The Turin club has dominated Italian football, winning Serie A for the last seven seasons, and its signing of five-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo in July was interpreted as a bold statement of its European intentions, Reuters reported.
But those dreams were left in tatters after Juventus was beaten 2-1 at home in its quarterfinal second leg on Tuesday, going out 3-2 on aggregate.
Not only was Juventus beaten but it was outclassed by a team whose fluid, geometric passing left the Italian side chasing shadows and who possessed something Juventus lacked — a clear playing style.
The current Juventus side is arguably the least appealing since Massimiliano Allegri took over in 2014, depending largely on the talent of Ronaldo to unlock matches.
Playmaker Paulo Dybala, in particular, seems to have been inhibited by Ronaldo’s presence and the Argentine’s season took another frustrating turn on Tuesday when he was taken off at halftime with a thigh injury.
Allegri, however, said that Juventus was “absolutely not” over-dependent on Ronaldo. “He has given us a lot over the course of the campaign, but when you reach the quarterfinal, you need every player,” he said.
Instead he blamed injuries to players such as key defender Giorgio Chiellini, winger Douglas Costa and forward Mario Mandzukic, previously described by Allegri as Ronaldo’s ideal striking partner.
“It’s better to have as many options as possible, because these ties are decided by details, substitutions and options off the bench,” he said.
Those complaints may sound hollow, however, when the transfer spending of the respective sides is compared.
According to the specialist website Transfermarkt, Ajax has spent just over €51 million (£45 million) this season while Juventus has splashed out 261 million.
Of that, around €100 million was on Ronaldo, 40 million each on Joao Cancelo and Costa, €35 million on bringing Leonardo Bonucci back from AC Milan and 12 million on reserve goalkeeper Mattia Perin.
Fans of other Serie A sides are unlikely to be sympathetic, either, after seeing Juventus snap up their top players.
Examples include Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain, who joined from AS Roma and Napoli respectively in 2016, and Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina.
But, rather like Paris St. Germain in France, Juve’s dominance of Serie A appeared to leave it unprepared for the European challenge.
Ajax took the game to Juventus in a way that none of its domestic rivals would have dared, and Allegri’s team was incapable of dealing with it.
“Football can be brutal, we conceded an unlucky goal and after that, we became afraid and we were stretched in the second half,” he said.
“There are many young players in the squad who need to play and gain experience. Some might have paid for having two such big matches in the space of a week.”