The rise of Juventus from the ignominy of getting relegated to the second division after being crowned champions is one for the history books. The Serie A giants took their time to establish themselves in the league on their return as Inter and Milan made merry in their absence and subsequent struggles.
However, the Old Lady went about reforming the club, got their very own stadium – a unique achievement among Italy’s top clubs, and signed the right players to take the club back to the top. Five consecutive league titles (with a sixth on the way) is a testament to their progress as the Milanese clubs crumbled.
Though they have spent a considerable amount of money on player transfers, there have been some gems that came for absolutely nothing. We look at five such players that came to Turin on free transfers.
1) Andrea Pirlo
If you could sum up the 2011/12 Serie A season in one sentence, it would be AC Milan releasing Andrea Pirlo. Arguably the biggest mistake made by the club in recent years, Pirlo moved to Juventus and established himself as one of the greatest deep-lying midfielders of the modern era and introduced the rest of the world to the role of the regista.
“When Andrea told me that he was joining us, the first thing I thought was: ‘God exists’. A player of his level and ability, not to mention that he was free, I think it was the signing of the century!” – Gianluigi Buffon
Buffon was right. With Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal playing alongside him and even protecting him, Pirlo was liberated and he became the pass-master of Serie A in his debut season with Juve; completing more passes than any other player, creating more than 100 chances, grabbing the most assists, and also becoming a potent threat on set-pieces.
Pirlo would help Juve win four consecutive league title and his performances also saw him voted into the Serie A Team of the Year in all four seasons. To rub more salt into Milan’s wounds, Pirlo also won three consecutive Serie A Player of the Year awards between 2012 and 2014.