WHAT LIVERPOOL CAN LEARN FROM JUVENTUS
It was in May 2006 that Juventus FC, the renowned Turin based club that had won the Serie A trophy only a few weeks ago, were stripped of their title and demoted to the Serie B, the second tier of Italian football by the Italian Football Federation (FICG). After being indicted in the now infamous Calciopoli scandal, the team, along with four other clubs in Italy were given severe sentences, which led to several players from the punished teams shifting to other clubs, a lot of them outside Italy. Juventus thus had to start a process of rebuilding the teams, almost from scratch, not to mention the fallout they had to bear after a steep decline in commercial revenue in the subsequent years.
Yet, it’s this very team that has already won its fourth successive Serie A title since 2012 and will be playing in the UEFA Champions League Final against FC Barcelona after knocking out the defending champions Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
What’s happened since 2006?
In the 2006-2007 season, while Juventus were playing to get promoted back to the top flight, Liverpool FC reached the final of the UEFA Champions League for the second time in three years. However, after only two years of its return to the Serie A, Juventus were back on track, finishing second place in the 2008/09 league. Coincidentally, that season Liverpool finished second in the Premier League as well. The story, however, has been very different for both the clubs since 2011-12 as Juventus are now fighting for titles at home and Europe, while Livepool’s primary target in the last five seasons has been to finish in the top four, so as to gain qualification for the Champions League and unfortunately, they have succeeded in achieving it only once.
If we actually compare Liverpool’s commercial revenue with that of Juventus in 2014, the Reds are ahead of the Bianconeris by almost $46 million (based on Delloite’s figures). Juventus only recently shifted to its own new 41,000 capacity Juventus Stadium, while Liverpool already has a bigger capacity at Anfield, which is set to grow even further to 59,000 in around 3 years!
So, if the figures of the two team are compared side by side, it’s apparently clear that the team earning better and having a bigger global fanbase is achieving virtually nothing, compared to the less earning and less popular team! In the recent past, we have heard several arguments about how the Premier League is much more competitive and presents a better quality of football compared to other leagues. Yet, the fact often ignored while putting this argument is that English clubs haven’t been very successful in Europe in recent seasons, with the exception of the 2011-12 season when Chelsea became the champions.
The differences in philosophy
Ambition and motivation are the qualities that the current Juventus team is richer in, compared to the current Liverpool team. The Juventus squad can be considered to be a mixture of talents with different levels of experience and skills. Yet, the combination of those talents has contributed in making a very well functioning unit which on its day can beat any team and Real Madrid’s defeat in the semi-finals of the UCL is a testament to the fact.
Surprisingly though, it’s not a very experienced coaching unit that has managed to achieve this amazing feat. Current Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri (47) succeeded another successful coach Antonio Conte (45) only last year with both relatively unheard of in the world of coaching before taking on the Juventus job. However, the success story of Juventus isn’t poised to stop anytime, despite the change in management, as they have already claimed the current Seria A title under Allegri and they are now very near to the Champions League title as well.
In particular, the focus of the team has been dynamism and fitness, on which there is absolutely no compromise. Juventus has emerged as a dynamic unit, where formations are changed based on the opposition and players are often required to perform dynamically. However, the players definitely seem to be up to the task, as is clearly seen from the results.
As of last year Juventus were still operating at a loss, which could be finally turn to profit because of this year’s performance. The team didn’t sell it’s marquee players, while continually bolstering the squad with young talents as well. It is pretty evident that if a team can continuously manage to satisfy the ambitions of the likes of Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez, it will continually be fighting for big trophies. Aside from that, the loyalty from the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, who didn’t leave the club in the dark days, have been heavily appreciated and rewarded by the management.
Comparing the new Juventus philosophy with the Reds clearly explains why Liverpool are falling behind this season. The top players weren’t fit throughout the season and there weren’t suitable replacements for them. Gerrard’s statement after the Chelsea game pointed to the fact that Liverpool were unlucky to lose Sturridge for most of the season, while top players like Suarez weren’t replaced. Then again, Liverpool’s formation has been more or less static, which have been exploited greatly by its oppositions this season.
Liverpool do have ample young talent and there are grounds to be hopeful about the future. Yet, the Sterling saga of late has clearly indicated that the current philosophy isn’t good enough in retaining the best talents at Melwood. Summarizing it all, the lack of fitness, lower ambitions and questionable degree of loyalty from a lot of players have actually put Liverpool behind, compared to the likes of top European clubs like Juventus.
Engineering the immediate and the long term fixes
Juventus’ recent rise to glory can be attributed to their careful attention towards setting achievable immediate and long term goals and following an effective management policy that addressed all the necessary issues so as to execute those visions.
After their forced demotion in 2006, the primary goal of the management was to get promoted in the Serie A by the next season, despite having their points reduced from the very start. When the goal was achieved, the next target was to be a title challenger in the Serie A which too was achieved by 2008. Yet, the team struggled again between 2009-2011, upon which the club administration didn’t hesitate in taking the bold decision of appointing a freshman to the job of the manager in the form of Conte, who was already well revered by the Juventus faithfuls during his glory days as a player. His dynamic approach to management did wonders for the team and the same philosophy is currently at work under Allegri.
The club’s present owners, the Agnelli family, also seem to be fully behind the club management and they certainly haven’t shied away from making those big investments when necessary, such as the acquisition of Carlos Tevez and the building of the new stadium. Currently the young heir of the Agnelli family, Andrea Agnelli (39) is serving as the chairman of the club and because of the recent success, fans have been highly appreciative of the Fiat heir.
Liverpool’s time to introspect
Liverpool certainly aren’t at their worst when we compare their current situation with that around the Hick-Gillett and Hodgson era. The Reds are genuinely fighting for titles and playing good football in the past few years. Yet, the current philosophy also isn’t delivering concrete results and the fans are lately getting more critical of the current regime. Perhaps its time that the club learnt from Juventus and engineer a strategy that will see the Reds not just compete for the Champions League spot, but also win trophies. There is no doubt that the management needs to make fundamental changes in the way the club is being run.
The current Liverpool regime seems to be putting too much attention on short-term fixes, which aren’t even giving good results in a 38-match league, let alone in the European leagues. Unless genuine achievements are obtained through the application of short-term fixes, there is hardly any hope of the proper execution of the long-term fixes. So, perhaps it’s time that the management learn from the likes of Juventus or Dortmund and change their own ways and philosophy for the good of the club.