When an architect designs a building, the majority of the work is done behind closed doors. The public do not get to see the hours of graft put into the planning, the drawing and the thought process behind the structure and purpose of the building. When the building is being built, it is the building company who are seen to build the structure up from nothing, it’s their name plastered over the building site for months.
Then, when the structure is finished, and is able to be enjoyed by its visitors or inhabitants, the architect only gets validation from afar, as he sees people enjoy his work. In fact, most people don’t even bother to think about the background work of the actual building.
Giuseppe Marotta is Juventus’ architect. He has seldom received mainstream praise for his work in helping Juventus turn themselves from ‘struggling has-beens’ into perennial Scudetto winners and a club who are now into their second Champions League final in three years. Antonio Conte, at first, received the praise for the turnaround in Turin, then, Massimiliano Allegri received praised for taking Juventus to the next level (Europe).
It’s not just in every day jobs where the people behind the scenes don’t get the credit they deserve. Through both Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri’s time in Turin there has been one constant behind closed doors – Giuseppe Marotta, Juventus’ CEO and Andrea Agnelli’s right hand man.
The Varese native made his name through his time at Sampdoria as their CEO, where he guided them to a Champions League place in 2010, before being courted by Juventus. His first years of transfers in 2010 wouldn’t be much of a sneak peek as to how important Marotta would become to Juve’s success. The 60 year old brought in the likes of Milos Krasic, Alberto Aquilani, Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri. Hardly an all-star cast.
However, his second summer (2011) did not disappoint, this summer lay the foundations for Antonio Conte’s all conquering team and the revival of the Bianconeri. Marotta seems to have an unwavering ability to tap into player’s sentimental side. When Andrea Pirlo was refused a long term contract at Milan during the 2010/11 season, Marotta promised him just what he wanted, a long term contract and the added bonus of making Milan rue ever letting him go.
When Pirlo jetted off to The Big Apple in 2015, his odes and goodbyes were initiated by Juventini rather than Milanisti. Four Scudetti in a row hardly indicates that Pirlo made the wrong decision in 2011. The former Milan man was the crown jewel of that summer, along with Arturo Vidal and Stephan Lichsteiner, who became cornerstones in Conte’s Juventus side.
The crown jewel of Marotta’s tenure at the J Stadium has to be the acquisition of Paul Pogba. Much like in the Pirlo situation, Marotta was able to capitalise on a player’s emotions. The story of Pogba’s departure from Old Trafford has been rinsed in the past eight months, but I’ll still give a run through.
Juventus’ puppet master capitalised on Pogba’s discontent at Old Trafford, the primary cause being the Frenchman wasn’t receiving the playing time, he, and his agent (Mino Raiola) believed he deserved. Pogba chased first team football and within four seasons, he became the most expensive player in the world when he arrived for free.
Marotta argued it had become ‘impossible’ to keep Pogba’, with the midfielder increasingly pushing for a move throughout the summer as he ‘itched to return home’. To chalk the whole saga up as a loss for Marotta would be absurd, mainly because of one simple rule: Marotta rarely loses. Or at least, he seldom has up until this point.
The Pogba money was reinvested in Gonzalo Higuain, snagged from Serie A rivals Napoli. It’s not often a top level striker in their prime is available. There’s much debate about whether Higuain can justify his price tag (Hey, I wrote about that last week), but here’s what we know so far – Higuain has helped Juventus reach the final of the Coppa Italia, come within touching distance of their sixth Scudetto and has fired them into the Champions League final.
Doesn’t sound like much of a loss, does it?
The summer of 2015 posed arguably Marotta’s greatest challenge yet – retooling an already incredible successful Juventus side. Massimiliano Allegri’s first season in charge had Juventus one game away from an immortal treble – they lost the Champions League final in Berlin, 3-1. The season had been impressive, considering Conte’s Bianconeri had only made it past the Champions League group stages once during his tenure.
Pat Riley once said ‘a winner never stops finding ways to win’, Giuseppe Marotta is the epitome of that. Juventus had dominated (and still continue to dominate) Serie A up until that point, Europe had still yet to be conquered. The summer of 2015 would be dedicated to getting over the hump.
The summer following the defeat in Berlin didn’t exactly exactly scream ‘domination’, there were question marks over almost all of Juve’s signings.
Sami Khedira signed on a free, but had only started 15 games in his last two seasons at Real, Marotta may have secured him on a free, but they were concerns over whether Khedira could even make it onto the field. The luxury of being an exceptionally well run club is you can take risks like this. Juve believed their medical team could get the best out of Khedira and now the German is about to play 30 league games for the first time in his career. More importantly, he’s become invaluable to this final bound side.
The 2015 summer transfer window epitomised Juventus since the start of the decade. They do everything pretty much better than everyone around them. They always seem to get to the up-and-coming stars just as they’re bursting onto the scene, before any other big club gets to them.
Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro are arguably the poster boys of this. Other big clubs had doubts when it came to spending big money on these two players. Two years later they’re probably worth around €140m. Even if Juventus were to sell them (although the club is most definitely at the point where they don’t need to sell), there’s so much confidence in Marotta’s abilities he’d most likely upgrade on them.
The Juventus of now
The Juventus that will march onto the field against (most likely) Real Madrid is not the same one that did so against Barcelona in 2015. The former side had some very visible limitations, most notably on the offensive side of the ball. This isn’t the case with the Juventus side that will go into the 2017 final.
The upgrade of Dani Alves on Stephan Lichtsteiner has brought a new offensive dynamic to Juventus. The same can be said on the left handside, with Alex Sandro replacing Kwadwo Asamoah. Both Brazilians are able to dominate the wings on both sides of the ball, but they’ve upgraded Juventus’ attack to the point of fear. Which you couldn’t say for Asamoah and Lichtsteiner.
Paolo Dybala often plays a #10/striker hybrid role, but if you compare him and his compatriot Higuain to the duo of Alvaro Morata and Carlos Tevez from two years ago, there’s little comparison to be made. The Argentines pose a far more vicious and clinical threat, as illustrated in the first legs against Barcelona and Monaco.
I believe Giuseppe Marotta recognised the limitations of the previous Juventus squad. It’s not that this Juventus squad isn’t defensively minded, because it is. As long as Buffon and BBC are still the best defensive unit in football, Juventus will be defensively minded. However, Juventus now boast the ability to control games at their own tempo but also counter attack with far more efficiently when they’re not controlling the tempo.
With this side’s new offensive outlook, it feels like there is more security. It’s as if Juventus have more of a say in how the game turns out, as they’re able to go head-to-head with almost any side in Europe. The reliance on the defense isn’t as big as in previous Juve sides.
The credit, for the most part, has to go to Giuseppe Marotta. I’m more than sure Conte and Allegri have had their say on transfers in the past, but when it comes down to it, Marotta is the mastermind. The transformation this side have undergone in two years is rather incredible. We’ll see if it’s validated come June 3rd.
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