Following the footsteps of the senior team, Juventus juniors also added silverware to their trophy cabinet. However, they started their silverware winning run with a trophy which has eluded the seniors for a long time – Coppa Italia.
Success in Coppa and Torneo Città di Ostuni
Juventus primavera opened their Coppa campaign against Siena. Each round was played in home and away basis. In the clash of two teams in black & white, Juventus youth recorded two emphatic victories – winning 1-2 in Siena, with goals from Slyvka and Schiavone and followed it up with a 3-0 whitewash at home thanks to a brace from Beltrame and another goal from Gerbaudo. A high profile derby clash against Torino awaited Juventus in quarter-final with Baroni’s team once again dispatched their opponents with relative ease. Gerbaudo and Schiavone increased their Coppa goals tally as Juventus ran out 2-0 winners in Turin. Goals from Padovan and Beltrame helped the Primavera knick the away match as well with a 2-1 scoreline. There were goals galore in the semi-final two legger against Sampdoria as the youngsters scored thrice in both legs. Pol Garcia, Padovan and Schiavone found the net in Genova while a brace from Elvis Kabashi and another goal from Padovan helped Juventus win 3-2 in Turin.
In a repeat of the senior Coppa Italia final from last season, Juventus faced off against Napoli in the final. Baroni’s team had suffered a heart-break in final against Roma last season and was eager to go one better this time. The Neapolitans were also taking this tournament which was evident by the fact that € 3 million worth Croatian wonder-kid Josip Radosevic, a 19 year midfielder who has already started for the senior national team, was in Napoli’s starting XI in both matches. Close to 20,000 people attended the first leg in Turin and Juventus got off the blocks quickly and dominated possession. The strikers were not clinical enough in front of goal as Beltrame hit the post once, but there were no goals in first half. Sakor, Magnussen and Beltrame came close to scoring in second half before Gerbaudo put Juventus ahead. Baroni’s team seemed to take their foot off the gas pedal after that goal as Napoli became dangerous on counters, eventually grabbing an important equalizer.
Hell bent to erase Napoli’s away goal Juventus once again started brightly in Naples as Elvis Kabashi and Beltrame tested the opponent ‘keeper. The steady pressure finally paid off in second half as Padovan hoodwinked the Napoli ‘keeper and scored from the spot. Four minutes before the final whistle, Roberto, Lorenzo Insigne’s younger brother, got past Untersse and found Soma Novothny with a cross. Swiss wonder-kid Vajebah Sakor almost won the game deep into injury time but his shot bounced off the frame of the goal. Federico Matiello, another highly rated youngster, finally settled the tie in extra-time by scoring the match winner after a wonderful run past multiple markers. This was Juventus’ first Coppa Italia title in six years and it was a richly deserved one.
A month after the Coppa triumph Juventus secured more silverware by capturing Torneo Città di Ostuni. Juventus opened their campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Bari and followed it up with a 6-0 win over Serie D side Taranto. A comfortable 2-0 win over Andria ensured that Juventus qualified from the group unbeaten. Goals continued to flow thick and fast as Juventus secured a passage to the final by dispatching Parma 4-2. Against AC Milan in the title match 17 year old Edoardo Ceria scored a brace, as Juventus grabbed an early initiative. A goal each from Gerbaudo and Untersee meant that Juventus had taken a commanding 4-0 lead in second half. It eventually finished 4-2, as Juventus lifted another title this season – Ceria was selected as player of the tournament.
The Coppa Italia performance was not replicated by the youngsters in other tournaments, sadly.
In NextGen tournament, Juventus began their first even campaign with a series of strong performances, finishing unbeaten in a group containing Manchester City, Besiktas and Paris St. Germain. Rosenborg, the Danish club for which Juventus primavera winter recruit Vajebah Sakor played in group stages, was waiting for Juventus in round of 16. It was a tight encounter in Alessandria but Juventus successfully held out Beltrame’s 29th minute goal for a 1-0 win. The quarter-final clash against Chelsea was a whole different affair and the Blues were better in every department, inflicting a painful first defeat to Baroni’s side in the competition. Juventus went down 2-0 within 13 minutes and were dominated by the hosts. A 72nd minute strike from Rugani generated faint hopes of a come-back but Chelsea scored two more in last seven minutes to stitch up a deserved scoreline.
The Viareggio Cup has been one of Juventus’ most favourite competitions in past 10 years and has seen the club win it six times in that period. Juventus began this year’s competition well as a hattrick from Eric Lanini sealed a 4-2 win over Maribor. Four points in other two group games ensured Juventus qualified as group champions. Disaster struck in first knock out stage as Juventus was shocked by lower league outfit Juve Stabia, losing 1-0.
Juventus haven’t captured the Primavera Campionato since 2005/06 season when a team containing the likes of Sebastien Giovinco and Paolo De Ceglie were part of the team. This season Marco Baroni’s team had a splendid campaign in the initial group stages – topping Group A ahead of Fiorentina and Torino. Juventus won 19 out of 26 matches, scoring an impressive 49 goals and conceding 19 with the best defensive record in the group. Their points total was also the highest across all groups in this year’s edition. Unfortunately, the youngsters could not maintain their form in the quarter-final and lost 2-1 against Chievo Verona despite dominating possession for most of the game.
The roll of star performers start from the back where Romanian youngster Laurentiu Branescu once again proved that he was indeed a talent to keep an eye on in future. Branescu started in 14 games in the Campionato and impressively, kept clean sheets in more than half his appearances. The 19 year old has all physical attributes to become a top goal-keeper but tends to make errors and loses concentration from time to time. Given his age he has time to fix his flaws and next season may see the Romanian move to a smaller club on loan to get some senior experience.
In central defence Hordur Magnusson had yet another strong season in both Italy and NexGen series. The 20 year old Dane over 1600 minutes in Campionato Primavera and was also a regular fixture in Europe. Magnussen’s overall defensive play, especially his aerial dominance has significantly improved this season while his free-kicks have often caused problems to opposition. Magnusson is another candidate who will be up for loan next season. Magnusson’s regular defensive partner Daniele Rugani also had an excellent season on loan from Empoli. There is a good chance that Juventus may choose to buy him back given his showing last season.
In midfield, captain Andrea Schiavone gave some strong performances in every tournament he played. He was on target multiple times in Coppa Italia and did extremely well against strong midfields in NextGen series. Federico Matiello has been a wonderful revelation this season and the 17 year old made 19 appearances in Campionato, despite being put in a group with mostly older players. To cap off a brilliant season, Matiello also scored the title clinching goal in Coppa final. .
Two of the biggest stars in this year’s Primavera campaign have been the two pronged attacking line-up of Stefano Beltrame and Stefano Padovan. Their impact has been so profound that Brazilian Leo Bonatini, who was a star signing in his age bracket, has been largely relegated to bench this season. Beltrame is quite possibly the most talented attacking player in Juventus Academy and he made his mark by scoring nine times in Campionato, at an impressive rate of one goal in every 144 minutes played. Pacy and possessing good close control, Beltrame also made his senior Juventus debut this season, albeit for a short while as a substitute to Claudio Marchisio. His partner Padovan had an even more breathtaking strike-rate, scoring each of his 16 goals in every 69 minutes. Padovan was the top scorer for Juventus Primavera this season but his temperament in big games still remains suspect and he fluffed up a number of good chances in some crucial matches, including few against Chievo Verona in Campionato quarter-final.
A number of players from the current Juventus Primavera may have played their last matches in junior team this season. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Magnusson and Padovan perform at senior level. Juventus meanwhile, will be bolstering their youth ranks with more young talents like Vajebah Sakor.