"The new players haven't understood what it means to wear this shirt, while the older players have forgotten." That was Juventus legend Pavel Nedved's frank assessment last week of the club's current decline.
Having rid themselves of Luigi Del Neri who failed spectacularly to take the club back into the Champions League (they ended the season 7th, meaning no European soccer next season), Juve on Tuesday turned to Antonio Conte, one of the mainstays of Marcello Lippi's dominant Bianconeri team of the 1990s and 2000s.
The last time Juve appointed one of their former players, he was fired before completing a full season after a surprise first round Champions League elimination and a series of poor results in Serie A. That man was Ciro Ferrara, winner of no fewer than six scudetti during his playing days at the club.
Conte has sought guarantees from the Juve hierarchy and he is expected to have money to spend as he seeks to strengthen a squad woefully short on quality in certain areas. He also needs time. Ferrara and Del Neri undoubtedly made mistakes, but they will argue that they were not given the chance to prove themselves before being shown the door.
Conte captained Juve in two of the five seasons that he won the title with the club. He was known for a never-say-die spirit and the club will hope that he can infuse the squad with that same mentality that Nedved says is missing.
Having led Bari and Siena to promotion from Serie B in 2009 and 2011 respectively, he has garnered important experience, but succeeding with a Serie A team, and one with Juve's illustrious pedigree, is a different ball game.
Conte will undoubtedly look to strengthen the attack, where Alessandro Del Piero, Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella were top scorers last season with a measly nine goals. An interesting summer recruitment drive lies ahead.
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