Football

The Magnificent Six – The Juventus core that made History

Buffon consoles Messi

There is something delightfully old-fashioned about the defence which has provided the foundation for Juventus to be so successful in Italy’s top flight. Although not essentially a defensive team, there are times when coach Massimiliano Allegri decides Juve have to batten down the hatches – and when that happens, nobody does it quite like the Serie A champions.

 

Every successful team has to have a successful spine to garner such consistent success over a period of time. Manchester United and Arsenal’s title winning sides were the prime examples of a strong core set-up that brought them such huge success on a consistent basis. The new era in the Old Lady’s success occurred due to quite a difficult phase for the club and its fans. Juventus were punished in the aftermath of the 2006 Calciopoli scandal, their relegation to Serie B prompted star players such as Emerson and Patrick Vieira to leave the club.

 


That forced the Old Lady to bring a number of youth-team players into the side under then-coach Didier Deschamps with the likes of Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini entering the 1st team. Since Director General Giuseppe Marotta arrived at Juventus in May 2010, he has carved out a reputation as a smart operator capable of building hugely successful teams. That he has done so with or without major investment only enhances his reputation, with many of his signings being held up as perfect examples of how a club can and should operate.

Juventus then under Conte were able to pair this quality of youth they possessed with a fine transfer strategy that saw the Italian make some stellar signings in defence. Conte was able to set up a fine core at the back which has been so pivotal to the Bianconeri’s style of play. With Conte specialising in his back three system and delivering time and time out, his successor Allegri also has followed the same path. Allegri like Conte has repeatedly stressed the importance of finding the right balance and often berated his team for chasing late winners in matches where a point was sufficient.

 

 

 

“There’s no shame in being good at defending. In fact, it’s just as beautiful as a great attacking move,” he said to the World Leagues.

“I am very happy for those who can turn football into a show but, as far as I’m concerned, if you want to see a show, you should go to the circus.

“Committing fouls and winning aerial battles are also very important.”

 

Juventus owe their gratitude to a formidable spine that has seen Juventus being crowned the kings of Italy for 6 consecutive years.

Also Read: UEFA Champions League Final: Key Battles that could decide Real Madrid vs Juventus

GIANLUIGI BUFFON

Equally, it would be naive to think that Juventus could have gotten this far without their goalkeeper playing his part. As good as Chiellini and his defensive teammates are, their performances owe something to the keeper behind them. Buffon has proved to be one of the world’s best goalkeepers and a formidable part of the Old Lady’s wall. Twenty-two years ago, at the young age of 17, Gianluigi Buffon’s career started. It was at home against eventual league champions AC Milan who were European powerhouses at the time and the debuting goalkeeper had managed to keep the likes of Roberto Baggio at bay.

It was a sign of things to come for Buffon, facing up against the best goal scorers the sport had to offer, matching them every step of the way. He’s won almost everything. That cabinet consists of multiple Serie A, Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia titles, a UEFA Cup, a Serie B winners medal and the jewel in the crown, a World Cup triumph with Italy in 2006.

 

But even with being a World champion yet, it feels like Buffon’s long, illustrious career is still missing something — a Champions League winners medal. Buffon has seen himself come 2nd best in the Champions League Final on three occasions and much to the suffering has always come out from the pain he has endured. Whatever the reason, you would be hard-pressed to find a footballer more universally admired by his peers. Since Juventus qualified for the Champions League final, we have heard a vast chorus of players express the hope that this will be Buffon’s year, at last, to lift the Champions League. And perhaps to become the 2nd goalkeeper after Lev Yashin to win the Ballon d’Or as well.

 

LEONARDO BONUCCI

Pep Guardiola called him “one of my favourite ever players” and tried to tempt the 30-year-old to join him at the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and still remains a fan of the Italian at Manchester City. Bonucci stated his desire to “become a Juventus legend” prompted him to turn down every advance, and there is no question that his performances for the Bianconeri are ensuring that is more than just a fanciful notion. Even though Inter let him go due to his lapses in concentration, Bonucci has matured into one of the best defenders in modern football.

 

The former Bari defender possesses a fantastic passing range that opens up most of the opposition defences topped with the ability to go in hard when it comes to tackles. Bonucci also has some exemplary positional discipline and foresight that has been so crucial at the back. Though he may not possess the smooth sophistication of the likes of Gaetano Scirea or Franco Baresi, Bonucci definitely is up there as one of Italy’s best defenders in the modern game. There is no secret why Antonio Conte wants to sign him up at Chelsea with the Blues following the same blueprint that saw the Old Lady be so successful.

 

ANDREA BARZAGLI

In January 2011, the Bianconeri were struggling to cope defensively with the backline being extremely porous at the time that saw them leak many goals. Desperate to add that steel at the back and having looked across the whole of Europe, the Old Lady purchased Andrea Barzagli from German side Wolfsburg. Juventus ended up paying just €300,000 for the defender who had found himself surplus to requirements at the Volkswagen Arena despite playing a major role in their 2008/09 Bundesliga title win.

Antonio Conte’s arrival changed Barzagli’s fortunes after a disappointing 1st six months at the club. After being unimpressed with both a 4-4-2 and a 4-3-3 formation in the early matches of his first season, Conte opted to deploy a three-man defence and write his name into history Barzagli started every game alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, and Juventus never looked back. Conte managed to create a wall at the back. The security they provided allowed the rest of the team to play with far greater freedom, safe in the knowledge the back line would hold firm. With Bonucci being the ball playing defender and Chiellini doing the old-school sweeper job, Barzagli is brilliant at reading the game and anticipating what an opponent’s next move will be, he is able to deny space and time to even the very best strikers he lines up against.

Conte managed to create a wall at the back. The security they provided allowed the rest of the team to play with far greater freedom, safe in the knowledge the back line would hold firm. With Bonucci being the ball playing defender and Chiellini doing the old-school sweeper job, Barzagli is brilliant at reading the game and anticipating what an opponent’s next move will be, he is able to deny space and time to even the very best strikers he lines up against.

 

GIORGIO CHIELLINI 

Chiellini 1st came into the fray with his consistent performances with Livorno. The defender was influential at the back and contributed in a massive way that led to Livorno’s promotion to the Seria A under Walter Mazzarri. Mazzarri went on the describe Chiellini by saying that he was “a force of nature, a universal player that every manager would like in their team. He is from another planet, able to mark three players himself.” On the pitch he can do almost everything. He is naturally left-footed and under Mazzarri at Livorno, he learned to play in a back three, which fell perfectly in place for Antonio Conte when he arrived and deployed the new system. Chiellini also became a regular for his country Chiellini when Fabio Cannavaro started to decline, replacing him under Roberto Donadoni at the 2008 European Championship and has remained ever present since then with 67 caps and four goals for the Azzurri. With Barzagli, Bonucci, and Chiellini being so good with the back three system with Juventus it was about time that Italy would also soon use the same formation in their national team set-up.

 

Chiellini also became a regular for his country Chiellini when Fabio Cannavaro started to decline, replacing him under Roberto Donadoni at the 2008 European Championship and has remained ever present since then with 67 caps and four goals for the Azzurri. With Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini being so good with the back three system with Juventus it was about time that Italy would also soon use the same formation in their national team set-up.

 

STEPHAN LICHTSTEINER

Over the previous five seasons, Stephan Lichtsteiner had proved himself to be among the most important and consistent members of the Juventus squad. A reliable performer as a right wing-back, the Switzerland international delivered everything the Bianconeri could ask from a player. Lichsteiner also was massively crucial in Juventus’s system along with the back three. He was solid defensively, capable of shutting down the very best wingers or midfielders he faced out on the flank. In attack, Lichsteiner has been one of the best crossers in the game that has resulted in him gaining a handful of assists in the process. Lichsteiner also had a knack to show his worth on the biggest of stages.

 

The Swiss has weighed in with some crucial goals, too. That was a habit that began when he netted the first-ever strike at Juventus Stadium in competitive play and continued as he bagged against the likes of Inter Milan, Lazio and Borussia Monchengladbach in the years that followed. Having led Juve with assists during 2013/14, the 2014/15 campaign saw him create Alvaro Morata’s equalising goal in the Champions League final which sadly ended in defeat for his team. With injuries ruining his recent years and with the arrival of Dani Alves, the Swiss International has found himself on the fringes but no one can deny how crucial Stephan Lichsteiner has been in The Old Lady’s recent success.

CLAUDIO MARCHISIO

Joining the Bianconeri at the age of seven, way back in 1993, he has played for his childhood club for more than two decades yet has often been overshadowed. The former AC Milan boss is not the first to label Marchisio as an important player, yet somehow, the 30-year-old remains underappreciated and underrated by the wider football audience. His early years saw him spend a season on loan at Empoli, gaining valuable Serie A and UEFA Cup experience, but even after returning to Juventus ahead of the 2008/09 season.

 

The Italian maestro successfully managed to displace Christian Poulsen, Momo Sissoko and Tiago Mendes in Claudio Ranieri’s set up. In his career at the start, he never played the same position, a parade of coaches deploying him in a variety of roles because he highly versatile and possessed the ability to do whatever he was asked. Antonio Conte shifted his tactics in the early part of his reign but eventually settled on using him in a trio with Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal which proved so successful. His running, tactical intelligence and late bursts into the box made that a wonderfully balanced midfield and even under Allegri took up Andrea Pirlo’s position when the bearded genius was injured.

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