Italian revival!

For once, Italian clubs have featured at the business end of continental competitions and harboured genuine hopes of winning them. It has been a welcome return to the limelight for a traditional powerhouse.

After nine years, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Andrea Barzagli believe it’s their time again. It was at the Olympiastadion in Berlin where the trio won the 2006 World Cup. As Juventus became the first Italian side since Inter Milan in 2010 to enter the Champions League final, the club’s 5000 fans, who had travelled to Madrid for the semifinal’s second leg, sang — “We are going to Berlin.” It was a melody heard many times during Italy’s march to the World Cup final in Germany.

The return of the song carried a special resonance for the country as a whole. Although Juventus is rarely loved by those outside Turin, an Italian finalist in a Champions League final is a rare occurrence these days. Massimiliano Allegri’s side has defied the odds to become a part of the showpiece event; Italy’s hurt ego has been nursed by the Old Lady.

Napoli and Fiorentina, despite their losses, made the Europa League semis too. For once, Italian clubs have featured at the business end of continental competitions and harboured genuine hopes of winning them. It was a welcome return to the limelight for a traditional powerhouse.

For Juventus, though, the successful entry into the final brings greater joy on account of its stunning revival after relegation from Serie A in 2006. The club and its fans have never fully accepted the charges of match-fixing; instead, they continue to count the two Serie A titles that were taken away from Juventus when it was punished.

For them, it’s a moment of vindication. For Gianluigi Buffon, though, it’s a vindication of a different kind. He retained his strong links with the club as he didn’t leave upon relegation to Serie B. A place in the final, 12 years after his last, represents a remarkable journey for him. On that occasion, in 2003, Juventus lost on penalties to AC Milan.

From the dark days of playing Rimini, Mantova, Frosinone et al in Serie B, the club has come a long way to reclaim glory. Thanks to Juventus, Italy stands redeemed too.

Priyansh