Shuffling zombie Juve seeks fresh blood

Let’s play a game.

It’s not too taxing – just think of the first coach’s name that comes into your head and let’s see if he has been linked with the Juventus job.

Guus Hiddink springs to mind and if reports are to be believed the Dutchman has been holed up in a Turin hotel since the turn of the year.

Then there's Gianluca Vialli, Antonio Cabrini, Massimo Carrera and Michael Laudrup.

Or if they don’t take your fancy Claudio Gentile, Arrigo Sacchi, Alberto Zaccheroni, Dino Zoff or Giovanni Trapattoni.

What about Sven-Göran Eriksson?

Some will just be happy to have their names mentioned in the same breath as the Old Lady, while others like Zoff and Trap will have chuckled and settled back into their quiet, uncomplicated lives.

The latest to be linked with what is becoming the most poisoned of chalices is Rafael Benitez.

The Spaniard would have been Juve’s first choice when they returned to Serie A, but at the time he was flying high at Liverpool.

Of course, events have moved on since then – and the Turin club are hoping to take advantage of what Tuttosport describes as the “growing financial constraints” at Anfield.

But then, it's not as if Juventus are flush at the moment, and they're unlikely to turn into a cash cow in the foreseeable future.

The new stadium is eating up a lot of funds and the cloud of Calciopoli still hangs over the club, leaving marquee sponsors hesitant to have their name associated just yet.

Then, as with Liverpool, there's the lost revenue from failing to reaching the knockout stages of this season’s Champions League.

And, again as at Anfield, there's genuine concern that the team will fail to qualify for next year’s competition: they lie fifth domestically but well off the title-chasers' pace.

"It doesn't look any better over there"

The three wise men – Jean Claude Blanc, Alessio Blanc and Roberto Bettega – have been coveting Hiddink since before the winter break.

However, more than seeing their reaction to his demands for a €5 million salary until the end of the season and €6 million thereafter, there was the creeping sensation that Hiddink felt that the club’s hierarchy had no clear strategy for the future – apart from building a new stadium.

He alluded to that in an interview with a Dutch newspaper, and the way the club have been stumbling around in the dark over whether to jettison Ciro Ferrara or not would seem to bear that out.

Hiddink eyes problems

In the meantime, Ferrara will drift on like a dead man walking until he is finally put out of his misery.

On Thursday he and Juve will shuffle to the San Siro for an Italian Cup quarter-final with Inter – an event that should heighten expectations and get the Juve dander up.

Now, it’s being treated with the Monday-morning trepidation of an unhappy employee facing another week of examining their very existence.

It's just something to endure, except if you're Alessandro del Piero or Diego, in which case you go down with a flu bug and clamber back under the duvet.

Ferrara is probably relieved the ordeal is almost over – he's only 42 but his nerves have been so frayed that he looks 10 years older; the bald patch is growing, the worry-lines have been deepening and that previously ready smile is now a frown.

It only reinforces the old adage that nice guys finish last – just take a look at Inter.

Who knows, the way things are going Ferrara’s agony could be prolonged into facing Lazio at the weekend.

But for Juve fans it's set to continue for much longer – what with Zaccheroni the new favourite to take over until the end of the season. 

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