Juventus still paying for football match-fixing
Rome: It is five years since Juventus were found guilty of match-fixing for their part in the Italian Calciopoli scandal and having finished the 2010/11 season in seventh, it seems they are still paying for it.
Juve drew 2-2 against Napoli on Sunday as Roma beat Sampdoria 3-1 to ensure the Old Lady of Turin not only finished seventh for the second year in a row but have missed out on European football for the third year in the last six.
Having been relegated to Serie B for their part in Calciopoli - and been stripped of both the 2005 and 2006 titles -- they missed out on Europe that season and the next, following their return to Serie A.
But in their first season back in the top flight, Juve surprised many people by claiming a third-placed finish.
Having had to sell stars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro when they dropped into Serie B, they were expected to need some time to regroup.
But their second season back in the top flight saw them finish second and many were predicting a Juve title the next season -- amongst them the then Italy coach Marcello Lippi.
But what happened instead was the Turin giants have taken one step back after another, their return to the upper echelons of the table proving merely a false dawn.
And with a second disastrous season in a row now completed, they have decided to part company with coach Luigi Delneri, meaning they are looking for a seventh coach in the space of five years.
Fabio Capello walked out with the club relegated to Serie B, to join Real Madrid, and Didier Deschamps did likewise after guiding them to promotion back to the top flight, claiming they they weren`t supporting him enough.
Juve finally seemed to have found some stability with Claudio Ranieri, who was at the helm for their first two seasons back in Serie A.
However, he was inexplicably fired two games before the end of the 2008-09 season because the club were afraid they would miss out on a top three finish and direct qualification for the Champions League group stages.
Such a scenario seems laughable now with the club failing even to make it into the Europa League.
As it happened, they won their last two games under Ciro Ferrara and finished second.
But that was the end of the progress the club had been making.
Cannavaro returned to the club the next season but under Ferrara Juve started to stutter, badly, and were particularly vulnerable in defence.
Things didn`t improve when he was fired just past the mid-season point and Alberto Zaccheroni took over until the end of the season, which they finished with record numbers of defeats and goals conceded.
But they didn`t improve either when Delneri was given the hot-seat at the beginning of this campaign.
Juve spent big in the summer, bringing in 10 new players and then three more in January.
Amongst them were eight Italy internationals but that didn`t help them find the consistency needed to mount a title challenge.
They beat Inter Milan at home, AC Milan away and did the double over Roma but too often they slipped up against the lower teams and they finished with 13 draws.
Two of the most punishing of those were in the last month when they wasted 2-0 leads at home to Catania and Chievo, just when victories would have kept them in the Champions League hunt.
As he left, Delneri said the club had expected too much and that it wasn`t feasible to win after making so many changes.
But the problem is that Juve are used to winning and time is not something they tend to grant coaches in order to build a winning team.
Whoever does get the job next season will find that out for himself and unless he finds the answer, Italy`s big three will continue to be one short.
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