On Tuesday afternoon, Juventus’ Under-19’s secured a place in the UEFA Youth League semi-finals following a convincing 2-0 victory over Liverpool.
It’s been a superb campaign for Andrea Bonatti’s group of talented Bianconeri teenagers thus far, as, like the seniors, they edged out Chelsea for top spot in their group before they beat AZ Alkmaar on penalties to advance into the last eight.
The manner of Juve’s victory over the Reds was super impressive. It was outright domination, and the triumph heralds the enormous progress made by the club in terms of developing its academy.
Between the 2013/14 (when the UEFA Youth League was introduced) and the 2018/19 campaigns, Juventus were eliminated in the group stages on three occasions. Twice they finished second in the group, but they were dumped out in the playoffs both times. The 2019/20 season indicated progress as Juve won their group before they exited the competition in the round of 16 to eventual winners Real Madrid.
For so long, Juventus’ academy has been an afterthought. In fact, during the club’s imperious reign over Calcio during the 2010s, there was a distinct mistrust in youth. The successful win-now approach perpetuated by Juventus meant superstars and reliable veterans were targeted in transfer windows, with the idea of raising and nurturing their own seemingly not being conducive to immediate success.
As a result, Claudio Marchisio is the only significant academy product developed by Juventus in the 21st-century. Daniele Rugani has long been considered a minor success story, while Moise Kean could yet be brilliant.
But, a shift in club identity – manifested through a slick new logo and the appointments of idealistic managers – has coincided with a rise in the academy’s output. Now, Juventus are blessed with arguably the most talented crop of youngsters they’ve ever had, certainly since the turn of the Millennium.
The likes of Nicolo Fagioli, whom Allegri adores and is shining out on loan in Serie B, Radu Dragusin, Felix Correia, Filippo Ranocchia and Marley Ake are all beyond their teenage years and ready to make strides in the senior game, especially Fagioli. But, the real excitement arrives with this Primavera squad.
The group is spearheaded by Fabio Miretti and Matias Soule, who combined superbly for the opening goal against Liverpool. Both are highly regarded and each of them made their senior Bianconeri debuts in 2021. Miretti, who ran the show on Tuesday and kick-started the move for Juve’s second, is said to have particularly caught the eye of Allegri, who has selected him in the matchday squad for Wednesday night’s all-important Champions League clash against Villarreal.
Alongside Miretti and Soule; Andrea Bonetti, Angel Chibozo, who scored the second on Tuesday, Samuel Iling-Junior and defender Tarik Muharemović are several other Primavera stars to keep an eye on. Muharemović, who already has experience of senior football in Austria, appears ready for the next step.
And while there are no guarantees of these ebullient Juventus youngsters cutting it among the seniors, the early signs are as promising as they’ve ever been. It’s an unprecedented situation for the Bianconeri but, boy, it’s a brilliant situation to have.