Tammy Abraham turned in a goal assisted by Paulo Dybala as Roma battled to a 1-1 draw at Juventus to leave both sides unbeaten after three Serie A matches.

Roma had won their first two games without conceding but were behind to a sublime Dusan Vlahovic free-kick after just 76 seconds – the forward's fastest strike in the competition.

After being held to a 0-0 draw by Sampdoria last time out, Juve looked far brighter in an attacking sense and had a second goal through Manuel Locatelli contentiously ruled out.

Jose Mourinho's side hit back in the second half when former Juve player Dybala's attempt at goal turned into an assist for Abraham, meaning the points were shared in Turin.

 

Vlahovic managed just eight touches of the ball in last week's stalemate with Sampdoria but required just one touch to fire Juve in front against Roma.

The Serbia international left Rui Patricio stranded to the spot with a 25-yard free-kick that he lifted over the wall and into the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Locatelli thought he had doubled Juve's lead when firing in a first-time effort from outside the box, but VAR ruled it out due to a perceived handball from Vlahovic in the build-up.

That proved a big moment in the match as Abraham levelled up for Roma with 69 minutes played after heading in Dybala's miscued acrobatic volley from six yards out.

Dybala was met with a mixture of jeers and cheers when substituted soon after, with neither side able to find a winner in the remainder of the contest.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri insists he is not concerned by Dusan Vlahovic's struggles as the Bianconeri prepare to host fellow Scudetto hopefuls Roma.

Allegri faced fierce criticism from Juventus supporters in the aftermath of Monday's 0-0 draw at Sampdoria, during which Vlahovic managed just nine touches overall, and a mere three before the break. 

No player to take the field for 90 minutes in a Serie A game has had fewer touches since David Trezeguet had eight for Juventus against Catania in May 2008.

Since the start of last season, meanwhile, Vlahovic has scored 26 Serie A goals in 38 appearances, but just nine of those have come since his January move to Juventus (in 17 appearances).

Vlahovic has also gone from averaging a goal every 109 minutes for Fiorentina to scoring every 139 minutes for the Bianconeri, although his big chance conversation rate has risen since his move to Turin (80 per cent, as opposed to 73.33 per cent for Fiorentina last term).

With Juve's lack of creativity becoming a key talking point at the start of the campaign, Allegri is adamant Vlahovic's lack of involvement is not a worry.

"If he touched a ball and scored a goal, I'd be happy," Allegri said. "We had a bad first half with Sampdoria. 

"The games last 95 minutes, I got angry because in the second half the game had to be grasped. They were in trouble, we had opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. 

"It is normal that the performance of the first half should be improved, but there were also the merits of Sampdoria who closed the spaces and made the defenders play a lot.

"Last year we laid the foundations to go back to winning. We will try to do it, we will also see the market as it ends. The fun for me is winning and to do it you have to go through difficult moments. 

"It takes a little patience. That's why the other day, after the first half you had to stay calm because you could only improve."

Vlahovic will now be joined in the Juventus attack by Arkadiusz Milik, who has arrived from Marseille, while Paris Saint-Germain's Leandro Paredes has also been linked with a move to Turin.

Though Allegri refused to be drawn on the future of the Argentina midfielder, he believes Milik could form an effective partnership with Vlahovic and is prepared to throw him in immediately.

"Paredes hasn't arrived yet and I don't know if he will arrive. We need to concentrate on tomorrow's match," he added.

"[I'm] very happy with Milik, he has impressive numbers. As regards his characteristics, he can also play with Vlahovic. 

"We are waiting for the clearance that I hope will arrive in the afternoon, so tomorrow will be available. Since I haven't decided on the line-up yet, maybe I'll let him play from the beginning. But I don't know until tomorrow, this idea flashed on me."

Meanwhile, Juventus have been handed a difficult draw for the Champions League's group stages, where they will meet PSG, Benfica and Maccabi Haifa.

And Allegri expects Juve to face a direct battle for second place with the Portuguese outfit, adding: "In the Champions League these are all difficult matches, on paper PSG is stronger. 

"On paper, we play for the next round with Benfica. It is unlikely that there are easy games in Europe."

Dusan Vlahovic expressed his delight at the opportunity to play with Angel Di Maria, as the two combined to inspire Juventus to a 3-0 win against Sassuolo.

The former Paris Saint-Germain star opened the deadlock with a bouncing volley and teed up Vlahovic in the second half, which came either side of the Serbian winning and converting a penalty.

Sterner tests will await for Juventus this season, particularly when their Champions League campaign begins next month, but the performance from the two attackers will provide encouragement after last season's frustrations.

Di Maria's creativity is likely to add further opportunities for Vlahovic to extend his excellent record for Juventus, and he took the opportunity after the win to praise his new teammate.

"It's an incredible sensation to play with Di Maria, it's so pleasing to work with such champions and I thank him for the assist. He had an extraordinary game," he told DAZN.

Di Maria was not the only debutant to feature, with Bremer also starting and Filip Kostic introduced off the bench in the second half, with Vlahovic clear there is more to come from the side.

Dusan Vlahovic struck a brace to help Juventus to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Sassuolo in the opening match of their Serie A campaign on Monday.

The Serbian forward struck five minutes either side of the interval to put the Bianconeri in control after Angel Di Maria marked his Juve debut with a maiden goal at the Allianz Stadium.

Massimiliano Allegri's side were not at their best in possession but made their chances count, with their attacking contingent laying down a marker to their rivals.

A shaky start from the hosts provided Sassuolo with encouragement and called Mattia Perin, in for the injured Wojciech Szczesny, into action to deny Gregoire Defrel on two occasions.

Juventus soon found some rhythm and made the breakthrough when Di Maria met Alex Sandro's cross by bouncing a volleyed effort over the head of Andrea Consigli.

Five minutes before the break, Vlahovic bullied Gian Marco Ferrari to win the hosts a penalty and stepped-up to confidently smash home from the spot to open his account for the season.

Sassuolo were the architects of their own downfall following the restart, Kaan Ayhan giving the ball away to Di Maria who fed in Vlahovic to double his tally and continue in the vein that saw him star last term.

Juventus took their foot off the gas in the remainder of the half to ease out a win, with Filip Kostic introduced for the final half hour in a comfortable debut environment.

Filip Kostic has expressed his excitement at the prospect of linking up with fellow Serbia international Dusan Vlahovic after joining the striker at Juventus.

Having played a key role in Eintracht Frankfurt's Europa League triumph last season, Kostic finalised a €16million move to the Bianconeri on Friday, ending a four-year spell with the Bundesliga outfit.

Kostic is already familiar with Vlahovic, having teamed up with him on a regular basis on the international stage, and the 29-year-old's creative abilities will likely be received well by the Juve striker. 

Vlahovic scored 29 goals in all competitions last season – including nine for Juve following his January transfer from rivals Fiorentina. He averaged a strike every 182 minutes after joining the Turin giants, converting 58.33 per cent of his big chances.

And those numbers will likely improve with Kostic providing service from the left, after he created 112 chances for Eintracht last campaign – almost double the highest tally managed by any of his team-mates.

 

Speaking to Juve's media channels after completing his transfer, Kostic revealed he had already been in touch with his compatriot, explaining: "I've already talked to Dusan, I'm happy that he's part of the team. 

"He's one of the best strikers, it's nice to play with him."

As well as scoring seven goals for Eintracht last term, Kostic teed up 13 for team-mates, and represents an exciting signing for a side that struggled for attacking inspiration under Massimiliano Allegri throughout 2021-22.

Asked whether the Bianconeri's supporters could expect the assists to continue to flow, the dynamic wing-back said: "I like to play like that, then it depends on what the manager wants and what is best for the team. If it's good for the team, I'll do it best.

"It's a special day for me. I am very happy, it is not very difficult to say 'yes' to Juventus.

"I gave everything and I worked hard for it. I think I deserve Juventus. When a club like this arrives, it's always the right time."

Dusan Vlahovic has targeted scoring 30 goals and leading Juventus to the Serie A title in his first full season in Turin, as he bids to become the first player to win the Capocannoniere (top scorer award) and the Scudetto in the same campaign since 2008-09.

Not since Zlatan Ibrahimovic top-scored with 25 league goals for Jose Mourinho's Inter 13 years ago has Serie A's top scorer played for the title winners, leading Massimiliano Allegri to joke recently he hopes Vlahovic does not win the award next term. 

Vlahovic scored 24 Serie A goals last season – seven after leaving Fiorentina for Juventus in January, a tally only bettered by Lazio's Ciro Immobile (27). 

Since making his Serie A debut in September 2018, Vlahovic has hit 51 goals in just 113 appearances in the competition.

With Juve having finished fourth in successive league campaigns, Vlahovic hopes his goals can drive them to silverware in the 2022-23 season.

"I have read that in the last 10 to 12 years the top scorer has never won the Scudetto, but there is always a first time, right?" the Serbian told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Team goals come before personal ones, it's more important for Juve to win, but if I score 30 goals and we become Italian champions, for me that's fine.

"It's the only gift I want. Everything else passes, only the successes remain.

"In Serbia, Italian football was followed a lot, we push beyond our limits to get victories.

"I grew up with the aim of becoming a winner and I will do everything to make it into Juve's history, given the players who have been here." 

 

Vlahovic was linked with several of Europe's biggest clubs, including a host of Premier League outfits, before he opted to follow in the footsteps of Roberto Baggio, Juan Cuadrado and Federico Chiesa in swapping Florence for Turin.

While his move to La Viola's rivals was controversial, Vlahovic says Juve's winning mentality made it an easy decision to make.

"It wasn't a difficult choice because Juve is a glorious club, very close to my way of working: fighting, never giving up until the end, believing even when it seems that all is lost is my philosophy and that of the club too," he added.

"We all know what Juve represent in Italy. For me, it is a pleasure and an honour to defend these colours."

Juventus will begin their Serie A campaign at home to Sassuolo on August 15 after wrapping up pre-season with matches against Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Luka Jovic labelled Cristiano Ronaldo as "the greatest of all time" and hopes to emulate the Portugal forward's achievements in Italy after leaving Real Madrid for Fiorentina.

Ronaldo ended a nine-year spell with Madrid in 2018 to join Juventus, where he won two Serie A titles in three seasons before returning to Manchester United ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

Jovic has followed a similar path, leaving the Spanish capital to move to Fiorentina on a two-year deal as part of a free transfer that will see Madrid take half of any future fee the Viola receive.

While Ronaldo left having taken LaLiga by storm with Los Blancos, Jovic departs after a largely unsuccessful spell in which he scored just three goals in 36 league games.

Madrid paid €60million in 2019 for the Serbia international after he impressed for Eintracht Frankfurt, but Jovic is aiming to put the past behind him as he referenced Ronaldo as one of his idols.

"I am inspired by Cristiano, he is the greatest of all time and I hope I can do what he did in Italy," Jovic told reporters on Thursday.

Jovic will wear Ronaldo's iconic number seven shirt, though the Fiorentina signing insists it was "the only one available that I liked", and believes a different system with the Viola will help him thrive.

"I've never played in this competition, but I have experience in Europe and I think we have the qualities to go far," he added.

"I always played better with two strikers, but in Frankfurt we played with three and in Madrid also with one. I'm just saying that I have to help, the rest is the coach's job.

"I've been training all summer and I think I've come here fit – I just have a little calf problem that doesn't bother me."

Jovic will not be the only Serbia striker operating in Serie A, with international team-mate and former Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic playing up top for Juve.

Vlahovic and Dejan Stankovic share the record for the most goal scored by a Serbian in Serie A (51), but Jovic insists he will put international friendships aside with the Juve attacker now becoming a rival.

"Dusan did great in Italy and I will try to do the same," he continued. "In the national team we are team-mates and here rivals. He spoke to me greatly about the championship and about this club."

Dusan Vlahovic was not missed at Fiorentina after departing for Juventus in January, according to his former team-mate Nicolas Gonzalez.

Vlahovic scored 20 goals in 24 appearances for Vincenzo Italiano's side in the first half of last season, becoming one of European football's hottest properties and earning a reported €80million (£66.6m) move to Juve.

The Serbia international scored nine goals in 21 appearances for the Bianconeri following his big-money switch.

Vlahovic's decision to join rivals Juve sparked outrage at Fiorentina, who had already seen the likes of Federico Chiesa, Juan Cuadrado, Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri, move to Turin.

Gonzalez, who finished as Fiorentina's second-highest goalscorer after Vlahovic in the 2021-22 season with eight goals in all competitions, gave a frank answer when asked about the impact of the striker's departure.

"His absence was not felt," the winger told SportItalia. "Obviously he is a strong player, but the fans did not like his attitude. 

"He is a young boy who has a lot to learn."

 

Gonzalez has won 21 caps for Argentina, and featured from the bench during his 3-0 rout of Italy at Wembley earlier this month.

He hopes his international team-mate Angel Angel Di Maria, a reported target for Juve, will join him in Serie A.

 Gonzalez said: "I'd like to see him in Italy. He's a player I've always appreciated, and he could give a lot to Italian football."

The 24-year-old would also like to see Paulo Dybala stay in Italy, saying: "I'd like to see him at Inter with [Joaquin] Correa and Lautaro [Martinez]."

Dusan Vlahovic believes comparisons with former Juventus striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic are "unfair", with the Serbia international wanting to focus on his own career.

The evergreen Ibrahimovic played for Juve for two seasons between 2004 and 2006, lifting the Scudetto in back-to-back campaigns.

Ibrahimovic has since returned to Milan – via Inter, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and LA Galaxy – and helped to end the Rossoneri's 11-year wait for the Scudetto this season.

Vlahovic swapped Fiorentina for Juve in a big-money move in January, managing 10 goal involvements in his 21 outings in all competitions – two more than any Bianconeri team-mate since he made his debut.

The former Viola talisman offers Massimiliano Allegri's side a notable point of difference up top, with his physicality and strength in contrast to the diminutive figure of the outgoing Paulo Dybala.

That has led to comparisons between Vlahovic and Sweden veteran Ibrahimovic, but the former is uninterested in the debate surrounding the pair.

"Comparing players with great champions who have scored 400, 500 goals in their careers, who have won 20 or 30 titles, is probably a little unfair!," Vlahovic told The Telegraph.

"It doesn't annoy me but it's also true that when those types of comparison are made and then you make one or two mistakes and the expectations have been hyped then you get critiqued.

"We all have the right to make mistakes; we are all human. I want to have my own career."

While Juve convinced Vlahovic to move to Turin in January, Premier League side Arsenal were also among his suitors, but the striker insists he never spoke to the Gunners about a transfer.

"Maybe my agent knows [about Arsenal's offer] but I never talked to anyone about it," he continued.

"I just had one club in my mind because Juventus is Juventus. There is nothing else to say, and now I feel honoured to be given this jersey. It's incredible every time I put it on.

"I definitely identify with their DNA. The Juventus personality coincides with my personality. When you come here you never give up, you fight all the time, you make the sacrifices. This was definitely what I was looking for."

Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic claims he has an "addiction" to scoring goals.

The Serbia international has certainly done a good job of feeding that addiction, bagging 38 goals in 58 Serie A appearances for Fiorentina in the past two seasons before scoring seven in 15 for Juve following his big-money move in January.

Vlahovic joined the Bianconeri from Fiorentina for a reported fee of €70million and settled well into life in Turin, helping his new side clinch fourth place and a Champions League spot.

Speaking to Icon Magazine, the 22-year-old did not hold back when asked what scoring goals means to him.

"It's something that fills me," he said. "It pervades me completely, so when I don't feel this emotion, after the game, I feel on the ground, empty.

"It feels like flying. I feel in seventh heaven, I fly. It's a kind of fuel, and once you've tried it, you have to have more, and then again, you have to live that emotion at all costs. It is an addiction that stimulates you at all times. That's what I live for."

 

Vlahovic arrived with a big reputation and reached double figures for goal involvements in all competitions in his 21 outings for Juve in the second half of the 2021-22 season.

His 10 goals and assists combined were at least two more than any other Juve player between his debut in early February and the end of the campaign.

"I dedicate myself to football 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he added, "and when I go home, what do I do? I watch football games.

"I watch them to have fun, to relax, but also to learn and improve. I notice things, analyse them and think about them."

Federico Chiesa is relishing the chance to link up with Dusan Vlahovic at Juventus next season, with the winger confirming he is on course to return to action in September. 

Italy international Chiesa has not played since sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Roma in January that subsequently required surgery.

The 24-year-old, one of the stars of Italy's triumphant Euro 2020 campaign last year, is back in the early stages of training but will not rush his recovery programme.

"My dream is to return as soon as possible, but there are schedules to be respected," he said at a Save The Children event in Turin on Friday.

"The Juventus medical staff have been fantastic, helping me with everything. Now I have started to run and make changes of direction.

"By the beginning of September I hope to be ready, but let's see if we can shorten the times a little. We have to make sure there are no relapses."

Chiesa made 18 appearances for Juventus in his second season with the club prior to being struck down by injury, scoring four goals and assisting two more.

His injury coincided with the signing of Vlahovic, whom he previously played alongside at Fiorentina, though the pair have yet to play together in the Bianconeri strip.

Vlahovic arrived in Turin with a big reputation and reached double figures for goal involvements in his 21 outings for Juve in the second half of last season.

Indeed, his 10 goals and assists combined were at least two more than any other Juve player between his debut in early February and the end of the campaign.

 

"We've already paired up and he is someone I get on with very well on the pitch," Chiesa said of Vlahovic. "He's a friend off it and that only makes things better on the pitch.

"I can't wait to play with him and provide him with some balls to score a few more goals."

Chiesa's injury lay-off was also a huge blow for Italy, who suffered a shock qualifying play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March to miss out on Qatar 2022.

And with Italy having failed to qualify for successive World Cups for the first time, either side of winning the European Championships, Chiesa accepts changes are required.

"[Roberto] Mancini and those who work with him know better than me. But we need change, new and fresh players," he said. 

"We also need to change the Italian system, because the truth is that we are behind the other nations. The coach is right, the players in Italy don't play.

"Is the problem that there is no talent or training? We have to start asking ourselves these questions and change our mentality a bit. I think Mancini is the best person for the job.

"He did it after the first collapse by taking us to the top of Europe after missing the World Cup. So Mancini is the most suitable person. 

"In my opinion training is fundamental. When I grew up in Fiorentina's youth sector they taught the basics; now they think about the result."

Massimiliano Allegri says the "divine" Paulo Dybala must go back to "being himself" rather than trying to emulate Lionel Messi.

Dybala has decided to leave Juventus when his contract expires at the end of next month and Serie A rivals Inter want to sign him on a free transfer.

The Argentina forward has also been linked with several Premier League sides as he prepares to embrace a new challenge following seven years with Juve.

Bianconeri head coach Allegri believes Dybala's next club will only get the best out of him if he is not trying to emulate his legendary compatriot Messi.

Allegri told DAZN: "He has to go back to being himself, there was a moment when he got carried away by the fact that he was the new Messi.

"A player cannot emulate or think he is like another. He still has a lot to give because he has extraordinary technical qualities, he plays in a divine way."

Captain Giorgio Chiellini is another player whose time in Turin has come to an end.

Allegri says there is no shortage of leaders to step up in the absence of the long-serving centre-back.

He said: "For the future we already have two leaders, [Matthijs] De Ligt and [Manuel] Locatelli.

"Manuel was an excellent signing and could be the future Juventus captain, he has the technical and moral characteristics to stay here for many years.

"This year Danilo was a pleasant surprise: when he speaks he is never banal and puts the team first. A true leader is silent, he must speak little and must always put the team in front.

"And if you do this, it is the team that recognises you as a leader."

Allegri also expects Dusan Vlahovic to become a figurehead for Juve following his big-money move from Fiorentina in January.

"Dusan can also be a leader in his own way. He is loyal, he always wants to win, he will become a charismatic leader on the pitch on a character level."

Vlahovic scored seven goals in 15 Serie A appearances for Juve following his switch from Florence.

Dusan Vlahovic pledged to improve on his first half-season with Juventus and "become a champion" as the Bianconeri prepare to end their Serie A campaign against his former club Fiorentina.

Vlahovic joined Massimiliano Allegri's side in a €70million move in January after scoring 17 goals in 21 Serie A appearances for Vincenzo Italiano's men this season, adding a further seven in 14 league appearances for the Old Lady since arriving in Turin.

The striker became the joint-highest scoring Serbian player in Serie A history in Monday's 2-2 draw with Lazio (51 – level with Dejan Stankovic), while one more league goal would make him just the second player aged under 23 years old to hit 25 in a Serie A season in 60 years – the other being Ronaldo for Inter in 1997-98.

However, Vlahovic has struggled to match his Fiorentina form during Juventus' frustrating end to the campaign, averaging a league goal every 151.86 minutes for Juve as opposed to every 109.47 minutes for his former club.

Juventus are guaranteed to finish fourth in Serie A for a second consecutive season, having won the title in each of the nine previous campaigns, and lost the Coppa Italia final to rivals Inter this month.

But Vlahovic remains happy with his decision to move to Turin and sees room for improvement moving forward.

Speaking at the Turin book fair, Vlahovic was asked about former Fiorentina boss Cesare Prandelli labelling him a "true champion" recently, replying: "I would like to say, speaking of myself as a champion... I don't like it. There is a long way to go, to work. I will give my all and I hope I will become a champion.

"I like Juve's DNA, this desire to fight and not give up, to go over the limit, until the end. 

"I am a bit like that too. I like working, above all because when I stop playing, even if it's early, I don't want to have regrets. I want to give everything, I don't want to have regrets. 

"This is my job, I am privileged and I don't see why it should be different. You can always do better. Even when you have done something extraordinary, you must be aware and satisfied, without exaggerating."

Juventus can end this Serie A campaign with a maximum of 73 points, guaranteeing their worst such return since the 2010-11 campaign (58 points, under Luigi Delneri).

The Bianconeri's hopes of a successful campaign suffered a huge blow when Italy's Euro 2020 star Federico Chiesa suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in January.

Vlahovic played with Chiesa at Fiorentina and cannot wait to see the winger return to full fitness next term as he looks to rekindle their on-pitch relationship.

"He saw me grow up as a kid," he said of Chiesa. "We shared three years at Fiorentina, luckily we're together again. 

"He got injured when I arrived, I hope he'll be back as soon as possible. We hope to find our understanding on the pitch, which has remained from Florence. 

"I can't wait to play with him, to take the field and fight with him and win together."

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored a dramatic 96th-minute equaliser as Lazio came from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with Juventus in Turin.

In a match where Juventus paid tribute to departing stars Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala, first-half goals from Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata seemed to have put the Bianconeri in control.

But after Alex Sandro's own goal halved the arrears, Maurizio Sarri's return to the Allianz Stadium ended in chaotic fashion when Milinkovic-Savic fired into the roof of the net with the last kick of the game.

As well as spoiling the farewell home appearances of Chiellini and Dybala, the result boosted Lazio's hopes of beating local rivals Roma to a fifth-place finish in Serie A.

Following Wednesday's Coppa Italia final defeat to Inter, it was confirmed Juventus will finish the 2021-22 season without a trophy for the first time since 2011.

Last season under Andrea Pirlo, Juventus not winning Serie A was in itself shocking, but this season has only shown further regression.

Massimiliano Allegri returning to replace Pirlo after his single season in charge was viewed as a means to halt that slide, but Juve will not just likely finish 10 points off the Serie A title winners and without a trophy this term; the Bianconeri are set to finish with a double-digit deficit in a season where the champions will likely will not break the 85-point barrier.

How much the Turin club spend relative to the rest in Italian football must be brought into context. Granted, the financial impact of COVID-19 caused significant restructuring, but they are still the only club in Italy to have a gross annual payroll in excess of €150million and are joined by Inter as one of only two over €100m. Meanwhile, seven Juventus players make up the top 10 salaries in Serie A this season.

Given that comparatively gaudy expenditure, that represents a spectacular failure – especially in comparison to the likes of the notoriously thrifty Atalanta or this Milan project that has sought to maximise value on the pitch and cut unnecessary spending. The major issue with Juve over the past four seasons has been a dramatically diminishing return on investment, but how has it manifested on the pitch?

Juventus had this inevitable capacity to find a way to win games in Allegri's first stint, but they were still volatile. It would be misguided to look at this season in isolation when in a continuum. Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival for the 2018-19 season – which was viewed as the key signing to propel them to long-awaited Champions League glory – arguably accelerated the regression.

Real Madrid's midfield and Karim Benzema allowed Ronaldo to have a largely singular role as the end point to the team's actions in possession. At Juventus, a player who was largely a finisher and was not going to force defensive collapses between the lines by that point had to take on greater responsibility in the team's build-up. Despite the Portuguese star's stature in the game, he was effectively signed for a task on the pitch he was not capable of fulfilling.

Consider that in his last season at Madrid, Ronaldo was averaging 46.87 touches per 90, and 10.02 were in the opposition's penalty area. The next two seasons at Juventus saw a dramatic shift, where for touches per 90 he averages 54.5 and 56.26 respectively. Touches in the penalty area actually decreased, however, at 6.64 and 6.92 respectively per 90.

With Paulo Dybala as the team's attacking focal point, Miralem Pjanic had previously mitigated the deeply conservative nature of Juve's midfield, but with Ronaldo it became a bridge too far. Ronaldo might have sustained his goal involvements, but it came at the expense of the collective. The Bianconeri came no closer to winning the continental silverware he was brought to Turin to secure but, more importantly, declined domestically and were suddenly challenged for what had become a fait accompli that decade in Serie A.

Pjanic's departure at the end of 2019-20 further accelerates that regression, despite the arrivals of Arthur, Alvaro Morata, Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie that off-season, as well as Adrien Rabiot, Mathijs de Ligt and Dejan Kulusevski the previous off-season.

Arguably, the additions of Rabiot, McKennie and Arthur have only further reinforced the rigidity of Juve's midfield over the years. Pjanic's final season saw him average 1.21 chances from open play per 90, along with 10.34 passes into the final third and 0.13 for expected assists at 92.66 touches. Not one Juventus midfielder since has been able to match all of those averages individually, and trying to replace them in an aggregate creates different requirements elsewhere.

 

Amid Dybala's increasingly marginalised status upon Ronaldo's arrival, it necessitated someone like Morata, whose fantastic movement and ability to incorporate the players around him is paired with erratic finishing in front of goal. It represents a sizeable trade-off. Still, Morata leads the Bianconeri for chances created (1.63) in open play per 90 in all competitions this season.

That provides some context for this season and Dusan Vlahovic's arrival, because he is almost the opposite to Morata – cold-blooded in front of goal, but much less flexible in build-up play and movement off the ball. Yet, while he creates fewer chances in open play (0.81) than Morata, the quality of his shots (0.13 xG per shot) is still lower than Morata's average of 0.16.

 

 

It all matters because, with the exception of Inter and Lazio, the Bianconeri still keep more of the ball than anyone else in Serie A. They both can and cannot afford for their midfield to be so palpably one-dimensional. While Juventus rank 19th across the top five leagues in Europe for touches per 90 (678.46) in all competitions, they rank 32nd for big chances created per 90 (1.56), and 50th for passes into the final third (53.02), calling into question the nature of their possession and how they actually generate their chances.

With that all in context, it can be difficult to definitively assess someone like Fabio Miretti or where he best suits in a system of play, because it is akin to developing an emotional attachment to a captor.

Yet Dybala's forthcoming departure from Turin at the end of this season is symbolic, let alone if he ends up somewhere else in Serie A.

His career trajectory over the past four years, coinciding with Juve's regression and eventual embarrassment of this season, represents how badly the club have managed squad composition and, to reference Jose Mourinho's famous quote, their Champions League dream that became an obsession. As such, they have lacked anything resembling a plan or clarity, and have been blindly led by ambition to this empty-handed season.

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