Since the 1930s Turin’s Juventus have also been considered one of the beautiful game’s powerhouses. Between 1930 and the present day, Juve have dominated Serie A claiming 35 Scudetto and at the time of writing this currently sit on the cusp of winning their 36th league title.
For a generation, the period of the late 1990s to early 2000s stands out as a golden era for La Vecchia Signora. With the squad boasting such talent as Alessandro Del Piero, Zinedine Zidane, Filippo Inzaghi, Pavel Nedvěd and Edgar Davids, Juve had in some aspects become the envy of the footballing world and with the attractive way the Italians played football it was appealing to the neutral fan to watch these world-class players in their prime.
But among all the glory and the glamour of the Italian giants, there has been a huge black mark next to their near-perfect record in a moment which would shake Italian football to its core and even see Juve have their 2005 and 2006 titles stripped away from them, and would lead to the likes of Del Piero and national team legend and captain Gianluigi Buffon playing in the country’s second tier for the first time in their playing careers.
This was, of course, the Calciopoli scandal, a moment which many consider Italian football’s darkest hour and the details of which could easily be mistaken for something out of a gangster film rather than associated with the world’s sport.
After being humiliated in front of the world’s media, and the club being dragged through the mud, it could have been easy for Le Zebre to buckle and take a while to rebuild. Instead, the team is now back on top of the Italian league, where many think they belong and are in the midst of writing the next chapter in their storied history. Though this time it is not just about success and trophies it is about redemption.
At the time of the scandal, the Old Lady possessed one of the best squads in Europe with the likes of Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Patrick Vieira, Nedvěd and Zlatan Ibrahimovic lining up on the field, with Fabio Capello directing them from the dugout.
The scandal first came to light as a consequence of investigations of prosecutors on the Italian football agency GEA World. Transcripts of recorded telephone conversations published in Italian newspapers suggested that, during the 2004/05 season, Juventus general managers Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo had conversations with several officials of Italian football to influence referee appointments. In one of those conversations, Moggi accused Pierluigi Collina – who at the time was considered the best referee in the world – and Roberto Rosetti of being “too objective” and asked them to be “punished”.
Throughout the whole ordeal, Moggi denied his role, even though many sources say he was at the centre of the main investigation, but the Juve man would later resign from his role with the club following everything that unfolded.
Juventus weren’t the only club implicated in the investigation, with other top clubs; AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina all receiving some form of punishment for their part, in what was seen as an attempt to clear politics out of Italian football.
To give the whole event an even more of a mobster feel, during the whole ordeal Juventus official and former player, Gianluca Pessotto, fell from the roof of the club’s headquarters in an apparent suicide attempt, though his links to the scandal were unclear and whether this incident was linked was never proven.
To add to the club’s humiliation as well as being relegated, having points deducted from their next campaign and being hit with a huge financial penalty, one of the titles which was stripped from the club was handed to bitter rivals Inter Milan, which in itself had its own issues as one of the special commissioners who oversaw the whole case was on the board at Inter.
With the relegation to Serie B and a deduction of nine points to start the new campaign, there was a question of what top-tier talent would remain at the club and would they need a complete overhaul.
As was predicted the likes of Ibrahimovic, Emerson, Gianluca Zambrotta and Adrian Mutu were all cashed in by the Old Lady to make up for some of the financial loss. But there was a core presence of Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Nedvěd, Mauro Camoranesi, Del Piero and David Trezeguet who all remained at the club to help with the re-build process.
As this new dark chapter in the club’s history got underway it was down to former player Didier Deschamps to guide I Bianconeri back to the promised land of Italy’s top tier following the departure of Fabio Capello, who left for Spanish club Real Madrid.
The new campaign didn’t exactly get off to a flying start with Juve drawing 1-1 away to Rimini.
During the campaign, every team that came up against La Signora Omicidi treated the match like a cup final, and it was these high-pressure, high-intensity type games which actually seemed to play into Juve’s hand.
However, in the end, the club was able to claim the title in a rather successful manner, winning 28 of their 42 games. But even this campaign wasn’t without its tragedy, as two of the club’s youth players Alessio Ferramosca, age 17, and Riccardo Neri, age 16, drowned in a pond at the club’s training ground in Vinovo, apparently when trying to recover a football that had fallen into the ice-cold water.
Following their short exile from Italy’s top tier, it didn’t take them long to get back into the swing of things, finishing third in the first season back and qualifying for the Champions League.
If there were any concerns about Juventus falling off the pace and having to take some time to rebuild their reputation, this was almost instantly dismissed between 2011 to the present day, as the club is once again enjoying a golden era of football at the Allianz Stadium.
Though that being said it would take six years after Juventus were relegated for the first time in their history following the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, they were Campione d’Italia again.
But on that day the iconic image of then manager Antonio Conte gesturing to his players from the sideline, holding up three fingers of his right hand and two of his left would signal hysteria among the players and fans alike.
The gesture signified that Inter had taken a 3-2 lead through Diego Milito’s hat-trick in an enthralling Derby della Madonnina against AC Milan.
If the scores remained the same, Juve – who were 2-0 up in their match with Cagliari in Trieste – would seal the scudetto with a week to spare.
Shortly afterwards, word got around that there had been another goal at San Siro. Juventus fans have cursed Inter’s full-back Douglas Maicon in recent years, but not any more.
His shot from outside the box, which made it 4-2 to Inter, was not the one famously heard around the world but it did travel from Milan to Trieste in double quick time and the celebrations really got going.
A pitch invasion ensued after the full-time whistle, several Juventus players were stripped to their underpants and handfuls of turf were ripped up as souvenirs.
This would be the starting point of the Old Lady’s redemption and return to dominance.
Since then, the club has won four consecutive doubles and eight consecutive league titles, something they had never achieved before during their previous long-standing at the top of Serie A.
It seems that by being banished to Italy’s second division it has ignited a fire inside of Juventus and they have been full steam ahead ever since claiming numerous titles and in 2017 they won the Coppa Italia title for the third time in a row – the first club to ever achieve such a feat.
If claiming all these titles and writing a new chapter in the club’s history wasn’t already enough, Juventus would send a message to the world when they paid €112 million, or £99.2 million in 2018 for former Manchester United and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who since joining has made 54 appearances scoring 43 goals, not bad for a man who is 35-years-old at the time of writing this piece.
What is the most remarkable thing about the story of Juventus and their return to the summit of Italian football isn’t just how quickly the turn around was or how many trophies they won but the attitude of the players who rebuilt the team.
If it wasn’t for the likes of Buffon, Nedvěd, Del Piero and Trezeguet staying on during that season in Serie B things could have looked very different and it may have taken then more than one attempt to climb out of the division.
Even when returning to Serie A, being able to attract players such as Zdeněk Grygera, Portuguese midfielder Tiago Mendes and Sergio Almirón to the club is a credit to their legacy and what they wanted to achieve in getting back into the top league.
Now, more than a decade on from Calciopoli, Juventus are back on top and certainly don’t look to be loosening their grip on Serie A anytime soon.