Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yet, there was something optimistic in the gloom – so small, it was hardly visible, and because of that able to survive and eventually bring positive change: Juventus. Yes, it is a famous club, rich, and always a formidable force. Yet, it manged to stay under the radar somewhat, perhaps because Juve did not win anything in Europe so far. Quitely, the club launched successful transformation, not entirely finished by 1975. Juvenstus won the championship – hardly a surprise, and therefore, hardly heavily scrutinized. To say that Juventus abandoned catenaccio and played total football would be more than exaggeration, yet, they differed significantly from the other big Italian clubs in the manner of playing. It was still defense-oriented game, but with more robust and flexible midfielders and a bit more modern strikers than any other Italian club. Unlike Milan and Inter, Juventus was not stuck to legendary players. Nor it was a club investing in stars, whether players or coaches. It appeared that Juve deliberately kept ‘transitional’ profile – thus able to introduce generational change when avoiding the stigma of high expectation. It was effective policy so far – the ‘imperfect’ team was winning titles when Inter and Milan did not, and the ‘so-so’ stars were becoming quietly real stars.
By 1975, most of the players here were already more than well known – but with a few exceptions not really first class stars. It was still a team in a making, but what a difference! Milan and Inter struggled for years with their increasingly aging stars: habbit, fear, fans pressure, blind respect made them keep Mazzola, Rivera, Fascetti. In sharp contrast Juventus already replaced Salvadore and Haller without and Altafini was the next in line. It was gradual and careful replacement – Juve managed to keep strong squad with Zoff between the goalposts; Cuccureddu, Morini, Spinosi, Scirea in defense; Causio, Capello, Gentile, and Furino in midfield; and Anastasi, Bettega, Altafini and now Damiani in attack. Roles were changing almost unnoticed: just two years ago Cuccureddu, Scirea, Gentile were reserves of little import; Furino was realiable at best; and Bettega – a promising player. In 1975 Bettega was the leader of the attack; Cuccurredu was unquestionable starter; and Furino was the motor of the team – a tireless dynamo covering the whole field and conducting the game. Juventus played a bit more open game than any other Italian team, was much more mobile, preferring to stage battles in midfield rather than in their own half and as a result were more dangerous in attack. They were able to use different tactics two: 4-4-2, but also 4-3-3, which almost unique in Italy, where most clubs preferred to use one striker. And there was no one ‘holly’ leader on whose efforts the team rigidly depended as in every other Italian club: Juventus had more or less equal players, able to change roles – this was most visible in midfield, where practically everybody was nominally defensive midfielder, but able to act as conductor as well. It was the opposition in dark, not knowing who will be the Juve’s playmaker in a particular match. Surprise was the deadliest weapon. As for the coach – it was Carlo Parola. Once upon a time a prominent defender, who played most of his career in Juventus, and curiously finished it Argentina. Parola was famous for his bicycle kick and played for Italy as well. But hat was Parola-the player… Parola-the coach was hardly known: he coached Juventus in the 1961-62 season and after that sunk coaching Livorno and Novara until 1974, when Juventus hired him again. Since his predecessor was of the same mold, it looked like that Juventus deliberately avoided big names during the ‘building’ years – the great Juventus was already in place, judging by the names, yet Parola did not became famous and did not last titles or no titles. To my mind, it was a clever policy: big names were still slaves of the 1960s football and incapable to introduce radical changes, yet, their very names produced big expectations – Juventus avoided that kind of trouble and quietly built team playing modern football. They were almost ready to explode, but patience was the word: the team was still in building mode and it was another interesting aspect: what was started as quiet and careful change of generations gradually became the norm – Juventus did not stop replacing key players at all and thus managed to keep very strong team for years. Many years – until now.