For almost three years Cristiano Ronaldo was hailed as the providential figure that would propel Italian football towards its economic and sporting renaissance. Since Tuesday night, with Juventus eliminated without passing the quarterfinals for the third year in a row, the same machinery that promoted him has turned against him. Even Andrea Pirlo, his coach, was stirred in the fire when he subtly expressed the rupture that follows irreparable disappointments: “Normally, playing with Cristiano means jumping onto the field with 1-0 in favor. It's a shame that a champion like him couldn't qualify us for the next round. ”
“ We have made four mistakes in two games, and that's too many, ”Pirlo concluded. “Normal for things to go the way we are.”
Pirlo posted an error for every Porto goal in the 4-4 aggregate round trip. The reading is as simplistic as it is effective to exempt the coach and point out the responsibility of the players. Nor is it by chance that in line with this version the Italian press pointed to Cristiano as the first culprit of the elimination for having jumped, breaking the barrier, at the moment when Sérgio Oliveira launched his low free kick, because of the 4-3 that he condemned Juventus in the extension time.
The crisis points to Cristiano. Until they signed the Portuguese in 2018, signing him a contract for four seasons at a total cost of 340 million euros, Juventus had preached antagonistic principles. Never give more importance to figures than to the institution, give priority to small group tasks before individual feats, never buy Ballons d'Or, but produce them. Sívori, Rossi, Platini, Baggio, Zidane and Nedved became the best players in Europe according to that Spartan procedure that subjected them to an implacable collective order. With Cristiano the team began to revolve around the figure, and this forced Allegri, Sarri, and now Pirlo, three different coaches in three successive seasons, to reformulate their schemes so that the whole game converges on the definer. Finding the recipe that would allow Juventus to jump the last step, after reaching the 2015 and 2017 finals, Fabio Paratici, the sports director, and Andrea Agnelli, the owner, justified the strategic revolution in the precedents. If Cristiano had won five Champions League goals scoring more than anyone in the history of the tournament (134), he had to repeat the procedure with Juventus. By logic, or by magic.
Statistically, Cristiano did not fail. He scored 28 goals in his first season, 37 in the second, and now has 27 in all competitions. What began to fail was the game. Juventus slowly shed its hallmarks: defensive rigor, tactical discipline, solid group spirit. Along the way, Cristiano stopped scoring in the decisive matches. In 2019 he scored three goals against Atlético in the round of 16 and two against Ajax in the quarterfinals; in 2020 he converted two to Lyon in the round of 16; and did not get any to Porto in the crossing resolved this Tuesday. In his last season with Madrid, Cristiano scored 15 goals in the Champions League. Less than his Champions League goals accumulated in the three courses he has been in Turin: 14. At 36, he has entered the period in which these figures do not usually improve.
Pirlo took care to divert attention to the star, the Monday, before receiving Porto. “These are their parties; it has always shown it. He's rested and ready, ”said the coach, aware that his predecessor, Maurizio Sarri, was dismissed 24 hours after being eliminated from the last Champions League, also in the second round, against Lyon, on August 7, 2020. PP Pirlo: "My project has just begun"
"My project has just begun", Pirlo defended himself warmly, when asked about his future after the elimination of the Champions League and when the team marches ten points behind the leader in Serie A, practically lost for the first time after nine successive titles since the 2011-12 season.
Juventus shares fell 6.5% at the market open on Wednesday. The third successive elimination from the Champions League before a semi-final represents an earthquake for the most indebted club in Italy in its quest to establish itself among the largest in Europe by winning the most prestigious trophy. The loss of more than 50 million euros of premiums at stake represents another financial setback for a company that published a drop in turnover of 137 million euros in the last semester,
Andrea Agnelli confessed on Monday within the European Association of Clubs: “The biggest headache is the control of expenses; football must change. This is the perfect time for a reform ”.
Without possible Champions, Cristiano Ronaldo has changed his condition. The most promising investment in calcium has become an insufferable expense.