From Cristiano Ronaldo’s mentality to Leonardo Bonucci’s return and lack of other contenders, why Juventus can finally win the Champions League
- Juventus beat Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday night
- They have not won the Champions League since 1996, but seem like contenders
- Sportsmail has taken a look at the myriad reasons why they can win the trophy
So near and yet so far may as well have been the Juventus club motto over the last four seasons. They have been in the Champions League final twice, losing both times.
But after their win against Manchester United, they have understandably been mooted as one of the top contenders for the crown this campaign. They made a win at Old Trafford seem routine.
Sportsmail has taken a look at why Juventus, who have still not lost in any competition this season, can potentially be the champions of Europe for the first time since 1996.
Juventus celebrate at the end of their victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford
Ronaldo on the pitch and his winning mentality
There are few players who turn it on as much as Cristiano Ronaldo does when the Champions League anthem plays. This is a competition in which he thrived, best evidenced by the three consecutive European Cups over the last three seasons and his five winners medals.
Juventus have had a lot over the last few seasons, but they have not necessarily had that ruthless drive to win that Ronaldo brings.
While others — Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale, in particular — can be credited as key to victories in Real’s finals, they would likely have never got to that point if it were not for Ronaldo dragging them through the group and knockout stages to the grand stage.
That will already be filtering its way through the dressing room. As Andrea Barzagli put it earlier this season: ‘To win a Champions League is very difficult but we now have Ronaldo, who knows how to win finals.’
Cristiano Ronaldo may not have defined finals at Real Madrid but he did play a key role
Other players at Juventus have already highlighted how important the forward can be to them
The development of Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybala
In Turin, Miralem Pjanic is known as Il Pianista – the pianist. At the least, whenever he plays it is beautiful.
Along with Paulo Dybala, he has grown over the last few seasons to reach the point where he is comfortably one of the best players in his position in Europe. Pjanic is the man who knits everything together in the middle of the park, allowing the individuals to thrive.
The reality is that at the age of 28, he is reaching the peak of his career.
Dybala is younger, at 24, but he is no longer just a prospect. The Argentinian, as evidenced by his goal against Manchester United, is the real deal. He adds spark to Juventus going forward and can change the game in an instant. There are no more issues over consistency like in his earlier days.
Miralem Pjanic is one of Juventus’ players who is reaching the right age for a European tilt
Having players who are beyond a development project is key to capturing the Champions League. Real have consistently won it with one of the more experienced sides in Europe.
Dybala hinted at it on Tuesday night: ‘In recent years, we have gained self-confidence. We know what we can do and the reasons why we did not win before.’
Young players are good but it helps to have players who are already stars when they are kicking a ball adorned with one.
Paulo Dybala, who scored against Manchester United, believes Juventus are more confident
The return of Leonardo Bonucci
Last season was a disappointment for Juventus in Europe. They went out against Real in dramatic fashion, a moment of madness handing Ronaldo a penalty and a route into the semi-final.
Would they have had the same last minute panic if Leonardo Bonucci had been in the box defending the cross?
The Italian defender’s brief sojourn to AC Milan was a bitter blow for Juve, although they might not have admitted it at the time. He is still in the elite category for defenders, and has a brilliant understanding with Giorgio Chiellini.
Leonardo Bonucci returned from a brief stint at AC Milan, who he joined for just one season
His return, after making up with Massimiliano Allegri, was nothing short of a huge boost for the holders of the Scudetto.
They are now, again, one of the most organised sides on the continent.
Start with that platform and add in their sprinkles of stardust and it is easy to see why they could take old big ears at the end of the season.
He is still among Europe’s best defenders and helps Juventus out massively at the back
Everyone else is under-cooked
The biggest positive for Juventus is the extent to which every other major contender seems below par.
Barcelona have lost the least but are still not in dynamic form. Real Madrid are already looking to sack manager Julen Lopetegui after a woeful start.
Elsewhere, Liverpool need Mohamed Salah to pick up his form to match last season. PSG are still a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Bayern Munich have not started well under Niko Kovac. Manchester United are 10th in the English top flight, nevermind European form.
It is hard to pinpoint a team who should be a real threat to the Old Lady. The season is long, but this could be their time.
Many of the usual contenders for the Champions League, like Real Madrid, are struggling
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