He’s had some debut season in Italy and Cristiano Ronaldo has once again proved why he is the ‘Greatest of All-Time’, helping Juventus to a record eighth-successive title and in the process, becoming the first player ever to win the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A.
Despite Juve’s catastrophic exit in the quarter-finals of the Champions League to the season’s surprise package in Ajax, and their shock defeat in the Coppa Italia to Atalanta, it’s been a successful season for the giants of Turin.
Up until mid-March, La Vecchia Signora were unbeaten in the league, and with only two rounds of fixtures remaining, the reigning Serie A champions have lost just three league games (against Genoa, SPAL and Roma). The next clubs with the fewest games lost are Napoli (second) and Torino (seventh) with six. Astonishingly, Juve have drawn just five games, again the lowest figure in Serie A.
So, is Juve’s success down to the Ronaldo effect? Let’s take a look at his contributions and other deciding factors.
A stellar debut season
Prior to his arrival at the Allianz Stadium, Ronaldo had amassed 658 goals in 915 appearances and had won pretty much every competition going. Juve may have forked out over €100 million for his services, but there’s no doubt that there were great expectations on the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s shoulders.
His record in Spain spoke for itself – he left the Santiago Bernabéu with 450 goals to his name, making him their highest-scoring player of all-time (some way ahead of second-placed Raúl with 325) and also four Champions League winners medals (adding to one he won while at Manchester United), again the highest amassed by any player.
This season, he has contributed with 21 goals and 11 assists in 30 appearances in the league so far, as well as six in nine Champions League starts. He also scored the game’s only goal as Juve beat AC Milan to the Supercoppa title. He may not be the division’s top-scorer – that accolade currently goes to Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella – but there’s still time for Ronaldo to add to his tally. Failing that, as he recently said himself: “there’s always next year”.
Although, he was present in both of Juve’s Champions League quarter-final ties against Ajax, as well as their surprise exit in the Coppa Italia; interestingly, Ronaldo played no part in two of the three league losses. The first, a 2-0 loss to Genoa on March 17 was followed a month later by a second defeat on April 13 and the 2-1 loss to SPAL saw them unable to wrap up the scudetto with a record six games remaining.
It’s easy to say that those games could have been won if Ronaldo had played, but credit for Juve’s success this year also has to go to other areas of the pitch, notably at the back.
A solid defence
As strong as their strike-force has been, Juve’s defence has also been deadly and has seen them concede just 27 goals all season, the fewest in the division. The unstoppable pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at centre back proves the theory that football is built from the back.
There’s little doubt that the former is pleased to be back at the Allianz Stadium after his torrid time at AC Milan just last season. Chiellini meanwhile has been a part of the squad for all of Juve’s eight successive title wins and was also a member of the 2005-06 squad that were stripped of their title and demoted to Serie B, following the Calciopoli scandal. Still both in contract and at the ages of 32 and 34, respectively, the pair surely have a few more years together yet.
Another player to have enjoyed their season is goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny, who had large boots to fill when legend Gianluigi Buffon left for Paris Saint-Germain at the end of last season. Having fallen down the pecking order at Arsenal, for which he was partly-responsible, the Polish goalkeeper enjoyed two season-long spells in Italy at Roma and decided to stay in Italy when signing for Juve in July 2017.
Following Buffon’s exit, Szczęsny got the number 1 shirt and in the starting line-up more regularly. This season in the league, he has made 27 appearances and kept 11 clean sheets, conceding just 19 goals. Like Ronaldo, Szczęsny didn’t play in either the Genoa or SPAL games.
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