Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus was probably the biggest news of a transfer season that was otherwise undramatic. One man who will have had mixed feelings about the move is fellow legend Lionel Messi. The rivalry between the two stars in their La Liga showdowns has been the stuff of legend, and has always made the matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid all the more tantalising. Now, the two footballing giants will have to wait for a Champion’s League draw to meet again.
Adding the X-factor
Speaking to a local radio station in Spain, Messi said he was surprised by Ronaldo’s decision to leave Real and join the Turin-based outfit. He commented that Real would be a poorer team without the talismanic striker, but added that for Juventus, this was a signing that could take them from also-rans to the very top. He added: “It makes Juventus a clear favourite to win the Champions League.”
The group stages commence next week, and Juventus will be starting their campaign away to Valencia on 19 September. Ronaldo has yet to score a goal for his new team, and the match is likely to garner far more attention than it might otherwise have done. Tickets are still available online from sites like Livefootballtickets.com for those who want to see how Portugal’s most famous export is settling in to his new team.
Are Juve really favourites?
Does Messi really have a point, or is there a degree of gamesmanship at work in his remarks concerning one of his biggest rivals? Juventus are starting to acquire something of a bridesmaid’s reputation in the Champions League. They have appeared in nine finals over the years, but only won two of them, the last time being in 1996 when they memorably squeezed past Ajax on penalties.
Since then, they have appeared in five more finals, coming out on the wrong side every time. The presence of a figure like Ronaldo at the helm could certainly give the team that extra five percent to go all the way. However, it is still a far cry to suggest they are favourites to win.
In their favour, Juventus have “done a Russia” as far as the draw is concerned. Valencia and Young Boys are unlikely to cause any concerns, and Manchester United is a team that is so busy fighting its own inner demons that Juventus will be hot favourites to power through to become Group H winners – in fact, bookmakers have them at 1/2 on.
From thereon in, it’s all down to the luck of the draw, but Manchester City are looking as strong as they ever have and Real Madrid always turn it on for the Champions League, and will have a point of their own to prove. And then, of course there is Messi’s own Barcelona. According to bookmakers, City are the early favourites, with Barca and Juventus next in line. Ultimately, however, it is that Ronaldo v. Messi showdown that everybody will be waiting for.