#Bayern Munich vs #Barcelona: Watch Champions League #Vine Highlights

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Juventus: Scudetto Only Emphasizes the Rest of Serie A’s Struggles

Before they match up with Real Madrid in Tuesday’s first leg of the Champions League Semi-Finals, Juve were given the opportunity to celebrate their fourth consecutive Scudetto. Their success in the league has been tremendous for the club, and has helped vault the Old Lady to their current position in Europe.

Indeed, Juve’s success has been a boom for the club. They’ll receive a financial windfall for reaching this late stage in the competition while also standing a good bet to advance vs Real thanks to their role as extremely-overlooked underdogs.

While the success has been wonderful for Juve (they’ve outlasted comparables in Ligue 1 as well as every club representing the mighty, mighty Premier League), the same cannot be said for the rest of Serie A.

Italian football is not what it once was. This much is true. Players are no longer flocking to the peninsula, in fact, players are staying away from it. Top level players at least. Elite talent tends to seek out teams in England, Germany or atop La Liga as opposed to playing in Italy. This makes the fact that Juve out-lasted every English, financial powerhouse (and PSG) all the more outstanding.

While the Bianconeri are clearly the best team in Serie A, their quick assent to the title this year has been aided by poor play from the rest of the league, at least comparative to past years. It seems Juve will continue to carry the banner for Italian football in Europe. They may be alone in this duty.

After Juventus, the two most historically successful Italian teams are the Milan clubs. Inter and A.C. Milan. Sadly, as Serie A has fallen, so to have the Milan clubs. Inter won the treble in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, but haven’t been the same since. Their core players from the Mourinho days have grown old, and suitable replacements are yet to be found. Inter currently sit in eighth place in the standings with 49 points, thirty behind champions Juve with 79.

Inter’s Milanese counterparts have also fallen victim to losing their core. Like Inter, Milan’s nucleus consisting of the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta, grew old. Also like Inter, the team is still searching for worthy replacements.

Additionally, Milan has lost its contingent of star players, namely Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andrea Pirlo and Thiago Silva. These losses, coupled with the departures of Antonio Cassano and Alexandre Pato, have left the cupboard bare in Milan. The club has attempted to replace their former stars with the likes of Cristian Zapata and Nigel de Jong, as such they haven’t been able to reach the same heights. A.C. Milan are actually fairing worse than Inter. The Rossoneri are eleventh in Serie A with 43 points. If they had lost two more games they’d be in fourteenth place on goal differential.  

Over the past few years, Roma and Napoli have replaced the Milan clubs as challengers to Juve’s throne. Both have spent heavily in order to upset their rivals in Turin and both found moderate success (stress moderate) before struggling.

Roma have swung and miss with some acquisitions (Juan Iturbe, Ashley Cole) while Napoli simply haven’t been able to make up ground despite their numerous investments.

Thanks to a lack of domestic success, non-Juve Italian teams have struggled in making major strides in Europe. Napoli failed to qualify for the Champions League for this season and have been stuck in the Europa League. The Naples-based club deserves props for destroying Wolfsburg (who currently sit second in the Bundesliga), but Napoli’s other competition has been Anderlecht and Dynamo Moscow. They play Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Semi-Finals. Hardly the stuff of legends.

Roma has an entirely different story to tell. The Romans were placed in an admittedly tough Champions League group with Bayern and Manchester City. The finished third, but were only relegated to the Europa League on goal differential thanks to finishing even on points with CSKA Moscow, a team thirteen points off of first place in the Russian Premier League.

A.S. Roma barely got by Feyenoord in the Europa League Round of 32 before losing to Fiorentina, a team they are currently 12 points ahead of in Serie A, by an aggregate score of 4-1. They were embarrassed by the Tuscans 3-0 in Rome. In two European matches (in Rome) against Bayern and Fiorentina, Roma lost by a combined score of 10-1.

Outside of Napoli and Roma, the closest team to Juve in the standings is plucky Lazio. The other Roman club is one point behind their archrivals in the standings. They’ve played well this season, but could have issues moving forward. Lazio were extremely frugal in the last transfer window and are staring at the prospect of losing Miroslav Klose.

Juventus won Serie A, and for the fourth consecutive time I might add, but the Turin-based club could use more help domestically. Serie A’s reputation is slipping if it hasn’t already slipped. For Juve to continue their success in Europe and domestically, they need the league to start performing better. This will draw better players to the league, which will in turn make the league more competitive in Europe. The added competition should help Juve greatly.

Regardless, Juve will continue to be the favorite in Serie A, but they could use some help in raising the league’s profile from the rest of the peninsula.

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Juventus Carlos Tevez Replacements: RVP, Cavani, Higuain, Dybala

Recent reports have linked Juventus striker Carlos Tevez with an early return to his old club Boca Juniors. Tevez wants to finish his career with Boca and there is speculation that it’ll happen after his contract expires following next season.

Carlitos has been superb for the Bianconeri this season with 26 goals and eight assists in 27 appearances across all competitions. While he recently “rubbished” those rumors, Juve will need a replacement, especially if they hope to build on their ever-improving European success of this season.

Juve have a star in Alvaro Morata who will be a full-time starter next season, but with Fernando Llorente underperforming and likely to be sold, coupled with Kingsley Coman not being quite ready to log heavy minutes, the team will need someone to step in for Tevez should the Argentine depart.

With bonus money from Juve’s Champions League run coupled with cash from player sales, the Old Lady will have money to spend during the upcoming summer transfer window. If they need to find a replacement for Tevez, here are some options.

Gonzalo Higuain  

With Rafa Benitez potentially exiting, Higuain could follow his manager out the door. Reports have linked the former Real Madrid star to Arsenal as well as Juve.

The Argentine has accumulated 23 goals and eight assists in Naples across all competitions, so he obviously has a track record and is comfortable with Serie A.

A pairing of Higuain and Morata would certainly be exciting to watch and would strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. The pairing would also give Real Madrid a look at what they’re missing. Los Blancos are obviously better off with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, but the new-look Juve attack would show a little of what could have been.

Higuain’s exit coupled with Benitez’, could signal the end of a once-promising era for Napoli. The club invested a heavy amount of cash in the first team, but never overtook Juventus or made much noise in the Champions League. Napoli currently sit in Europa League spot in the standings and it’s not inconceivable that they slip even further. This lack of success could mean the end of Higuain’s time in southern Italy.

Simone Zaza

Zaza was a Juve-owned player until he was sold to Sassuolo where he has gone on to net nine goals in 24 appearances. He also has an assist.

The striker has also opened his scoring account for the national team with a goal for the Azzurri in a European qualifying match against Norway. Juve will have to ward off interest from other interested clubs due to the player’s young age (23) and potential. However, the Bianconeri have a buy-back clause, similar to the situation with Real Madrid and Morata.

Robin van Persie

The Dutch forward has netted ten goals and handed out two assists for Manchester United this season, but could find himself on the way out at the club. Manchester United have long been linked to Dutch attacker Memphis Depay and are bound to be linked to a number of other elite players in a bid to improve the club.

This means that van Persie, along with Javier Hernandez, Nani and Radamel Falcao, could be offloaded to make room.

The Dutchman nearly joined Juve in 2012, but if available at a cut-rate cost, may go through with the move to Turin this time around. He’s been linked to Juve on a free transfer, and while he wouldn’t be the tireless, ground-eating machine that Tevez is, he would score a load of goals, some which would probably be quite spectacular.

Paulo Dybala

Another Argentine, Dybala is one of the more coveted young footballers in European football and looks set to leave Palermo after the current season ends.

The forward has 13 goals and 10 assists in 30 appearances for the Sicilian club. He’s been linked to a who’s who of elite clubs, specifically in the Premier League, and will cost Juve a large sum of cash, likely similar to the total they spent on all of their new arrivals this season.

The question becomes whether the fee is worth it for a largely unproven player, or if Juventus would be better off investing elsewhere. Juve reportedly have a deal in place, but it remains to be seen if this Argentine will move to Turin thanks to interest from a host of other clubs.

Radamel Falcao

Juve have been linked to Falcao before, but the forward never made the move. Similar to Robin van Persie, the Columbian may be available on a cut-rate deal after struggling on loan at Manchester United. Monaco may be willing to distance themselves from the once prolific hit-man and may sell. After all, they did loan him to United before the season despite having Champions League football on the docket.

With Juve and Monaco meeting in the Champions League, the Bianconeri have stepped up their interest once again. Despite the dip in form, Falcao hasn’t turned 30 yet and could have a few good years left in him.

Juventus have had success raiding Manchester for talent in the past with Paul Pogba, Patrice Evra and Tevez all turning around their careers in Turin—is Falcao next?

Domenico Berardi

Similar to Simone Zaza, Berardi is a player currently in a Sassuolo shirt who could be wearing the black and white of Juventus next season. Where he differs from Zaza is that he is actually owned by the Old Lady and wouldn’t require a buy-back fee.

The attacker has 11 goals and six assists for Sassuolo this season and would give Max Allegri the tactical flexibility that is so vital to Juve thanks to his ability to play out wide on the right.

Berardi is only 20, and if he can break into and contribute to Juve’s first team next season, he’ll provide a pillar for the team to build on for the future along with Morata, Pogba and Coman.

Also, excuse the music please…

Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani has some rather curious stats. The striker has scored six goals in nine Champions League games, which is a positive and quite the achievement against Europe’s best, but he’s only scored nine times in Ligue 1.

Like many players on this list, he’s been linked with a move away from the French capitol, and Juve have rumored interest. Like Robin van Persie, he may be sold to make room for new additions.

The Uruguayan hasn’t been himself when playing out of position (out wide) for the Parisians, but would nonetheless cost a pretty penny. Pairing him with Morata would be exciting, but Juve must be careful if Tevez sticks around for another year. Morata can’t spend a full season on the bench behind Cavani and Tevez while Cavani can’t continue to toil away on the wing. Needless to say there would be some issues.

Ciro Immobile

This is pure speculation on my part, but Immobile might be a fit back in Serie A. He’s struggled to acclimate to the Bundesliga and may be better suited back in Italy. The World Cup veteran only has three goals in 19 Bundesliga appearances.

With Jurgen Klopp leaving Dortmund and the possibility that Ilkay Gundogan, Mats Hummels and Marco Reus could follow, there could be a lot of change in terms of the German giants’ first team.

Dortmund may be inclined to an offseason rebuild instead of going forward with the same, especially with a new coach. Because of this, and the potential departure of some of their biggest stars, Dortmund may be willing to sell Immobile, especially considering he’s been a flop in the Bundesliga.

All stats courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com/ unless otherwise noted.

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Juventus Potential Carlos Tevez Replacement: Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani has some rather curious stats. The striker has scored six goals in nine Champions League games, which is a positive and quite the achievement against Europe’s best, but he’s only scored nine times in Ligue 1.

Like many players on this list, he’s been linked with a move away from the French capitol, and Juve have rumored interest. Like Robin van Persie, he may be sold to make room for new additions.

The Uruguayan hasn’t been himself when playing out of position (out wide) for the Parisians, but would nonetheless cost a pretty penny. Pairing him with Morata would be exciting, but Juve must be careful if Tevez sticks around for another year. Morata can’t spend a full season on the bench behind Cavani and Tevez while Cavani can’t continue to toil away on the wing. Needless to say there would be some issues.

All stats courtesy of http://www.whoscored.com/ unless otherwise noted.

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Check out more potential Carlos Tevez replacements in Simone ZazaGonzalo Higuain,Paulo Dybala, Radamel Falcao, Domenico Berardi and Robin van Persie. 

Champions League Highlights in Vine: PSG v Barcelona, Porto v Bayern Munich & Juventus v Monaco

PSG vs Barcelona

Porto vs Bayern Munich

Juventus vs Monaco

(RELATED: Juventus, the rare cost-efficient Champions League success)

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PSG vs Barcelona Vine Highlights: Luis Suarez’ 2 Goals & Mathieu’s Own Goal

Here’s Suarez’ first goal. 

For Suarez second goal, click here. 

For Jeremy Mathieu’s own goal, click here. 

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PSG vs Barcelona Vine Highlights: Luis Suarez’ 2nd Goal

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Juventus: Rare Cost-Efficient Champions League Success

The upcoming slate of Champions League games features some of European football’s usual suspects joining Juve in the last eight: Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid. Monaco and Porto have also qualified.

With the exception of Porto, all of these teams differ from Juve in the fact that they spend an exorbitant amount of money on new players. Sure, Atleti and Bayern sell a number of high-level players too, but they still spend top dollar to replace them.

Juventus are the rare success story in terms of not spending a ridiculous amount of money. Sure they’ve splurged on a player or two, but they tend to keep it conservative with their spending. With the exception of three players, every single Bianconeri player was acquired in 2010 or later. Captain Gianluigi Buffon and Vice-captains Giorgio Chiellini and Claudio Marchisio (an academy product) are the only exceptions.

All three have been catalysts of Juve’s recent success with Buffon and Chiellini anchoring one of Europe’s best and most cohesive defensive units. Martin Caceres would be suiting up alongside the Italian duo, but an ankle injury in March sidelined the Uruguayan defender. Caceres is a versatile defending option who can play any position on the back line. He cost Juve a mere €8 million. Rising Italian defender Angelo Ogbonna cost the Bianconeri €13 million plus half of Ciro Immobile’s rights. Andrea Barzagli, who when healthy is one of Europe most consistent and underrated defenders, cost Juve €300,000. Barzagli’s teammate Leonardo Bonucci may be the best passing central defender in the world. He cost Juventus €15.5 million. This justifiable when you consider he is only 27 and developing into one of the better players at his position. Right back Stephan Lichtsteiner joined Juve €10 million while his counterpart on the left side of the defense, Patrice Evra, cost a mere €1.2 million.

So just to recap, arguably the best defensive unit in Europe cost Juve the following, in order of cheapest to most expensive:

  • Andrea Barzagli: €300,000
  • Patrice Evra: €1.2 million
  • Caceres: €8 million
  • Stephan Lichtsteiner: €10 million
  • Ogbonna: €13 million (Plus half of Ciro Immobile’s rights. Juve would later sell the other half of Immobile’s rights to Torino for €8 million.)
  • Leonardo Bonucci: €15.5 million

Remember, PSG spent over €69 million during the last summer transfer window for David Luiz alone while Barcelona splurged €42 million on the defensive trio of Jeremy Mathieu, Thomas Vermaelen and Douglas in the last calendar year. Real Madrid just agreed to pay Porto €31 million for another defender, Danilo.

Slightly further up the pitch, Juventus relies on a midfield grouping that generally consists of some combination of Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Simone Pepe and Roberto Pereyra. Marchisio was an academy product, and as such didn’t require a transfer fee. Pogba, one of the world’s best and a future Ballon d’Or winner cost Juventus less money than it would cost you to buy a potted plant. He came on a free transfer. Azzurri legend, masterclass passer and metronome Andrea Pirlo arrived for free as well. Vidal and Pepe were slightly more expensive, costing a combined €20.6 million (Vidal €10.5, Pepe €10.1). Did I forget to mention, when on form, Arturo Vidal may be the best two-way player in the world? Oh, I did? Let me say it again. When on form, Arturo Vidal may be the best two-way footballer in the world. He cost €10.5 million. Pereyra is on loan from Udinese. In order to bring the attacking midfielder in on loan, Juve paid a mere €1.5 million. Even if you factor in utility/squad player Simone Padoin’s €5 million fee, Juve haven’t surrendered much financially form one of Europe’s best midfields.

  • Marchisio: Free* (academy product)
  • Pirlo: Free
  • Pogba: Free
  • Pereyra: €1.5 million (Loan fee. Juventus have the option to make the move permanent for €14 million over the summer.)
  • Padoin: €5 million
  • Pepe €10.1
  • Vidal €10.5

In other words, that’s a combined €27.1 for a midfield that could potentially guide Juventus into the Champions League semifinals. Real Madrid doled out €25 million for the rights to Toni Kroos, not to mention €80 million for another midfielder, albeit more of an attacking type in James Rodriguez. Barcelona paid more for Ivan Rakitic (€18 million) than Juve did for their four best midfielders in Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal (€10.5). The same can be said of Bayern Munich, who in the summer of 2013, paid €37 million for Mario Gotze and €25 million for Thiago.

As we move further up the pitch, transfer fees get more expensive. Barcelona paid €81.25 million for Luis Suarez this past summer transfer window. Real Madrid paid a combined €185 million for their star duo of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. Atletico Madrid remade their attacking contingent over the summer by paying a combined €86 million for forwards Alessio Cerci (€16 million), Angel Correa (€7.5 million), Raul Jimenez (€10.5 million), Mario Mandzukic (€22 million) and Antoine Griezmann (€30 million).

Juventus possess a dangerous strike force that was significantly cheaper than the likes of the near free-spending clubs listed above.

The Bianconeri admittedly splurged €20 million on Alvaro Morata, but the young Spaniard already looks like a bargain thanks to some strong performances. Like the midfield, Juventus used a number of free transfers and loaned players to fill out their roster. Promising youngster Kingsley Coman was signed for nothing while towering striker Fernando Llorente was also brought in for free. Alessandro Matri rejoined the club on a loan deal to provide depth. While €20 million seems like a bargain for Morata, the real bargain came when the team bought Carlos Tevez from Manchester City. Tevez cost an initial €13 million (and change) and has gone on to reestablish himself as one of Europe’s most dangerous strikers. Here’s just a taste of what Carlitos has done lately.

Here’s what Juve paid for their attackers:

  • Coman: Free
  • Llorente: Free
  • Matri: Free* (On Loan)
  • Tevez: €13.89 million
  • Morata: €20 million

Considering the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid have recently spent enough money on attacking players to fix a small country’s economy, €38.89 million seems like a relatively small price to pay for a group of strikers that have advanced Juve as far as their Spanish counterparts.

While teams like PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid spend exuberantly when they get the chance, Juve have made it just as far with much cheaper, but just as effective talent. It’s also worth noting that Juventus, the champions of Serie A, widely regarded as a struggling league from a financial standpoint, made it further in the competition than every single English team. England’s Premier League is widely regarded as the most financially prosperous league on the planet.

Of Juventus players listed above, the Bianconeri paid €108.99 million. Real, Barca and Atleti all paid more than that amount for players in the most recent summer transfer window. Monaco are in the position they are now because of a heavy investment in their squad that cost them over €140 million during last season’s summer transfer window. PSG sonly spent €58 million this past summer transfer window, but during the previous two seasons, they spent over €130 million in each summer window.

The Bianconeri are in a position to make the Champions League semifinals thanks to a favorable matchup with Monaco. The French club have dialed back their spending after a summer of spending cash last season. They’re more of the less of a group of evils than being a favorable matchup. There are no easy games at this stage of the Champions League, but Monaco seems to be the least intimating of the final eight. While most of the other eight teams bought elite talent for top dollar, Juventus have found their own elite talent through more cost-efficient methods, something that is a rarity these days.

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