Even before they had embarked upon this unparalleled run of eight consecutive Serie A titles, Juventus were already the most successful and well-supported team in Italy. However, to reach these heights, the Old Lady have turned to approaches based as much on pragmatism as flair over the years.
Finding one player to encompass this spread of styles is impossible, but from the pantheon of greats to have donned those famous black and white stripes over the past 30 years or so, we can combine their traits to form Juve’s perfect Serie A player.
Brain: Gianluigi Buffon
The greatest goalkeeper of all time simply had to find his way into this setup. And given the fact that he is still deemed capable of turning out at the elite level with his 40th birthday a vague memory of the past, it’s safe to say that Buffon has relied more upon the mental, rather than physical, aspect of the sport in recent years.
Eyes (Vision): Andrea Pirlo
Carlo Ancelotti, Pirlo‘s manager at AC Milan, wonderfully crystallised the vision his former player possessed: “Pirlo spots a pass in a split second that lesser players could spend a whole lifetime waiting to see.”
The deep-lying playmaker was instrumental to Juve’s current cycle of success. His free transfer from Milan to Turin in the summer of 2011 – at the age of 32 – helped propel the Bianconeri from seventh to first in his debut campaign. Alongside the industry and skill of Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, Pirlo’s guile and, of course, vision, took Juve to within 90 minutes of a fabled treble.
While the Champions League was out of reach, he can ease the pain by looking back upon four consecutive titles with the Bianconeri.
Lungs (Workhorse – Cardio): Antonio Conte
The sight of Conte tearing around (and often outside) the confines of his technical area are a near perfect continuation of his endless energy reserves as a player – the only difference being the surprising abundance of hair which was conspicuously lacking from his days on the pitch.
Conte’s versatility and hard running saw him deployed almost anywhere in the defensive half of the pitch as Juve ascended to the top of the European game in the 1990s.
Body (Strength): Giorgio Chiellini
The roar which Chiellini unleashes any time he cleanly, but forcefully, separates man from ball is intimidating enough in isolation, let alone when this aggression is coupled with the physical stature of Juve‘s imposing centre-back.
The Italy international is far from malicious – as demonstrated by his quick-fire apologies following the rare occasions when his competitiveness spills over – but his physicality has not been lost on those close to him.
Chiellini’s former manager Walter Mazzarri once gushed: “He is a force of nature, from another planet, able to mark three players himself.” And despite being closer to 40 than 30, Juve appear to be on the brink of tying their natural phenomenon down with a contract extension – well, as much as anyone can shackle Chiellini.
Left Foot: Edgar Davids
After suffering defeat in the 1996 Champions League final at the hands of his future employers, Davids arrived at Juventus following a miserable six months with Milan. His energy and dynamism saw him described as Juve’s ‘one-man engine room’ but ‘The Pitbull’ offered skill and creativity from midfield.
As one of the side’s few left-footers, he offered a natural balance to a superb midfield alongside the stability provided by Didier Deschamps and the unleashed talent of Zinedine Zidane ahead of them, winning a trio of league titles.
Right Foot: Alessandro Del Piero
Juventus’ top appearance maker, top scorer and general all-round top man, Del Piero devoted the best part of a decade to the Old Lady.
Juve’s immortal number ten hovered menacingly on the left-hand tip of their attack throughout their dominance in the 1990s, loyally remained with the club as they went down to Serie B in 2006 before ending his time in Turin with the first Scudetto of their current run.
One of the legendary figures in Italian football, Del Piero became so adept at scoring a particular goal – cutting in from the left before finding the corner with, naturally, his right foot – that this type of effort and the zone on the pitch from where it is taken, both bear his name to this day.
Legs (Pace): Pavel Nedved
Nedved’s pace may not be his most defining quality, but, much like his two-footedness, stamina and his overall game, it was a facet which he improved over the years though his unparalleled work ethic.
The ‘Czech Fury’ had already made his name in Italy as he helped Lazio claim the 2000 Serie A title when Juventus came calling. As the man brought in to directly replace Zinedine Zidane, the move carried some pressure. Within three years he’d won two Serie A titles and the Ballon d’Or.