It can be very easy to forget that footballers are people who, in many ways, are the same as the rest of us. We’re all guilty of forgetting that there can be things away from the pitch that affects their performance on it.
As a collective, the Juventus playing squad and coaching staff have had quite the mental load this season which would prove extremely tough for anyone to deal with.
Being docked 15 points back in January will have created a horrendous environment of uncertainty for all of the Juve players, individuals who have now part of what caused the punishment to arrive in the first place.
Right up until the incredibly late Giacomo Raspadori goal that won Napoli the game and put them on the brink of the Scudetto, Juve’s Serie A Matchday 31 clash with Napoli was the latest game to exhibit how well this set of players have dealt with an extremely rare situation which has a direct impact on their short careers.
Juventus keep the outside world out
When the Bianconeri had their penalty handed down, and saw the entire top brass of the club resign at once, it must have led to mass confusion and concern for the players and for Massimiliano Allegri.
Will the punishment get worse? Is Allegri going to leave? Will we continue to be paid? Are we banned from European competition? They are all massive and valid questions, some of which are yet to actually be answered.
We all immediately wondered, how will they respond on the pitch after such a massive sporting blow? They showed character, drawing 3-3 at home with Atalanta just two days after the penalty was handed out.
Since then, it certainly can’t be said that Juve have been licking their wounds. They have, despite not being entertaining to watch, worked themselves back up the table and into a position where they were serious contenders to get into the top four. They have also gotten to the semi-finals of both the Europa League and the Coppa Italia in the process.
There have been wobbles, such as the 5-1 loss against Napoli, another defeat against Monza, the 1-0 defeat at Sassuolo, but they are clearly a better and more consistent team than AS Roma, Inter and AC Milan at this stage.
More news for Juventus to react to
On the day of Juventus‘ Europa League quarter-final second leg against Sporting, in which they only had a 1-0 lead, the players found out that the punishment has been suspended and they have their 15 points back, for now at least.
Whilst this is positive news for them, it’s still something very big to take into account on the day of a match and it raises lots more personal questions. When do we find out what’s really happening? Are other big players wanting to leave this circus in the summer? Could we be banned from the Champions League even if we do qualify?
They shut all these voices out and got the draw they needed against Sporting, and then came into a very tough game against Serie A leaders, Napoli.
Once again, you would not know just by looking at Juventus and the way they perform on an individual level that they have so much uncertainty hanging over them. Every player will have been asking themselves hard questions about their future at the club, all season long.
Manuel Locatelli had a seriously impressive game in the middle, whilst Juan Cuadrado showed that he simply refuses to age. Danilo was imperious at the back as always, and Filip Kostic was a bundle of energy.
It seemed they had their reward against Napoli for shutting the world out when Angel Di Maria made it 1-0 with just a handful of minutes to play, but a VAR check meant a very respectable point was earned instead. They got the ball in the net again through Dusan Vlahovic, this time seeing it ruled out for the ball going out of play before Federico Chiesa played it across.
Raspadori’s goal was a dramatic moment that puts Napoli on the brink of greatness, but there is no denying that Juventus‘ players have performed very well in the face of such confusion and uncertainty so far this season.