The Holy Grail, so close but yet so far for Juventus
The Champions League, the competition Juventus forgot how to win17 May 2018 | Charlie Laurendi
Sports journalist with special interest in football
With one fatal blow of his whistle, English referee Michael Oliver broke the hearts of Juventus players, coaches, management and millions of ‘tifosi’ around the world.
Juventus had somehow turned around a 3-0 deficit from the first leg in Turin to lead by the same margin at the Stadio Bernabeu, a feat unheard of at the home of Real Madrid. Deep into injury time in the second leg of the quarter final match up, with extra time beckoning Oliver pointed to the penalty spot, so enraged with the decision, Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off and his dream of holding aloft the Champions League was forever extinguished.
Buffon had three chances to win the competition but lost on all three occasions, most recently in the 2017 Champions League Final against Real Madrid. Overall, Juventus have reached the final of the Champions League nine times, winning two and losing seven times including their past five finals.
Juventus have a rich history in European Competition, and was the first club to win all three trophies, the Champions League (formerly the European Cup), the Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Cup. The Europa League has now replaced the Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Cup.
The Bianconeri first made the European Cup final in 1973 against Johan Cruyff’s Ajax Amsterdam and lost 1-0. Prior to the European Cup changing formats to the Champions League in the mid-nineties, the only way a club could qualify to compete in the competition was to win their domestic league or be the current European champions.
It took Juventus ten years to get back to the European Cup final in 1983 and despite going in as heavy favourites against Hamburg (Germany) and boasting a team of 1982 Italian World Cup winners as well as World Player and European Player of the Year, Frenchman Michel Platini, again lost 1-0.
On their third attempt Juventus finally won the European Cup against Liverpool in 1985. But the game will always be remembered for all the wrong reasons. At the height of hooliganism in the mid-eighties, 39 people, mostly Italian were killed inside Heysel Stadium in Belgium. The game went ahead but hindsight tells us should never have and will forever remain one of world football’s darkest days.
The introduction of the Champions League in the 1990’s allowed teams other than the domestic champions to compete for the European Champion Clubs' Cup. Juventus would finally get their revenge on Ajax defeating them 4-2 on penalties after the game was level 1-1 after extra time. That would be Juventus last victory in the competition despite making the final on five more occasions including three in a row under the mercurial manager Marcello Lippi.
Juventus had the chance to etch their name in European folklore if they had won the finals in 1997 and 1998, unfortunately they have made Champions League history but for all the wrong reasons. In 1997 (3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund) and 1998 (1-0 loss to Real Madrid), Juventus boasted the genius of Zinedine Zidane but even his heroics couldn’t deliver a third Champions League trophy to La Vecchia Signora.
Lippi would return to take Juventus another Champions League Final, this time against their Italian rivals AC Milan in 2003. In a tight affair with minimal chances, AC Milan would prevail 3-2 on penalties despite the fact their Brazilian goalkeeper Dida moved forward off his line to save three Juventus spot kicks.
It took Juventus another 12 years to reach the Champions League Final, on this occasion against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona in 2015. Yet again Juventus would be on the receiving end of poor officiating, with the game locked at 1-1, Barcelona’s Dani Alves used his hands on Paul Pogba’s shoulder dragging him to the ground. The referee waved play on, and Luis Suárez would score minutes later on the counter attack before Neymar sealed the win in stoppage time.
In 2017, Juventus had reached the final for the ninth time, however, what could have been the icing on the cake of Buffon’s career turned into his worst nightmare. Returning from the halftime break level at 1-1, speculation still remains that many Juventus players had strong words to each other during the interval, subsequently Juventus were humiliated 4-1 by Real Madrid after a lacklustre second half display. Mario Mandžukić scored arguably the greatest goal in Champions League Final history and won the 2016/17 UEFA.com Goal of the Season in the process but is lost in such an emphatic scoreline.
One troubling statistic from the nine Champions League Finals is Juve’s inability to hit the back of the net. Juventus have scored just five goals in those finals despite having some of the world’s greatest attacking players in their teams. Names such as, Jose Altifini, Roberto Bettega, Paolo Rossi, Zbigniew Boniek, Gianluca Vialli, Filippo Inzaghi, Alen Boksic, Christian Vieri, Zinedine Zidane, David Trezeguet, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuaín and Paolo Dybala.
Current Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri is an astute manager and tactical genius who has taken Juventus to two Champions League Finals, and four consecutive league and cup doubles, in his four years at the helm. Allegri will reload the squad once again over the summer in an effort to win the Champions League the club so desperately craves.
Whilst victory in the Champions League remains Juventus’s Holy Grail, their fans can take comfort they are the best team in Italy, but their aim is not only to be the best team on the peninsula but to be the best club team in Europe and then the world.
juventus, uefa champions league