With an average age of 30 years and 64 days, the Juventus team that reached the 2015 Champions League Final followed a well-established Italian tradition of fielding some of the oldest sides in the competition. Those veteran legs were no hindrance for the Turin club either and it took an exceptional Barcelona team to stop them from winning the tournament outright, just as age and experience didn’t unduly handicap Milan and Inter when they won the competition in 2007 and 2010 respectively with teams older still than the Juventus of 2015.
The sharp increase in the pace and athleticism of European football over the past decade might suggest that youthful energy and vigour is a prerequisite for contemporary success, but why would fielding an older team worry a club with a peerless record for squeezing productive football from declining veterans like Juventus?
Three members of the Champions League finalists’ team fit this mould: Andrea Pirlo was picked up from Milan at the age of 32 and is still going strong four years later; Patrice Evra was discarded by Manchester United last year at the age of 33 and Carlos Tevez, while a little younger at 29, arrived with the sort of baggage that would have scared off many a club with less clarity of transfer vision than the Turin giants.
The first notable example of Juventus rolling back the years with a player rather closer to the end of his career than the start dates back to 1930. The ferocious defender cum midfielder Luisito Monti had enjoyed a fine career with Huracan, Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo and the Argentinian national team. Juventus signed him shortly after he appeared for his country in the very first World Cup Final and the transfer initially attracted some adverse comment. Monti was overweight, out of shape and displaying the physical signs of wear and tear you might expect of a 29-year-old who had played his entire career in a relentlessly aggressive and combative style.
Juventus showed patience with him though and worked hard for a solid month on his fitness before introducing him to serious action, a strategy fully mitigated by the enormous impact he would eventually have on their team. Monti played in Turin until the age of 38 and helped Juventus to four consecutive Serie A titles. For good measure he even won a World Cup winner’s medal in 1934 representing Italy.
Another grand resurrection of a South American legend took place in 1972 with the signing of José Altafini from Napoli. The Brazilian had arrived in Italy with Milan way back in 1958 and spent seven successful seasons at San Siro, then a further seven seasons down south with Napoli. About to turn 32 and expected to wind down his career in Switzerland, in stepped Juventus to extend his lengthy Italian career out to nearly two decades. Thanks to selective use of his ageing legs this turned out to be an inspired signing. The Brazilian forged a reputation as a super sub who scored many key goals including the ones that tipped both the 1973 and 1975 Serie A title races in favour of Juventus.
When Altafini finally quit the club at the grand old age of 36, Juventus pulled yet another rabbit out of the hat. The 32-year-old Roberto Boninsegna arrived from Inter as Altafini’s replacement in a deal that initially appeared to greatly favour the Milanese club. Inter received another former international striker, Pietro Anastasi, in return and paid a small balancing fee.
Crucially Anastasi was five years younger than Boninsegna. Being a striker in 1970s Serie A was a demanding and lonely task that exacted a heavy toll on its proponents, so while Anastasi was expected to have three or more good seasons left in him, Boninsegna was already at the age when strikers dropped down to a lower division or retired altogether. And yet Boninsegna would prove to be just as inspired a signing as Altafini. He was the club’s top scorer during his first season with his goals helping the club to Serie A and UEFA Cup success. Another title followed the following season and it was only during the third and final year of his Turin Indian summer that he was squeezed out of the first team and on to the bench. Meanwhile at Inter, Anastasi flopped disastrously and was reduced to playing for modest Ascoli while his older compatriot was still competing for honours with Juve.
This is just a small selection of the Turin club’s many successes in rolling back the years, so we’ve compiled a Juventus Veteran Transfers Eleven to capture the best of them. And just so you don’t leave with the impression that every veteran signing Juventus ever made enjoyed a miraculous renaissance in Turin, well, no club has an utterly foolproof transfer record in this regard. Giuliano Sarti, Luca Toni, Fabio Grosso, Lionel Manfredonia, Pietro Vierchowod, Alessandro Altobelli and Luca Fusi are just some of the well-known names who didn’t tear up any trees upon moving to Turin in the twilight years of their careers.
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