Juve look to past to secure future

MILAN - Former captain Antonio Conte could be forgiven for thinking he has a good chance of landing the Juventus manager's job if the club continue their policy of looking to the past.

Conte, who has led Bari to promotion to Serie A this season, is favourite among the fans to take over permanently following Monday's sacking of Claudio Ranieri.

"It would be an honour to return to Turin as coach. Otherwise I will continue to follow with affection a team I spent 13 years with," the former midfielder, who won the Champions League with the club in 1996, told reporters last week.

Ranieri's dismissal by Juve was the first since Luis Caniglia was axed 40 years ago but the board decided they had to act with third-placed Juve is danger of slipping out of the automatic Champions League places with two games left.

Youth team coach Ciro Ferrara, Juve through and through having also played in the 1996 Champions League-winning side, was put in temporary charge and could get the job permanently.

"We chose to entrust the role to a Juventus supporter, who has Juve in his blood and who has a successful past with the club," chief executive Jean Claude Blanc told a news conference.

On Tuesday, former defender Fabio Cannavaro signed to return from Real Madrid for next season.

It is a clear ploy from the Juve hierarchy to reconnect with their glorious past having previously wanted to distance themselves from the old Juve given their 2006 demotion in a match-fixing scandal.

After the affair, in which former general manager Luciano Moggi was banned from football for five years, Juve set up a new management structure designed to show that the stench of corruption had been completely removed.

Some supporters felt the cleansing process went too far and that the soul of Juventus had gone.

The likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon stayed on for their immediate promotion from Serie B but the club mutated again for their return to the top flight.

The club badge was changed and Ranieri, with no connection to Juve, was appointed coach.

UNREST GREW

His early signings, such as ineffective midfielder Tiago, were not viewed by fans as the type of player Juventus used to buy when winning their record 27 scudettos before the 2005 and 2006 titles were revoked.

Supporter unrest grew when performances faltered in recent weeks, with some fans even chanting for the return of Moggi, so the board opted to try to rediscover Juve's former heart.

Re-signing 35-year-old Italy captain Cannavaro on a one-year contract is a big gamble, though, irrespective of his age.

He may be a successful player from the not-too-distant past but angry fans still think he showed a lack of loyalty when leaving in the wake of the 2006 demotion.

"I'm happy to come back to Turin and have the chance to wear the black and white stripes again," Cannavaro said.

"I'm sorry bitterness prevails with some of the fans rather than an appreciation of the glorious seasons we had together."

The club said he was sold for economic reasons and hope his return can be a catalyst for Juve, Italy's most successful team domestically, to reassume their position alongside fellow Italian giants AC Milan and this season's champions Inter Milan.

Conte's appointment would please fans, who adore his winning mentality, and also give Juve another link to former glories which other possible candidates such AS Roma's Luciano Spalletti and Genoa's Gian Piero Gasperini would not offer.

If former Juve boss Marcello Lippi, who won five Serie A titles with the club, was not preparing to retain the World Cup with Italy he would undoubtedly be among the names mooted.

Juve, currently sharing the smaller Stadio Olimpico with Torino, will move back to the rebuilt Stadio Delle Alpi in 2011 in another sign of going back to the future.

The club is not called the Old Lady for nothing.


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