There’s nothing more inevitable than when Juventus lock eyes on their next transfer target.
The Old Lady flutters her eyelashes, dishes out the not-so-innocent compliments, and then in the blink of an eye, sinks her teeth into her prey and waits for them to fall in line.
Every club in Italy has suffered at her hands. AS Roma fans lost Miralem Pjanic, Inter missed out on Joao Cancelo, and the maestro Andrea Pirlo waltzed from Milan to Turin to become one of their most important players in recent history.
Juve always get their man, that’s just how it is. So, the fact that Gianluigi Donnarumma is not standing between the posts in front of a black and white defence is quite simply, baffling.
The Bianconeri never pass up the opportunity to land a free transfer, and when the Milan shot-stopper made it clear he had no intention of extending his contract at San Siro, only one outcome felt appropriate.
He was going to make the treacherous move and join the dark side.
Although talks were held between Donnarumma and Juve, somehow he did not end up in Turin. Instead, he left Italy and headed to France, where he is now second choice – and at best, a rotation option – for Paris Saint-Germain.
Juve were probably unable to match the money on the table from the Parisians, but that’s never stopped them from landing their man in the past. Perhaps Donnarumma wasn’t convinced by the Italian giants’ ambitions, and judging by the state of their squad, that’s understandable.
Or maybe the Old Lady didn’t bat those long eyelashes hard enough, or even the return of Massimiliano Allegri made Donnarumma question whether teacher’s pet Wojciech Szczesny would really be sold.
Whatever happened, Juve have entered the new season with the Polish goalkeeper between the sticks, and it has been an absolute, undeniable disaster. The former Arsenal star was entirely to blame for the opening day draw with Udinese, giving away a penalty and getting robbed in possession to concede two second half goals.
He was far from convincing in the shock 1-0 defeat to Empoli, although it’d be harsh to lay the blame at his feet, given the standard of performance all over the pitch. But Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Napoli had a Szczesny disaster-class written all over it.
Juve had been gifted the lead through a catastrophic defensive error at the other end, but not to be outdone, Szczesny allowed the Partenopei back into the game with some extremely sluggish goalkeeping.
The 31-year-old took an absolute age to get across to Lorenzo Insigne’s very predictable curling shot, which was limping towards the far side of the goal. Szczesny somehow made the shot look like one of Roberto Carlos’ classic free kicks on the old Pro Evolution Soccer video game, diving slowly and palming the ball directly at his own feet.
Matteo Politano was alert to the potential mistake, reading Szczesny’s error quicker than the defending Adrien Rabiot, and he nipped in to poke the ball into the net.
He was then indecisive in the 85th minute, allowing a corner to travel far too close to the goal, forcing Moise Kean to head the ball in the wrong direction. Szczesny did well to claw the near-own goal away, but the damage was already done.
Kalidou Koulibaly tapped the ball over the line, and Napoli’s comeback was complete. For Juve, it was their third game of the season, and their third without a win. One point from a possible nine, and absolutely nothing to cheer.
Add to that the clean sheet Donnarumma enjoyed in PSG’s 4-0 drubbing of Clermont Foot, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace for Manchester United, and it was about as miserable a weekend as they come for Juventus fans.
The start made to the season was not expected when Allegri’s return was confirmed, but Szczesny’s presence between the sticks shows that the problem is not in the dugout. This squad has been allowed to rot for years, while the club have missed out on transfers that they used to tie up in a matter of days.
This Old Lady has aged horribly in the two years without Allegri at the wheel, so much so that she’s almost beyond recognition – and in danger of total crisis.