Ronaldo’s hair pulling to Costa’s spitting – Juve need cooler heads to win Champions League

Juventus legend Giampiero Boniperti famously opined, “Winning isn’t important; it’s the only thing that matters.”

In that sense, things are going quite well for the Bianconeri at the moment.

On Saturday, they saw off Sassuolo with two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo to maintain their perfect start to their bid for an eight consecutive Serie A title.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, they kicked off their Champions League campaignwith a 2-0 win at Valencia . 

However, both games were overshadowed by the kind of petulant behaviour that the Old Lady has always frowned upon. 

Indeed, it was Boniperti who also said that ‘ Lo Stile Juventus ‘ (‘The Juventus style’) was “a way of living, of conducting oneself, of thinking.”

Consequently, it’s fair to say that the former Juve striker would have been disgusted by the sight of Douglas Costa spitting in the face of Sassuolo’s Federico Di Francesco last weekend, and utterly bemused by  Ronaldo’s tearful tantrum at Mestalla . 

As a former Bianconeri board member, Boniperti would also have been deeply embarrassed by reports that vice-president Pavel Nedved tried to confront match referee Felix Brych at half-time over his decision to dismiss Ronaldo just before the half-hour mark in Valencia.

Despite their involvement in the Calciopoli scandal – which was both preceded and followed by countless allegations of preferential treatment from match officials – Juve have always strived to maintain an image of being above such unseemly squabbles.

Indeed, the attitude has always been that they will not allow rivals, rightly or wrongly upset by contentious decisions, drag them into slanging matches. 

Nedved himself claimed after a disputed victory over Inter earlier this year, “I won’t get involved in controversy because it’s been like this for 100 years: Juventus are always under fire.

“For us, it’s natural and we don’t mind. We only think of going forward, improving and winning trophies.”

That – their rivals would say smug – approach has repeatedly reaped dividends domestically but it is now 22 years and counting since they last lifted the Champions League.

Unsurprisingly, European glory is their primary target this season; the reason why the paid over €100 million to sign the 33-year-old Ronaldo during the summer.

The Portuguese is a five-time winner; Juve, by contrast, have lost their past five finals.

The Champions League has, thus, become an obsession, partly responsible for Leonardo Bonucci, who has never lifted the trophy, getting so upset with former right-back Dani Alves ahead of the 2017 final in Cardiff for playing ‘ Samba Do Janeiro ‘ at full blast in the Juve dressing room.

“Leo went up to Dani and said he’d break his legs in three seconds if he didn’t turn off that music,” striker Mario Mandzukic later revealed.

“Obviously, a row erupted and it just kept going, until Dani Alves said that if he lost the final, he’d still have three Champions League trophies in his locker, whereas Bonucci had none.

“At that point, everyone turned around stunned. I’ve won the Champions League but I’d never dare say something like that. We shouldn’t even have thought about the possibility of defeat.

“Then Leo grabbed Dani by the throat and, as he was about to punch him, Max (Allegri) divided them and took a decision of a real leader: he said he didn’t care who started it, but at the end of the game they’d both get kicked out.”

However, even with Bonucci and Alves gone last season, Juve’s desperate desire to end their Champions League drought manifested itself in the furious reaction to Michael Oliver’s decision to award a penalty to Real Madrid in the dying seconds of an epic quarter-final clash at Santiago Bernabeu.

The usually dignified Gianluigi Buffon completely lost his head that night, getting himself sent off before then further shaming himself with his post-match comments about Oliver having “a bag of rubbish” for a heart.

The rest of his team-mates, meanwhile, were just left distraught, stricken by the fear that their hopes of tasting European success had also died for good that night.

Ronaldo’s arrival in Turin has revived them, though. 

And make no mistake about it, the Portuguese is just as determined as his new colleagues to bring the trophy back to Turin. He wants to win the Champions League with a third club. He wants to prove himself the greatest player of all time. 

His appetite for further continental success was there for all to see at Mestalla, as he was reduced to tears by his first ever dismissal in the competition that he admitted beforehand remains his personal favourite.

Ronaldo, of course, is an emotional character; he always has been. And his drive is what has made him an all-time great. 

Juve, though, need him cool and calm, rather than passionate and petulant. They need him to avoid getting caught up in everything that a Champions League victory would mean for both him and his new club.

The Bianconeri have let their emotions get the better of them too many times before in Europe. They cannot afford to do so again, given what’s at stake, given what they’ve invested.

Winning the Champions League isn’t important to Ronaldo and Juventus; it’s now the only thing that matters.

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