Juventus is the biggest team in Italy – by a huge mile. In recent years, that gap has only widened. As at 2015, Juventus had won 4 consecutive Serie A titles. Unfortunately, the powers that be at the club – and players – wanted something more: to conquer Europe. Over the last 5 years, Juventus had come close twice: against Barcelona in 2015 where they lost 3-1 and in 2017 when they lost 4-1 to Real Madrid. Within that same time frame, Juventus still continued winning the League but were still not satisfied.
Enter Cristiano Ronaldo: One time world-record signing. Arguably the best player of his generation. Five-time Balon D’or winner. One hundred million Euro signing. Thirty-three years old as at the time of signing.
He was obviously not signed to win another League title. He ended up being the highest goal-scorer for his club also notably scoring all of Juventus’ goals in the knockout stages of the Champions League. For the umpteenth time, the club failed in their quest to conquer Europe, losing in the quarter-finals to a very good Ajax side. This failure to conquer Europe (amongst other things) led to Massimiliano Allegri’s departure and the search for a new manager began.
Enter Maurizio Sarri: Former Napoli Coach that pushed Juventus for the title. Europa League winner with Chelsea. Chain smoker.
So far, Juventus is currently unbeaten in all competitions but have surprisingly struggled in all (ALL!) of their games – except maybe the first 60 minutes of their game against Napoli.
Over more recent weeks, their talisman – Ronaldo, not Szcesny- has been yanked off in games, a sight that has rarely been ever seen. Surprisingly, the last two players that came on for Ronaldo ended up scoring the winning goal in those games. There were rumours that Ronaldo and Sarri had a falling out. Sarri came out and informed the public that it was an injury, Ronaldo played for Portugal and Fernando Santos said he was fit. Ronaldo then came out and said he had been nursing an injury. Very strange, isn’t it? That was not the end of it.
Over the weekend, Maurizio Sarri opted to keep Ronaldo at home in a game that they needed to win because Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan was breathing down their necks and also because they had not won at Atalanta in three years. Over the weekend, they eventually won the game 3-1, albeit with a huge slice of luck because they were second best for most of the game.
The issue right now for Sarri especially is whether he needs Ronaldo to play every game –especially in the Serie A, seeing that the League is seemingly much tighter these days as Antonio Conte is in town- or rest him and unleash him for only the key games, especially in the Champions League. Would Sarri be able to fit Ronaldo into his style and philosophy?
As was said earlier, Ronaldo was not signed to win another Serie A title for Juventus because honestly, Juventus had been achieving that feat easily prior to his arrival. The sad truth is, over the last few games, Juventus has actually played better with Ronaldo off the pitch – bar the Atalanta game. However Ronaldo would always be a threat whenever he is on the pitch. What does Sarri do? How does he handle playing Ronaldo and Juventus’ quest for the ever elusive European silverware?
Therein lies the conundrum.