it is in full, as posted on his site:
We leave you today with the words of l’Avvocato himself:
In the tough moments of a match, there’s always something in the back of my mind which I go to, the ability to never give in. This is why Juventus win even when you don’t expect them to.
Passionate. Elegant. Resilient. Sophisticated. Wise. Cosmopolitan, but always Italian…
Giovanni Agnelli and Juventus are one and the same.
That’s all for today. Stay tuned for the Genoa match preview and Team Eats. See you next week!
[STTBS]: Juventus News is a daily feature where the JuventiKnows editorial team discusses the JuveNews stories you need to read, without the “Messi signs for Juve on loan thanks to Nike” kind of nonsense. What does [STTBS] mean? You’ll have to guess that for yourself. We wouldn’t tell you even under pain of torture… (though we do take bribes)