Poetic justice sees Juventus eliminated after Andrea Agnelli turns back on football logic

The Old Lady’s grand plan behind acquiring Cristiano Ronaldo to win European football’s greatest prize has failed spectacularly after their latest exit at the hands of Porto

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Wednesday 10 March 2021 08:09 GMT
<p>Cristiano Ronaldo looks dejected after Juventus suffer elimination in the Champions League</p>

Cristiano Ronaldo looks dejected after Juventus suffer elimination in the Champions League

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If Andrea Agnelli wants to re-order European football to ensure his club don’t lose so much, he should perhaps start with what the game and his job are supposed to be about: building a proper team in the first place.

Juventus are instead a dysfunctional and bloated mess, that fell out of the Champions League in one of those glorious pieces of poetic justice that sport offers up. For all Agnelli’s self-serving suggestions, his team - and his big star - couldn’t save themselves.

Juventus fell to their many problems as much as they fell to a brilliant Porto.

The Italian champions have very quickly gone from one of the best run clubs in Europe to one of the worst examples of legacy entitlement, incapable of delivering the Champions League so desperate to change it.

Agnelli has probably just been the foghorn for other figures clever enough to not make such claims so publicly, but that will just make the schadenfreude from this elimination as keenly felt as the celebrations.

READ MORE: Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli proposes subscriptions for last 15 minutes of matches

The Juventus president has put out some dreadful ideas of late - among them the suggestion Champions League clubs shouldn’t buy off each other - but it’s possible that one of his worst was buying Cristiano Ronaldo.

The signing has backfired spectacularly. His contribution to Porto’s final fateful goal encapsulated this and offered such fitting symbolism, as he turned his back on Sergio Oliveira’s free-kick to let it go through his leg.

It capped Juve turning their back on football logic. That’s what the basic rationale behind the signing represented.

Weston McKennie looks dejected after being eliminated by Porto

It was almost as if the thinking was that Juve were just short of winning the competition, so signed its most frequent champion to push them over the line. It has just seen them fall further and further back, getting eliminated earlier and earlier, to financially poorer sides.

Ronaldo’s time at Juventus has seen them go out to Ajax, Lyon and Porto - either second-tier teams or teams from second-tier leagues. So much for Agnelli’s idea of the elite.

This is not to diminish Ronaldo’s obvious greatness.

The first problem is that, at this point in his career, he requires a very specific way of playing. It means relatively constrained football, that runs counter to the fluency that has come to dominate the top level.

The second problem, however, is that it is precisely this type of identity that Juventus are now intent on introducing.

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Hence such a disconnect in so much of their play, from failing to pass it out of the back properly, to doing little more than then trying to launch it into the box.

The marquee signing and dominant player is just ill-suited to their intended ideology for the whole club.

Add that to Agnelli’s questionable level of thinking for the Champions League. Who is it in the European Club Association that considers this kind of rationale worthy of influencing the most important decisions for the future of the continental game?

It is why it is simultaneously possible to have some sympathy for Andrea Pirlo, even if his very appointment represents another bizarre decision.

The Italian legend is not just adapting to simply being a coach. He is adapting to a situation where he has been tasked with overseeing the transition to a new style of football, but isn’t actually afforded all the conditions for it. The presence of a figure like Ronaldo will ultimately make it impossible.

The Portuguese just requires such a specific way of playing, that his profile will demand.

Porto celebrate their second goal in extra-time

The irony is that Juventus have bought a good group of young players that will be good for this system. Federico Chiesa, Weston McKennie and Dejan Kulusevski even illustrated this during this defeat to Porto.

It is one of many contradictions and complications to Juventus, to go with that inconvenient truth that Italy’s greatest winners have actually been the Champions League’s greatest losers. No one has lost more finals. They still have the same number of European Cups, at two, as Porto - a club that Agnelli and cohorts would prefer to squeeze out.

They had no such luck here, but this was about so much more than fortune.

It was about how you run a team.

It was another reason why this figure’s ideas for running European football should not be given more credence.

Sure, some of them may actually be subtle attempts to shift negotiation positions.

This very elimination, however, was an illustration of how faulty the foundation of those positions is.

No club, regardless of size or history, should be guaranteed games in this greatest of competitions. It should be about earning it.

That was what Porto, not Juventus, managed here.

Agnelli should look into why that was rather than any grander ideas for the European game.

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