Experience the difference between Juventus and Monaco
ABS-CBN Sports on May 11, 2017 10:10 AM
Juventus' Gonzalo Higuain, top center, raises a fist as he and his teammates celebrate after the Champions League semi final second leg soccer match between Juventus and Monaco in Turin, Italy, Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Juventus defeated Monaco by 2-1. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
DANIELLA MATAR, Associated Press
TURIN, Italy (AP) — Monaco still has much to learn.
Juventus was a class apart in both legs of the Champions League semifinals, with its veteran defense stifling the French league club's much-vaunted attack. Even more, it was the 34-year-old Dani Alves who inspired the Bianconeri to reach its second final in three years.
"We are very happy because for a lot of these players it's their first experience at this level, playing in the Champions League semifinals," Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said. "I told the players after that I was very proud and happy.
"Many of these players are going to arrive at a very high level. Our opponent's youngest player was (Paulo) Dybala, who is 23. Ours is 18 and we have a lot of players who are 21, 22, 23, and I think that is the difference. In a few years, this team will be 30 percent stronger."
That 18-year-old player is Kylian Mbappe, the France forward who wasn't even born when Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made his Serie A debut in 1995.
Mbappe, who was playing in the reserves in November, has had a spectacular season and his estimated value is already at 100 million euros ($110 million). The teenager scored again on Tuesday, netting Monaco's consolation goal in the 2-1 loss to take his tally to 25 for the season.
"My goal against Buffon was pointless really, it's pretty much just anecdotal," Mbappe said.
Monaco's task will be keeping their talented youngsters together, with offers set to flood in when the transfer window reopens in June.
"We're very proud of this exceptional European run," Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev said. "This time in May 2013 we were playing in Ligue 2, and now we've just played a Champions League semifinal. No club would have managed to do so apart from Monaco.
"Juventus was the stronger team, we have to recognize that ... Work pays, we can see the success of everything we've put in place. Experts doubted Monaco's project, but it's a source of great pride to see what Monaco has become today."
If Monaco is a work in progress, Juventus is an example of what it can aspire to become as the Italian leaders bid for the treble.
The Italian team is likely to secure an unprecedented sixth straight Serie A title on Sunday at Roma, while it is also in the Italian Cup final.
The club failed in its treble attempt two years ago when it lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final. This time, it could be Juventus' year, especially after it eased past the Catalan team 3-0 on aggregate in the quarterfinals.
"Second Champions League final in three years. It's a great achievement," Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said. "We have grown in respect to two years ago, when we were a surprise. Now we're a certainty."
The core of the Juventus team remains the same, especially in defense, although it has lost the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata. However, the Bianconeri have strengthened as well, signing Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Mandzukic and Miralem Pjanic — to name only a few.
"Two years ago we had an impressive midfield," Bonucci said. "But it's not like we're any less now."
Juventus coach Massimiliamo Allegri brought in a 4-2-3-1 formation in January, moving Pjanic to a deeper midfield role alongside Sami Khedira, with Juan Cuadrado, Dybala and Mandzukic sitting just behind Higuain. Bonucci said that was the turning point for Juventus.
"I think the change of system gave us the awareness that we are more 'European' and that's been our force together with the fact that we all sacrifice ourselves for the team," Bonucci said. "Plus with the weapons we have in front we always manage to score."