Man United and Liverpool should take note of Juve's clever transfer policy
Juve confirmed re-emergence as a major Champions League player with victory against Real Madrid after smart investments in their squad
They were the defining club of the first decade of the Champions League, with the cigar-smoking coach Marcelo Lippi combining the cool demeanour of Pep Guardiola with the iron will of Jose Mourinho.
Lippi and Juventus became Champions League royalty, with three appearances in the final in the 1990s resulting in just one success which barely reflected their dominance.
For Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, Juve were the benchmark and it was not until Roy Keane’s career-defining performance in Turin in April 1999, which inspired Ferguson’s team to the final against Bayern Munich in Barcelona, that United finally delivered a knock-out blow on the Italians following years of trying.
Sixteen years on, Juve’s stirring 2-1 victory against Real Madrid at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday evoked memories of the Old Lady’s reign as undisputed rulers of Europe.
Massimiliano Allegri’s team are nowhere near scaling the heights of a Lippi team including the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Alessandro del Piero, Alen Boksic, Didier Deschamps and Ciro Ferrera, but the performance against Real was Juve’s return to the top table and their renaissance should offer comfort and joy to those attempting to spark similar returns to glory at United and Liverpool.
The Champions League has missed Juventus slugging it out with their fellow superpowers in the final stages of the competition.
The images on the walls of the Juventus Stadium, of Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio, Gaetano Scirea, Paolo Rossi and John Charles, tell the story of the club’s great history and it is the same story at Old Trafford and Anfield.
But only one of United or Liverpool will play in the Champions League and, whichever wins the race for fourth, they will do so as pale shadows of their predecessors.
Both clubs have conquered Europe on numerous occasions, but neither has been on an upward curve in the Champions League since their most recent successes in the mid-2000s.
Yet Juventus have endured one of the darkest periods of their history since suffering a penalty shoot-out defeat against AC Milan in the 2003 Final at Old Trafford and are now only just beginning to rediscover their swagger in Europe, having enjoyed domestic dominance with four successive Serie A titles.
Juventus are finally over the 2006 Calciopoli scandal, which saw them stripped of two domestic titles and relegated to Serie B, but a club of their stature needs to be battling for the major trophies in Europe before regarding itself as being back where it belongs.
The same applies to United and Liverpool, but Juve’s success this season has given both a route map back to the top.
The key lies in recruitment and Juve have returned to prominence with smart investments in their squad, at both ends of the age scale.
United and Liverpool have both squandered fortunes on mediocre players in recent seasons, while Juventus have expertly scoured the market for youthful promise and experience.
They have brought in Andrea Pirlo, a free transfer from AC Milan, taken Arturo Vidal from Bayer Leverkusen and, much to United’s anguish, given Paul Pogba the opportunity to realise his potential away from Old Trafford.
Juve have also revived the career of Carlos Tevez, who was outstanding against Real, and taken advantage of Patrice Evra’s experience by luring him from United last summer.
And their ability to spot a bargain was borne out by Alvaro Morata’s goalscoring performance against his former club Real on Tuesday.
Juve, of course, benefit from being the biggest, most successful and best supported club in Italy.
Their move to the purpose-built Juventus Stadium, which only holds 42,000, has also propelled them ahead of the rest, with the modern arena enabling the club to capitalise on their commercial power while the giants of Milan struggle on the pitch and off it at the San Siro.
Juve’s off-field success is an example to Liverpool, with a small stadium punching above its weight commercially and providing the raucous backing for the team.
Where United and Liverpool go from here is largely up to them, because the biggest and most historic clubs are rarely down for long.
Juve have bounced back, against long odds, and their blueprint is one that United and Liverpool would be wise to flick through.