This morning Juventus and Inter Milan played a 90-minute match that ended in a 1-1 draw and subjected everyone to a bout of tepidly taken penalties.
Like most friendlies, there were some players trying mildly hard and others not trying one iota (looking at you, João Cancelo). Like most friendlies, some players were in good shape and some players were not in good shape. And like all friendlies, the game was, for the most part, a meaningless spectacle meant to earn both clubs fat paychecks.
(At least nobody got hurt: In yesterday’s friendly between Arsenal and Real Madrid, Los Blancos star Marco Asensio ruptured his ACL and will surely miss most or all of the next campaign. Obviously players need to get back into game shape, but the notion that globetrotting them around is the best way to do it is, quite clearly, silly.)
What’s equally aggravating is when fans and pundits — who must, I suppose, have something to write about — draw sweeping, irrevocable, and absolutely certain conclusions from these games.
So here, in honor of all those fans and pundits, are four takeaways from today’s Juventus-Inter game that are definitely wrong.
1. Matthijs de Ligt is a bust
The Old Lady’s blockbuster summer signing hasn’t looked fantastic so far, and he’s leaned so heavily into the “poor start” narrative that he decided to score his first goal for Juve’s most dreaded rivals.
This is great:
Matthijs de Ligt scores an own goal on his first start for Juventus 😳 pic.twitter.com/L4YRYVTSe2— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 24, 2019
For Juventus haters, this has to be pretty funny. In a preseason rendition of the Derby d’Italia, de Ligt rifles one into the back of his own net. There’s equally satisfying anti-Juve poetry — if you’re into that, which a lot of people are — in the fact that Gonzalo Higuain netted the Bianconeri’s first goal of the season against Tottenham a few days prior.
Anyway, de Ligt is going to be fine. Both he and Merih Demiral are killer signings for a team whose center backs were around when Fiat started.
2. Antonio Conte has turned Inter into a contender overnight
Conte’s Inter edged Juventus in possession and shots with a roster missing just as many pieces as the Old Lady. But the main takeaway is that last year’s fourth-place finishers are looking a bit more ferocious and intense — a classic Conte team.
But the only person who would say this team is immediately ready to compete with Juventus (and Napoli, for that matter) is a brainwashed Inter fan, an old stodgy British critic on ESPN trying to contrive some content, or some random 14-year-old on Twitter who has all the hot takes.
Conte may yet bring this Inter side into the championship race, but that’s going to take time. The last time Inter finished in the top three was 2010-11, so people should probably simmer down just a bit.
3. Ronaldo is unstoppable because he scored a free kick goal
For Juventus fans who have been Juventus fans long before Ronaldo showed up, the post-Ronaldo era is one of the stranger things to deal with on a day-to-day basis. The trove of rabid devotees — somehow it seems like 100 percent of his worshippers are male — is the most shocking and appalling consequence of all, their rhetoric and justifications littering every message board on the interwebs.
Ronaldo has now scored two goals in two preseason games. It makes sense since he’s both a good player and incapable of taking it easy.
But this goal was just kind of dumb and lucky:
Juventus have two better free kick artists than Ronaldo in Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybala, but somehow this free kick deflected into the back of the net. For everyone looking through CR7-tinted glasses, the Portuguese star probably used some mind-control trick that only he wields to move the ball off the Inter player for the game’s tying goal.
But here's the bitter truth: Ronaldo is good, but he’s declining.
Take a look over at Sam Wilson’s excellent analysis on this Twitter thread. In short: Fabio Quagliarella, Krzysztof Piątek, and Duván Zapata all were better finishers last year in Serie A. Where Ronaldo maintains a superior edge to basically all attackers is in dribbling.
Ronaldo is in decline. Say it again, Ronaldo fans: Ronaldo is in decline.
It’s up to Juventus to strike while the iron is still a bit toasty.
4. Maurizio Sarri’s style won’t work with Juve’s roster
As with Conte, so with Sarri.
Sarriball isn’t going to take effect overnight — especially considering the polar opposite tactics of Max Allegri — and the new Juventus manager admitted as much himself after the game. Juventus fans, now armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, are extra frenetic and insane these days, so whether or not they have the patience to bear with Sarri as he instills his system remains to be seen. But so far their side has been clunky, to say the least.
Maybe Inter are ready to win a title?