Juventus will need to find a goal-scorer to become a factor in the Champions League. By Frank Dell'Apa.
By Frank Dell’Apa
Italy’s Serie A no longer produces candidates to win the Champions League.
Those days ended after Inter’s 2010 run, Italian clubs deciding to balance budgets and profit from the new money being invested in European soccer.
In 2009-10, Inter’s roster was loaded. The Nerazzurri decided they did not need Zlatan Ibrahimovic, selling him to Barcelona for 69.5 million euros – a technical, as well as financial, decision. Mario Balotelli was on the bench for most of the season.
Then, after winning the Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia, Inter mortgaged its future – teenagers Balotelli and Davide Santon. Balotelli went to Manchester City for 29.5 million euros and Santon to Newcastle United for 5.6 million euros.
Two years later, AC Milan threw in the towel, sending Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain for a total of 63 million euros.
Now, the books have been balanced and the transfer dust has settled as the elimination phase of the Champions League begins.
Balotelli is with Milan, but is cup-tied and will not be available against Barcelona Wednesday, Feb. 20. Inter is long gone from the competition.
That leaves Juventus as Serie A’s best hope in Europe.
Juve visits Celtic on Tuesday and is favored to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
But the Bianconeri might not quite be ready to contend for a European title. What’s missing is an Ibrahimovic – yes, he was Juventino from 2004-06 – a top-level finisher.
No Juventus player has scored more than 10 goals in Serie A since the 2008-09 season, when Alessandro Del Piero totaled 13. This is a statistic indicating Juventus’ reliance on balanced scoring and team play, which are certainly positive characteristics and will be important against a Celtic team which relies on a similar one-for-all spirit.
But those numbers also raise the question of just how much success Juventus might have had if it had not been relegated to Serie B in 2006 and been able to hold on to Ibra.
Of course, it was just the Calciopoli bribery scandal, relegation, and the overspending problems which woke up Juve and spurred management to revamp. Now, Juventus is ahead of the Serie A curve, playing in its own stadium, generating revenue and being fiscally responsible.
Juventus appears headed for the Serie A scudetto, and it has established a foundation for the future. Now, the club needs to make a serious run in the Champions League in order to attract a difference-making attacker for 2013-14.
Juve found Ibra at Ajax in 2004. The club needs uncover another phenomenon and, this time, hold on to him.