Juventus have been sent back to the drawing board after their Champions League ambitions were shattered by an Ajax Amsterdam side whose transfer spending this season has been roughly one-fifth of their own.
The Turin club have dominated Italian football, winning Serie A for the last seven seasons, and their signing of five-times World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo in July was interpreted as a bold statement of their European intentions.
But those dreams were left in tatters after Juventus were beaten 2-1 at home in their quarter-final second leg on Tuesday, going out 3-2 on aggregate.
Not only were Juventus beaten, but they were outclassed by a team whose fluid, geometric passing left them chasing shadows and who possessed something Juventus lacked – a clear playing style.
The current Juventus side is arguably the least appealing since Massimiliano Allegri took over in 2014, depending largely on the talent of Ronaldo to unlock matches.
Playmaker Paulo Dybala, in particular, seems to have been inhibited by Ronaldo’s presence, and the Argentine’s season took another frustrating turn on Tuesday when he was taken off at halftime with a thigh injury.
Allegri, however, said that Juventus were “absolutely not” over-dependent on Ronaldo.
“He has given us a lot over the course of the campaign, but when you reach the quarter-final, you need every player,” he said.
Instead, he blamed injuries to players such as key defender Giorgio Chiellini, winger Douglas Costa and forward Mario Mandzukic, previously described by Allegri as Ronaldo’s ideal striking partner.