Juventus’ 15 best signings of all time
The Bianconeri are renowned as canny operators in the transfer market – here, Goal runs through the most successful acquisitions ever
The founders of the Italian car manufacturer FIAT have long funded the acquisition of overseas stars and the pick of domestic talent.
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Below, Goal runs through the shrewdest and most successful signings the Bianconeri have ever made…
ROBERTO BAGGIO | From Fiorentina | €9.3m | 1990
There were riots on the streets of Florence when Fiorentina fans learned that their beloved Roberto Baggio was to be sold to bitter rivals Juventus. The outrage was somewhat understandable, given that the No.10 was one of most the extravagantly gifted players Italy had ever produced.
However, the Viola decided to deal after Juventus offered a world-record fee for an iconic figure who would come to be known as ‘Il Divino Codino‘ (‘The Divine Ponytail’) due to his famous hairstyle and silky skills.
Baggio fell out with coaches Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi, and never hid his enduring love for Fiorentina (“Deep in my heart, I will always be Viola”) but he proved himself a worthy heir to Michel Platini, with 78 goals in just 141 Serie A games. He won the Scudetto, Coppa Italia, and almost single-handedly took Juventus to Uefa Cup glory in 1993 which saw him win the Ballon d’Or.
GIANLUIGI BUFFON | From Parma | €52m | 2001
At the time, €52m looked like a colossal fee for Gianluigi Buffon. Now, it is regarded as a bargain. Indeed, that the Juventus and Italy captain remains the most expensive goalkeeper in history – 16 years after his arrival from Parma – underlines just why he is rightly regarded as the greatest No.1 of all time.
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Only Dino Zoff can claim to have enjoyed such a sustained period of excellence at the highest level and Buffon is even in a position to match his compatriot’s remarkable feat of winning the World Cup at the age of 40, in Russia next year.
Buffon’s legendary status is already secured, though, not least because he refused to join the post-Calciopoli exodus at Juventus following the club’s demotion to Serie B in 2006, explaining, “In football, we talk a lot. But I firmly believe in certain moments you need to replace words with deeds.”
ANTONIO CABRINI | From Atalanta | €362k | 1976
Antonio Cabrini had already played in both Serie C and Serie B, with Cremonese and Atalanta, respectively, by the time he joined Juventus in the summer of 1976 as an 18-year-old.
He had to wait until February of the following year to make his Serie A debut but he would quickly make the left-back berth his own – for the next decade.
Indeed, Cabrini was as talented as he was handsome – he was known as ‘Bell’Antonio’ (‘Beautiful Antonio’) and ‘Findanzato d’Italia’ (‘Italy’s Boyfriend’) because of his good looks – and, alongside Dino Zoff, Gaetano Scirea and Claudio Gentile, he became a key cog in one of the greatest backlines the Italian game has ever seen, the foundation on which Juve’s domestic dominance and Italy’s 1982 World Cup triumph were built.
JOHN CHARLES | From Leeds | €74k | 1957
Quite simply, John Charles is the greatest British player ever to play overseas. He was more than a great footballer, he was an ambassador, a paragon of virtue who retains a mythical status within the Italian game.
The Welshman arrived in Turin during a lean spell for Juventus but he formed a legendary attacking triumvirate with Omar Sivori and Giampiero Boniperti (‘il Trio Magico‘) that fired the Old Lady to three Serie A titles in four seasons.
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Injuries eventually took their toll on Charles but nothing would dim the legendary status of ‘Il Buon Gigante‘ (‘The Gentle Giant’), who was never even booked during his time in Italy.
When he passed away in 2004, both Juventus and his other former Italian side, Roma, held a minute’s silence in his honour.
EDGAR DAVIDS | From AC Milan | €4.7m | 1997
Given how hellish his time at AC Milan had been, it’s hardly surprising that the Dutchman describes his subsequent move to Juventus as “like a gift from heaven”.
He had arrived at San Siro as one of the stars of the Ajax side that had conquered Europe but the tough-tackling midfielder, whom Louis van Gaal had nicknamed ‘The Pitbull’, never really got going again after an early leg break.
Juve, though, decided to take a gamble on Davids and it paid off spectacularly, with the Netherlands international forming a wonderful midfield partnership with Zinedine Zidane.
“We both understood football on the same level,” the three-time Scudetto winner later revealed. “But a lot of it was down to [coach Marcello] Lippi. He had confidence in me.”
ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO | From Padova | €2.6m | 1993
Alessandro Del Piero arrived at Juventus in 1993. He would stay until 2012. During those intervening years, he would become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer and appearance-maker, and win nearly every major honour in the game.
Stylistically, he belonged in the same category as Michel Platini and Baggio, a sublimely gifted trequartista, one who became so adept at cutting inside onto his favoured right foot and bending the ball into the top corner that it became known as a ‘Gol alla Del Piero‘.
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However, as a personality, ‘Alex’ evoked memories of the golden age of John Charles for the way in which he conducted himself on and off the pitch.
As former team-mate Alessio Tacchinardi once revealed, “Del Piero always comes to the training field with a smile for everyone, a comforting word for everyone. This is his greatness: humility. He’s a golden person.”
CLAUDIO GENTILE | From Varese | €103k | 1973
Claudio Gentile is remembered as one of the finest yet most feared defenders of all time, renowned for his dirty tricks and dogged determination. Indeed, Argentine icon Mario Kempes put it best when he said, “If you went to the toilet, Gentile would follow you there.”
The Italy international was also a good footballer, though, versatile enough to also play at centre-half, and he even ended his playing days as a libero.
However, it was on the right-side of both the Juve and Azzurri defence where he flourished, the unshakeable man-marker who won six Scudetti in Turin and did a job on both Diego Maradona and Zico during his country’s triumphant 1982 World Cup campaign.
PAVEL NEDVED | From Lazio | €41.2m | 2001
Pavel Nedved didn’t come cheap. The Czech Republic international had, after all, been instrumental in Lazio’s domestic double in 1999-2000. Juve were, thus, forced to hand over €41.2m for ‘Furia Ceca‘ (a play on Nedved’s nationality and the expression ‘Blind Fury’).
However, he proved – and continues to prove – excellent value for money because few players have ever bought so readily into Juve’s club culture.
Nedved won two Scudetti, as well as the Ballon d’Or, during his time in Turin as a player – he may well have won the Champions League had he not been suspended for the 2003 final against AC Milan – before then returning to the Bianconeri in a directorial role, a position in which he now serves as an invaluable link between the players and the board.
ANDREA PIRLO | From AC Milan | Free | 2011
“When Andrea [Pirlo] told me that he would come to Juve,” Gianluigi Buffon revealed in 2011, “the first thing that I said was ‘Thank God!'”
The Juve captain’s joy was understandable. In what will be remembered as one of the worst appraisals in football history, AC Milan had felt that Pirlo, at the age of 31, was finished at the highest level.
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As a result, they allowed him to run down his contract and join Juve on a free transfer.
It was, as Buffon predicted, “the deal of the century”, with a Juve side coming off the back of two seventh-placed finishes romping to four successive Serie A titles with pass master Pirlo pulling the strings in midfield.
MICHEL PLATINI | From Saint-Etienne | €129k | 1982
Given Michel Platini’s contract with Saint-Etienne had expired, Juve only had to pay a nominal fee for one of the stars of the 1982 World Cup.
Or, as Juve president Gianni Agnelli famously put it at the time of the transfer, “We’ve paid for a slice of bread (an idiom for ‘pittance’ in Italian) and they’ve given us foie gras!”
He wasn’t wrong either. Platini would go on to win three successive Ballons d’Or between 1983 and 1985, after finishing as Serie A’s capocannoniere in all three seasons. He also scored the goal that gave Juventus their fist European Cup, a victory overshadowed by the Heysel Tragedy.
In light of the competitiveness and defensive excellence of Italian football at the time, the French forward’s form during the mid-80s compares favourably with the feats of modern-day greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
PAUL POGBA | From Manchester United | Free | 2012
“The word ‘mistake’ is not something you would normally associate with Alex Ferguson’s time at Manchester United,” Zinedine Zidane acknowledged. “But I do think it was a mistake letting Paul Pogba leave.” And a costly one at that.
Ferguson, understandably, still blames Mino Raiola for Pogba’s departure, revealing that he disliked the Italian agent from the moment he first met him, but the fact of the matter is that United lost a player on a free transfer that they bought back last summer for a world-record €105m fee.
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Juve certainly couldn’t believe their luck, with Pogba making such an immediate impression on then coach Antonio Conte that he rejigged his midfield in order to facilitate the young Frenchman, who would play an integral role in four successive Serie A title triumphs before returning to Manchester.
GAETANO SCIREA | From Atalanta | €362k | 1974
One of the finest exponents of the libero role the game has ever seen, Gaetano Scirea was renowned not only for his elegance, intelligence and remarkable ability to read the game, which, combined with his admirable sense of fair play, meant that he rarely committed a foul – in complete contrast to his team-mate Gentile.
Along with fellow Juve defender Cabrini, he became the first player to win every major UEFA trophy, as well as seven Scudetti and two Coppe Italia.
However, Scirea was more than a winner, he was a gentleman; a humble and loyal character whose death in a car accident at the age of 36 devastated everyone who followed Italian football.
His memory lives on, though, with trophies, tournaments and even roads having been named after him, and even books and songs written in his honour.
OMAR SIVORI | From River Plate | €106k | 1957
Gianni Agnelli once said, “Omar Sivori is a bad habit.” It was a typically pithy description from the former Juventus owner. Sivori was as volatile as he was talented, both a blessing and a liability, given he was as likely to score a goal as start an argument.
According to legend, John Charles actually slapped Sivori in the face in a desperate attempt to calm him down during one particularly heated on-field episode. Sivori, though, was undoubtedly worth all of the trouble – and the world-record fee Juve had paid to sign him from River Plate.
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He was a mesmerising dribbler who boasted both pace and a sensational left foot, with which he scored most of the goals that helped Juve win three Serie A titles during an eight-year stay in Turin that also saw him claim the Ballon d’Or, in 1961.
ZINEDINE ZIDANE | From Bordeaux | €3.5m | 1996
Amusingly, Blackburn Rovers turned down the chance to sign Zinedine Zidane because they already had Tim Sherwood, while Newcastle didn’t think that the elegant Frenchman was good enough to play in the Championship – let alone the Premier League.
That left the way clear for Juventus to sign Zidane in the summer of 1996 for just €3.6m, meaning that they made a rather tidy profit when they sold the attacking midfielder on to Real Madrid five years later for a world-record €77.5m.
The World Cup winner’s form may have dipped during his final two seasons in Turin but he was always a joy to behold – for his first touch alone – and while the Champions League eluded him at Juve, he did inspire the Bianconeri to two league wins.
Even Marcello Lippi was moved to admit, “I am honoured to have been his coach.”
DINO ZOFF | From Napoli | €0.8m | 1972
One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Dino Zoff was also a brilliant captain. He was a man of few words but he defended his net as ferociously as his team-mates.
“Dino always protected me as if I were his little brother,” Gaetano Scirea once said.
Zoff had already turned 30 by the time he joined Juve but he would stay for a remarkable 11 years, making 330 consecutive league appearances for the club – testament to his work ethic, fitness dedication and professionalism. During that time, he famously lifted the World Cup as Italy captain at the age of 40.