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Juventus gearing up for derby but looking to future after ‘year zero’ for the storied team

MILAN (AP) — There are still seven rounds remaining in the Serie A season but Juventus is already looking to the future after what club owner John Elkann termed “year zero” for the storied Italian team.

Juventus was once again mired in scandal last season after inquiries into false accounting and irregular reporting of salary payments. That led to the entire board resigning and Juventus being docked 10 points. It was also removed by UEFA from European competition for this campaign.

There were further problems at the start of this season with Paul Pogba testing positive for testosterone and subsequently being banned for four years in February. Fellow midfielder Nicolò Fagioli was suspended for seven months in October for betting violations.

Elkann, who is the chief executive of Juventus’ holding company Exor, wrote in a letter to shareholders that 2023 “represented a year of transition.”

Under its new board of directors chaired by Gianluca Ferrero, “attention was turned to resolving the issues which it was facing with the Sports Justice, both in Italy and in Europe,” Elkann continued in Thursday’s letter.

“The 2023/24 season is therefore the ‘Year Zero,’ in which the club is laying the foundations for its return, both on and off the pitch.”

There are clear signs Juventus is indeed returning on the pitch.

Little was expected of Massimiliano Allegri’s team this season following last year’s turmoil but it was the last remaining challenger to Inter Milan for the Serie A title before a drop in form allowed the Nerazzurri to storm out of sight.

A terrible run of just one win in nine league matches saw Juventus fall to third, 20 points behind Inter but still in line for a Champions League spot.

It was even at risk of dropping further last week before a 1-0 win over Fiorentina saw it inch four points clear of fourth-placed Bologna, which was held to a goalless draw by Frosinone.

That was Juve’s second straight win without conceding a goal following a 2-0 victory over Lazio in the first leg of their Italian Cup semifinal.

Another positive result at Torino in Saturday’s derby would keep Juventus firmly on track to get back among Europe’s elite.

“The team aims to return to the Champions League and has already confirmed its presence at the expanded FIFA Club World Cup in the summer of 2025,” Elkann continued.

“With a greater focus on the young talents of its Next Gen (who have proven their worth this year), Juventus aims to build a sustainable cost structure in line with the new UEFA regulations.”

The current Juventus team is a far cry from previous squads that were packed full of stars and dominated Italian soccer — winning nine straight Serie A titles between 2012 and 2020 and reaching two Champions League finals.

Devoid of big names, and with financial constraints, Juventus has turned to youth — with Turkish teenager Kenan Yıldız and the 20-year-old Samuel Iling-Junior two of the players who have impressed after being promoted from the Under-23 team (Juventus Next Gen.)

Elkann says Juve’s recovery and resilience this year is the epitome of the club’s motto ‘fino alla fine’ (‘right until the end’).

He wrote: “If you know our fans, our players and our spirit, the phrase ‘fino alle fine’ won’t sound new to you. It embodies the club’s determination to continue fighting and overcome adversity.”


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