Pjanic set for injury lay-off after suffering thigh strain

Miralem Pjanic has revealed he ‘will surely miss’ Juventus’ next game after suffering a thigh strain ahead of their Champions League win over Olympiacos.

The 27-year-old was named in the starting XI by Massimilano Allegri, but Juve were forced into a late change with Rodrigo Bentancur coming in to partner Blaise Matuidi in midfield.

Gonzalo Higuain came off the bench to score and Mario Mandzukic added a second as Juventus recorded a hard-fought win. Pjanic underwent initial medical checks to assess the severity of his thigh injury, but faces further tests to find out how long he will be sidelined for.

“I could feel better honestly but I am happy because of Juventus’ win yesterday”, Pjanic told reporters after the game.

“We’ll see how I feel next week, I hope I’ll recover quickly but I don’t know the recovery time. Doctors have not given me any concrete news so I will surely miss the next game, than I don’t know.

“My teammates played very well against Olympiacos. They [Olympiacos] were very well organised and tried to hurt us with counter-attacks. We managed to win thanks to Higuain. Everyone celebrated with him because we know how important for us he is.”

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Pjanic set to miss a month and World Cup qualifiers with thigh injury

Juventus star Miralem Pjanic has been ruled out of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers due to a thigh injury as he prepares for a month-long stint on the sidelines.

A torn muscle will force midfielder Pjanic to miss fixtures against Belgium and Estonia, the Football Association of Bosnia-Herzegovina announced.

Juventus 5/1 to win CL Group D

Pjanic sustained the injury in the warm-up before Juve’s 2-0 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League on Wednesday.

“We spoke to the Juventus doctor. Pjanic has a 2cm muscle tear above his knee and will have to rest for 3-4 weeks,” said Bosnian doctor Reuf Karabeg.

With 75 international caps to his name, Pjanic added: “I am sorry to be injured at this important moment, ahead of the Belgium match.

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“I will support Bosnia with all my heart and hope this situation can be another motive for my Bosnian team-mates.”

Bosnia host Group H leaders Belgium – who have already qualified for the World Cup – on October 7 and travel to Estonia three days later, with their hopes of reaching Russia next year still in the balance.

Pjanic and his team-mates are second in the table but cannot qualify directly, though they can still book their spot in the showpiece tournament via the play-offs.

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Juventus 4 Torino 0: Dybala stars again in rampant derby victory

Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic starred for Juventus as the Serie A holders cruised to a rampant Derby della Mole victory over Torino.

Paulo Dybala continued his scintillating form as his double helped Juventus thrash 10-man rivals Torino 4-0 in the first Derby della Mole of the Serie A season.

Juve’s mercurial number 10 got his first 16 minutes into Saturday’s encounter at the Allianz Stadium, guiding home the opener in typically composed fashion.

With Torino’s misery compounded by Daniele Baselli’s dismissal midway through the first half, Massimiliano Allegri’s men were soon hitting their stride – Miralem Pjanic’s exquisite strike doubling their tally prior to the interval.

Alex Sandro was the next to get in on the act with a powerful header early in the second half, before Dybala made it 10 goals in six league matches this season with a stoppage-time strike that put the icing on the cake.

Salvatore Sirigu had tried to keep the scoreline respectable with a string of quality saves, though it was merely a matter of damage limitation as the defending champions continued their 100 per cent start in the league.

It is a win that keeps Juve level with pace-setters Napoli at the top of Serie A and Allegri’s focus will now switch to getting his side’s Champions League campaign back on track against Olympiacos on Wednesday.

Juve wasted no time in getting on the front foot, as Mario Mandzukic – replacing the out-of-form Gonzalo Higuain up front – was denied by Lyanco’s last-ditch tackle inside 30 seconds.

The visitors’ centre-back was in the thick of the action again moments later with a slack back-pass that almost caught out Sirigu, before Juan Cuadrado went close at the culmination of a driving run from the right.

Torino threatened when a desperate block from Giorgio Chiellini prevented Iago Falque’s strike reaching its target, but parity did not last much longer as the hosts took the lead.

Pjanic nipped in to rob Baselli of possession – Dybala latching onto the loose ball and proceeding to drill a low finish into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area.

Matters went from bad to worse for Baselli and Torino just eight minutes later, the midfielder picking up his second yellow card for a ridiculous lunge on Pjanic, having earlier been booked for tugging back Dybala.

Juve did not let up, and after Lycano’s goal-line clearance denied Cuadrado, the hosts had their second five minutes before the break – Pjanic curling in a sublime 20-yard strike that gave Sirigu no chance after being teed up by the Colombia international.

Pjanic turned provider for the second time 12 minutes after the restart, whipping in a wonderful corner that Alex Sandro turned home with a thumping header.

Medhi Benatia should have added a fourth as Juve teased Sinisa Mihajlovic’s deflated side, but Sirigu pulled off a superb stop to deny the defender from close range.

Sirigu had to be at his best again with Juve bombarding his goal, managing to keep out a flurry of attempts from substitute Federico Bernadeschi, Mandzukic and Douglas Costa.

But Torino’s goalkeeper would be beaten four a fourth time in the first minute of stoppage time, Dybala lofting in a delicate finish after connecting with a flick from Higuain, who had come off the bench, as Juve added further gloss to an emphatic victory.

Key Opta Stats:

– For the first time in Serie A history, two sides – Juventus and Napoli – have won each of their opening six fixtures.
– Since 1994-95, Paulo Dybala is the first player who has managed to score 10 goals in the first six games of a Serie A season.
– Juventus have won each of their opening six Serie A games for the eighth time – in the previous seven occasions they ended the season top of the table (including season 2005-06, when the title was then revoked).
– Juventus’ last home defeat against Torino in Serie A came in April 1995 – since then, they have won nine times and drawn three.
– The last time Juventus won a derby in Serie A by a four-goal margin was in November 2002.
– Miralem Pjanic ended a 23-game scoring drought in Serie A: his previous goal also came against Torino, in December 2016.
– In fact, Torino are Pjanic’s favourite opponent in Serie A (four goals scored).
– There have been four red cards in the last five Turin derbies in all competitions – three of these were for Torino players. This was Daniele Baselli’s first red card in Serie A.

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Pjanic believes Juventus will only improve after perfect start

Miralem Pjanic sounded a warning to Juventus’ Serie A title rivals that the best is yet to come from Massimiliano Allegri’s side after they thrashed Torino 4-0.

The champions made it six wins from six in the top flight on Saturday, with Paulo Dybala drilling them ahead against their Turin rivals before Daniele Baselli saw red for the visitors.

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Pjanic, who teed up Dybala’s opener, then got in on the act himself with an excellent strike, before setting up Alex Sandro for a third.

Dybala completed the rout late on and Pjanic has no doubt that Juve will continue to build on their hugely impressive start.

“It was a good performance, providing both quality and quantity. Torino usually cause problems for their opponents, but we were never under threat,” he said.

“I’m glad with the team performance and we should continue like this. There’s a lot of quality in this squad and the new arrivals are settling in really well, so we can only improve.

“The season has just begun, so we will continue with this tempo, we’re in good shape, the team is gaining confidence and keeping clean sheets.”

Allegri, meanwhile, was delighted with the display, though believes that his players need to be smarter with some of their decisions.

“The lads had a really good game, including the opening 20 minutes, then once Torino went down to 10 men we controlled the match,” said the Juve coach, whose team face Olympiacos next.

“Even then, we allowed a couple of situations that could’ve been avoided. We slowed the tempo a bit too much after the break, but still created a great deal.

“It wasn’t easy, as this Torino side is tough to beat, but it was the best way to prepare for Wednesday’s Champions League game.

“When we’re in control, we must try to avoid injuries. For example, Paulo Dybala kept the ball for too long in the second half and drew the foul, when he should’ve passed or shot immediately.

“Napoli are playing very good football and getting results, which after all is what really matters. People only remember those who finish first, not second or third when playing well.”

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Baselli’s dismissal midway through the first half all but ended any hopes of a Torino comeback and the midfielder took to social media to apologise for his indiscipline.

“I made a mistake. I apologise to my teammates, our fans, to society,” Baselli’s tweet read.

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The Juventus guide to building the best team in Europe

The Bianconeri were relegated to Serie B in 2006 but now they are Champions League finalists, as strong off the field as they are on it


SPECIAL REPORT


“A cyclone” is how Beppe Marotta describes ‘Calciopoli ‘, a swirling scandal that swept through Italian football in 2006 and reduced Juventus to rubble.

When he arrived in Turin four years on from the club’s relegation to Serie B, the Old Lady was back in the top flight but still struggling with a sense of loss.

“We found a disheartened atmosphere but, above all else, there was no football culture,” the Juventus CEO explained. “That’s what the president and we directors tried to bring to the club.”

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That president was Andrea Agnelli and even his surname offered Juve’s beleaguered fan base hope of a renaissance. Not since his father Umberto’s reign had ended in 1962 had a member of the Agnelli family held the most prestigious position at the most loved – and hated – club in Italy.

Andrea may have been a member of the country’s financial and footballing aristocracy but he was, first and foremost, a Juve fan. He was as shocked as he was pained by the state of the club, which was coming off the back of a dismal seventh-placed finish in Serie A. He saw not only a broken club but a broken system. Even today, he claims that in Italy there is “a total absence of medium-to-long term vision. The Italian system thinks about earning one or two million today, rather than 10 million tomorrow.”

Deloitte Football Money League Juventus PS

Agnelli, though, certainly does not lack foresight. He first created a clearly defined club structure, immediately appointing Marotta as general director and Fabio Paratici as sporting director, before later bringing former fan favourite Pavel Nedved on board as vice-president. Marotta and Paratici had already constructed an exciting squad together at Sampdoria, while Nedved has proven an equally shrewd addition, a Ballon d’Or winner who serves as a beloved intermediary between the players and the president. By the time of the Czech’s arrival in 2012, Agnelli had already started reinventing the Juventus brand.

The wheels may have already been in motion regarding the construction of a new home – which facilitated an ‘English-style’ atmosphere that has driven the team’s sporting and financial success – but Agnelli managed the move masterfully.

The JStadium (soon to become the Allianz Stadium) would be quickly complemented by the JVillage and the JMuseum. Most recently, the club’s crest has been revamped and while it is certainly not to everyone’s tastes, it is entirely in keeping with Agnelli’s vision of the future, a symbol of the club’s modernisation.

He has been bold, innovative – even overseeing a commercial deal with ‘Checco’, a baby accessories company – and, most importantly, successful. After dropping to an all-time low of 13th place in Deloitte’s Football Money League in 2011, Juve have now reclaimed their place in the top 10, with their revenue having risen from €172 million to €388m by the end of the last financial year. The next best Italian team, AC Milan, sit 16th.

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“What we have done in a time of crisis is unprecedented,” Agnelli enthused at the club’s assembly in October.

Indeed, Italy’s recession ultimately caught up with several grossly mismanaged Serie A sides, chief among them Inter and AC Milan, which as Tim Bridge, author of Deloitte’s Football Money League, tells Goal, contributed to the unique economic growth of the well-run Bianconeri.

“Juve rather impressively identified the problems with the old Italian model of clubs renting a stadium off the local council and took the rather bold decision to not only build their own, but also reduce the capacity from around 80,000 to 41,000,” he acknowledges.

Andrea Agnelli Juventus PS

“By doing so, they created a demand for tickets and a safe, secure environment that attracted a new audience to their games. That set them apart from all of their traditional rivals. However, Juve have also benefited enormously from the other Italian clubs’ poor results in European competition because it has allowed them to keep almost the entire market pool from Italy’s Champions League TV revenue all for themselves.”

However, while Juve have become a money-making model for every other Serie A side, Agnelli differs from many of his peers in that his primary concern is making money for the club – not himself.

“My vision of the management of a professional club at the highest level is based on one concept,” he has previously explained, “and that is ‘Football above everything else.'”

Consequently, Agnelli has given Moratta and Paratici more and more money to work with – and they have almost always spent it shrewdly.

There were notable early failures – Milos Krasic for one – but Juve’s record in the market since 2011 is staggeringly good. ‘The BBC’ of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, the greatest backline of the modern era, was assembled at a cost of €23.6m. Carlos Tevez was picked up for just €11m. Andrea Pirlo – “my greatest ever signing”, as Marotta calls him – arrived on a free, as did Sami Khedira, Dani Alves and Paul Pogba, who was sold to Manchester United last summer for a world-record €105m fee.

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Now viewed as a master of the market, Marotta was recently asked how he selects his signings? He replied, “In two ways: We either take someone who is already an established champion: look at Dani Alves, [Mario] Mandzukic, Khedira, [Gonzalo] Higuain and so on. Or, we look for talent. But only a talent who can become a champion.

“That means someone who has not only the technical qualities but also the human values to turn into a champion, as happened with [Paulo] Dybala, for example.”

Gianluigi Buffon Juventus

Juve will not buy a player who does not buy into the club culture that Agnelli has so carefully cultivated. Of course, showing new arrivals ‘lo stile Juve’ (The Juve style) is made easier by the presence of players like captain Gianluigi Buffon.

As former Juve captain Gianluca Vialli says, “Gigi represents everything it means to be Juve: hunger, humility, ruthlessness, a sense of belonging.”

Buffon was one of the select few to endure what he calls “a summer of understandable exits” and stay at Juventus despite their demotion to Serie B in 2006. Two weeks ago, he claimed his sixth successive Scudetto and, Buffon being Buffon, promptly paid tribute to “those who work on the pitch and off the pitch to allow me to do my best, all of this wouldn’t be possible.

“And the most amazing this is that all of this is still not over.”

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Indeed, on Saturday, they will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Victory over a side assembled at a cost of €638.2m (Juve’s squad cost 215.9m less)  would represent the culmination and vindication of everything Agnelli and his directors have done over the past seven years.

Juve and Madrid squad costs

They could, of course, have conquered the continent in 2015 but they were beaten in Berlin by Barcelona. Even Marotta admits, though, that they hadn’t expected to be there. After years of continental disappointment under the otherwise inspirational Antonio Conte – another crucial figure in reasserting the club’s domestic dominance when he arrived as coach in 2011 – Juve’s final appearance in what was Massimiliano Allegri’s first season had taken even his bosses by surprise.

That 3-1 loss served as a lesson – as did the following year’s last-16 defeat to Bayern Munich – and Juve learned from it. While they had laid the foundations for domestic dominance, it was clear to them that they needed to make another leap in quality.

Andrea Agnelli Patriarci Nedved Juventus

After years of practicing prudence in the transfer market, Juve enacted the €32m buy-out clause in Miralem Pjanic’s buy-out clause at Roma before doing the very same thing to prise Gonzalo Higuain away from Napoli. This time, the fee was an eye-watering €90m, the fourth-highest transfer fee in history.

It has already proven a price worth paying.

“The Cardiff final was born last summer,” Marotta argues. “It was a transfer market campaign designed specifically for this objective.

“Andrea, Pavel, Fabio and myself, together with the coach, we had decided to raise the bar. We said to ourselves, ‘In Italy, we understood the right recipe for success; now let’s see if we can now also go all the way in Europe.'”

On Saturday, they will get their answer. Juve have already proven themselves the best team in Europe off the field – all that remains is to do likewise on it.