Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Juventus, there have been reports of his impact on the club from Turin and not just on the field. Within a day of his signing, the club had 2.2 million new followers on various social media accounts. They have bagged bigger sponsorship deals with Adidas and Jeep and the valuation of the club has only gone up.
You could be forgiven to think that this is a rare occurrence for the Bianconeri. Countless great players have plied their trade for Juventus, especially before the Calciopoli scandal which led to the relegation of the club. Michel Platini, Pavel Nedved and Zinedine Zidane are just some of the Ballon d'Or winners to have been part of their roster.
Among such an illustrious list of players to have played for the club, some gained fame elsewhere. Let's have a look at some of those names on the list which may have gone under the radar:
#5 Edwin van der Sar
As the Chief Executive Officer of Ajax, van der Sar has played a key role in the club's rise in the last couple of years. The groundwork for this success was laid well in advance by working closely with Marc Overmars, the Sporting Director since 2012. Considered one of the best goalkeepers of all time, he is the second-most capped player for the Netherlands. He was a key component of one of the meanest defences England has ever seen along with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
His Ajax roots and success at Manchester United after being signed from Fulham at the tender age of 34 are known to all. However, from July 1999, he was the starting goalkeeper for the Old Lady for 2 seasons. In 88 appearances, he kept 41 clean sheets.
Van der Sar is unequivocal about his period in Turin. It didn’t meet his expectations.
"In the two years, we finished in second place both times. And I wasn’t able to reach the level that I wanted to, for myself. And for the team. That’s why my time in Turin was, in my eyes, disheartening."
The difference in playing style did not help as the defence was deep and he was asked to 'just shoot it long'.
The arrival of Buffon in 2001 brought an end to his time in Turin. Although it wasn’t a very successful time athletically, Van der Sar can put his Juve time into perspective.
"Turin is a nice city. And it was our first adventure abroad as a family. My son went to school there and learned Italian. Of course, it’s a shame how it went, but every football player has a club or a period of time in his career where things didn’t work out. For me, that was Juventus."
#4 Patrick Vieira
Currently in charge of French club Nice, Vieira is known for being part of the spine of Arsenal's Invincibles under Arsène Wenger as they went a whole league season unbeaten. His time in North London brought 3 league titles and 4 FA Cups. The battles with Roy Keane are stuff of legend to this day. Even outside of Arsenal, he was a key part of the French side which won the World Cup in 1998 and the Euros in 2000.
To go with that, 4 league titles at Inter, the last of which was part of a treble in 2009-10 and we're starting to see why he's so revered. In the discussion, the 2005-06 season spent at Juventus goes largely unnoticed. Signed for €20 million from Arsenal, he was ever-present in the side as he played 42 games in his only season.
He managed to score 5 goals and lay on 3 more. Unfortunately, that's when the Calciopoli scandal hit and he decided against staying and playing in Serie B in the latter stage of his career. Despite that, it's clear that he holds Juventus in high regard and values the time he spent there.
"Juve is the best-organized club where I played, from the board to the fans, everybody has its role and players know the come after the institution. I left Turin because I didn’t want to play the last years of my career in Serie B. I was lucky enough to play for Inter, a big club that lacks order."
#3 Filippo Inzaghi
Pippo Inzaghi, as he is known, was one of the great goalscorers of his generation. Winning the Champions League with AC Milan in 2002-03 and 2006-07, his battles with Raúl to be the highest scorer of the Champions League were fascinating to watch before Messi & Ronaldo took over. He ended up winning the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and retired 2012.
Such were his predatory instincts in front of goal that Sir Alex famously quipped,
"That lad must have been born offside."
Before lining up for AC Milan for 11 seasons, he actually spent 4 seasons in Turin. He formed a deadly partnership with Alessandro Del Piero and Zinedine Zidane. Although he was top-scorer for the club for 3 consecutive seasons, his relationship with Del Piero soured due to their individualism and lack of understanding. He was benched after the arrival of David Trezeguet.
After 89 goals and 5 assists in 165 games for the club, AC Milan coughed up €36 million in July 2001, a considerable sum at that point in time. Thus ended Inzaghi's time with la Vecchia Signora.
#2 Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The 38-year old Swede has scored over 450 goals for various clubs in his long career. He is still going strong as he returned to Europe with AC Milan after spending 2 seasons in the MLS. He has represented European powerhouses throughout his career, adding Manchester United to the list before moving to LA Galaxy. The highest amount of time he has spent at a single club is 4 seasons at PSG.
After honing his craft and developing at Ajax for three years, he moved to Juventus in August 2004. He played 92 games for the club, scoring 26 goals and providing 12 assists in the process. The numbers may seem underwhelming but that didn't stop him from winning Footballer of the Year at Juventus in 2005.
Like most stars, he left the club when the scandal hit as Inter paid almost €25 million for him. Mino Raiola maintains that the scandal had nothing to do with the departure, saying he had already arranged the deal a year before it happened.
His time at Juventus was rewarding. Fabio Capello takes credit for making him the goal-machine that he is today.
Zlatan agrees with Capello.
"In the beginning, where I grew up it was not about scoring goals, it was about who had the best skills, the best technique and I brought that with me wherever I went. That changed when I came to Juventus. I think. I was at Ajax, playing beautiful. I had the pressure, but where it was all about goals was in Italy, with Capello. Everything was new for me. Juventus was like, ‘Wow, big club, big players, big Coach, big history. Italian football, Serie A. Wow’."
#1 Thierry Henry
Much like Vieira, Henry was a key component of Arsenal's Invincibles. He was also part of the French team which won the World Cup and the Euros. Like Vieira, Henry also won a treble, forming a devastating trident with Messi and Eto'o under Pep Guardiola. However, before his spells at Arsenal and Barcelona, he spent half a season at Juventus in 1999.
His performances at Monaco convinced the hierarchy at Juventus to shell out €12.5 million for the French star. Employed as a left winger ever since Wenger put him there in for Monaco 1994, neither Marcello Lippi or Carlo Ancelotti showed much interest in employing Henry primarily as a forward.
20 matches brought 3 goals and within 6 months of joining, he was off to Arsenal. They paid €16 million as Wenger realised that there was so much untapped potential and made him the main man in North London.
It's clear that his time in Italy was a failure. Not only was the Italian league different from the French league, Serie A defences were better and he was marked tightly. Reflecting on his time in Italy, Henry said:
“I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. I felt like I’d lost the desire to play football.”
An inexperienced Ancelotti had replaced Lippi at the helm in the middle of the season to salvage Juventus' season. Ancelotti said, per Philippe Auclair's book Thierry Henry: Lonely at the Top:
"I didn't think I could play Henry in the middle. He never told me he could."
Under contract at Juventus, Henry was on a plane when he coincidentally bumped into his former Monaco boss Arsène Wenger, the manager of Arsenal. "Thierry," Wenger said, per Andrew Anthony at The Observer (h/t the Guardian).
"You are wasting your time on the wing. You are a No. 9."
The sliding doors moment of meeting Wenger could have planted seeds of doubt in Henry's mind, whose 'dream club' was not Juventus—it was always Arsenal.
A serious issue with Juventus executive Luciano Moggi played a key role too. Their relationship broke down as Moggi tried to include him in a transfer with Udinese without his knowledge. The Old Lady's loss turned out to be Arsenal's gain.