ROME – It has been a long and painful wait for Juventus to reclaim the Champions League trophy. This year marks the 25th anniversary of their last triumph in the competition in 1996.
In the years since, the Turin club has lost five finals, most recently when Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a 4-1 win for Real Madrid in 2017.
A year after that night in Cardiff, Juventus signed Ronaldo, which is a huge statement to the world that they wouldn’t settle for second place again.
When the Portuguese landed in Turin in the summer of 2018, the club had won seven consecutive Serie A titles and four Coppa Italias in a row.
While Juve had proven that they didn’t need a superstar on staggeringly high wages to dominate domestically, with Ronaldo in the team there was hope that he could take them to the next level in Europe, and for good reason.
Ronaldo has won the Champions League five times and is the competition’s all-time top scorer with 134 goals.
In his first season, Massimiliano Allegri’s side were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Ajax Amsterdam.
The coach departed, and his successor Maurizio Sarri could only guide them to a last 16 elimination to Olympique Lyonnais, which resulted in him being sacked the next day.
Now rookie coach Andrea Pirlo hopes to make it third time lucky, with his first European knockout game in Ronaldo’s home country of Portugal where they face Porto on Wednesday.
Two and a half years later, Juventus are still waiting for their transformation into a Champions League superpower.
Ronaldo has scored all seven of the club’s goals in the knockout stages since he arrived in Italy: a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid and two against Ajax in 2018-19, and two against Lyon in 2019-20.
The 36-year-old great is also the record holder for goals in the Champions League knockout stages, with 67 strikes in 81 games – 20 more than second-placed Lionel Messi of Barcelona.
Age appears to be no concern for the forward, who is enjoying another prolific season for Juventus with 23 goals in 26 appearances in all competitions.
However, with his contract due to expire at the end of next season, time is of the essence in Juventus’ efforts to harness the power of the competition’s most bankable player.