La vita è bella for Juventus at the moment. Beautiful, that is, if you’re looking at life solely in the context of being the best team in Turin. Should you be peering through that poxy prism, Juve are absolutely banging it, sitting proudly in eighth spot in Serie A, a whole two places and five points ahead of their city neighbours Torino. Additionally, while Il Toro’s rampant-bull badge has a certain classic-car charm, the Fiver much prefers the sleek seventies sass of Juve’s modernist J. So the Bianconeri have it all sewn up, two in the hole, whichever way you look at it. Providing that way is through the special prism.
However, ditch the light-refracting polyhedron o’ Piedmont positivity, and they don’t appear to be in such good shape. Refocus on that badge, squint a little, and suddenly it looks less a stylised J and more a pipe leading towards a U-bend. Oh no, logo! And sure enough, last night, Juve were literally flushed out of Big Pan Cup, having been flatteringly thrashed 4-3 by Benfica, whose forward line put on a display that combined exhilaration, verve, skill and rank chance-spurning ineptitude in such a way that the entire concept of Darwin Núñez suddenly made perfect sense.
“I don’t consider this a failure,” insisted under-fire coach Max Allegri post-fiasco, presumably on the grounds that it’s better to fall to pieces when comparatively out of sight, rather than in the latter stages as Juve are usually wont to do. Juve’s failure to reach the knockout stage of Big Cup for the first time since 2013-14 will sting pride, not least because even the sides clogged up by a superannuated Cristiano Ronaldo managed to make it through the groups before embarrassing themselves. Throw in Juve’s risible domestic campaign and you’d think things couldn’t get much worse. But they can, they surely can.
As reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday, the Turin prosecutor has concluded its initial investigation into allegations of false accounting and market manipulation. The club president Andrea Agnelli, vice-president Pavel Nedved and CEO Maurizio Arrivabene could all face trial over the allegations, which cover player contracts, transfers and agent dealings between 2018 and 2020. The club and everyone involved strongly deny the claims, with a statement saying Juve “operated according to the laws and rules that govern financial relations” and complied with the “customs of the football industry.”
Juve announced in March 2020 that players and staff would waive four months’ wages due to the restrictions of the belt-tightening Covid era. Prosecutors have been looking into whether these payments were actually sacrificed, or simply deferred – with La Gazzetta reporting that documents show the club promising the aforementioned CR7 €20m (£17m).
In a new statement on Tuesday, Juve said: “salary reductions agreed in March 2020 would have been negotiated once competitions resumed and stadiums were reopened.” But this is a story that could have legs, just like poor old Ron once did. Worth keeping an eye on, then … though the prism o’ positivity might not be so much use to Juve and their fans in this particular instance.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Big Cup week continues! Join Scott Murray for Ajax 1-2 Liverpool, while Luke McLaughlin will cover Tottenham 2-0 Sporting and plenty more in our clockwatch. And you can join Sarah Rendell for updates from Chelsea 4-0 Vllaznia in Women’s Big Cup; all games kick off at 8pm, BST.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“He’s very passionate and presented to the group really well. I think he got a lot from us as well, he spoke very highly about the experience. It’s really important to get other people in. We’ve had some important chats with Stuart. He’s a very humble man” – the England rugby league coach, Shaun Wane, after his team were given a World Cup pep talk from none other than Stuart Pearce.
Football Weekly is here! The podders talk about Chelsea’s Big Cup progress, City’s penalty blues, Paul Mullin’s boots and a shocker of a miss. Listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts.
“Take a bow, David Squires. Magnificent, memorable, moving” – Mark McFadden.
“Re: Ed Taylor’s letter (Tuesday’s Fiver). Unfortunately the magnificent bridges of Teeside aren’t the draw for football managers, or anyone else, that they once were. The Tees-Newport bridge hasn’t been raised since 1990 and the Transporter Bridge is closed as no one can afford to repair it. I’ll leave it to others to decide if there is a metaphor there for the football club” – John Lawton (and 1,056 others).
“Having lured away Graham Potter and six other coaches, Chelsea are now returning to Brighton to poach head of recruitment Paul Winstanley. There is a rumour there will soon be a further raid to seek the services of team coach driver Alan Jenkins and Jo Smithson, head of sales for Piglet’s Pies. It has come to the point that Brighton fans are expecting representatives from Chelsea to show up at the Amex offering free season tickets, paid travel to Stamford Bridge and a round of golf with Clive Walker” – Tony Crawford.
“I couldn’t help noticing that the new Tory chief whip, Simon Hart, [at time of writing – Fiver Politics Ed] bears an uncanny resemblance to Brian Clough. I can’t think of anything witty or clever to say about that, but didn’t think that was necessary for this column” – Jonathan Carver.
Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … John Lawton, who wins a copy of Inside Qatar by John McManus. We have more to give away this week, so get scribbling.