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By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor - Archive - Email
Juventus finally reaches its destination
This season's title might hold a special place in the club's history because it was unexpected.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There are some people who firmly believe that in life it's not about the destination, it's about the journey.

But when it comes to Serie A titles and Juventus, the destination is the only thing that matters.

For the past six years, Juventus has been trying to erase the stain left on the club by the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal that rocked Italian football in 2006.

And the only way to totally move past that terrible time in the club's history was to return to the place that Juventus has occupied more than any other Italian team; the top of Serie A.

A 2-0 win over Cagliari on Sunday combined with a 4-2 defeat by second-place AC Milan against Inter Milan was enough to complete that mission.

But there was a time not long ago that another Serie A crown was the least of the club's concerns.

The champagne had barely dried following Juve's fourth league title in five years in 2006 when the hammer came down.

The Calciopoli scandal was an ugly affair that involved wire taps, tampering with match referees and gambling among other misdeeds, and it involved high- ranking officials at Juventus, including the general manager and chairman.

Juve was hit hard by the penalties, which included its relegation to Serie B as well as having its last two league titles stripped.

Star players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Fabio Cannavaro opted to jump ship rather than to ply their trade in the second division. But Juve still was able to win Serie B and jump right back into the top flight the next season.

"It was like going from hell to heaven."

That is how Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon described his team's return to Serie A for the 2007-08 campaign.

Although Juve finished in the top three in its next two seasons, things were far from heavenly over the past two years as the team finished with successive seventh-place finishes and looked nothing like Italian football's most storied club.

So in addition to restoring some of the luster that was wiped away in 2006, this season's title also might hold a special place in the club's history because it was so unexpected.

Juventus lost a combined 25 league games over the previous two terms, but the club enters the final weekend of the season having gone unbeaten in 37 Serie A contests, thanks in large part to a defense that has conceded only 19 goals in league play, by far the stingiest in Italy.

If Juventus can avoid defeat in its final match of the season - a home game against Atalanta on Sunday - it will become the first team in Italy since AC Milan in 1991-92 to complete an unbeaten campaign.

Players like Buffon and legendary striker Alessandro Del Piero deserve credit for staying with the club through both good and bad times, with Del Piero in particular set to ride off into the sunset on a positive note.

Del Piero has spent nearly his entire career at Juventus since joining the club from Padova in 1993. And although he is leaving at the end of the season, he acknowledged on Sunday that this season's Scudetto has even more value because of where this club has been.

After attempting to complete its unbeaten season next weekend, Juventus will turn its attentions to another destination, winning the Coppa Italia title against Napoli on May 20.

At Juventus, it's always about the destination.

But sometimes it's the journey that makes reaching it a little sweeter.


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