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How Juventus lost SIX key players and a manager… and got even better in the process

The Italian champions have lost the likes of Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez in recent years but could win the Champions League

Any other club in the world would struggle after losing players of the calibre of Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez in such a short period of time.

Not Juventus.

Despite being picked apart in the transfer market by the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich in recent seasons the Italian champions have blossomed into an even better side now on the brink of Champions League glory against Real Madrid on Saturday night.

Pretty much every football fan on the planet wants to see Buffon lift his first Champions League crown

EPA
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Pretty much every football fan on the planet wants to see Buffon lift his first Champions League crown

Juve have swept aside both Barcelona and Monaco in successive rounds to reach the final in Cardiff, keeping out MSN over two legs and taming the best attack in Europe this season.

It’s quite the achievement, especially when you consider they’ve lost six players from the side that started their last Champions League final appearance – the defeat to Barcelona in 2015.

Juventus Barcelona

Getty Images
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Juve were powerless to MSN’s exploits in 2015

So which personnel have they lost and how have they replaced them?

2015-16

That 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in Berlin in 2015 was seen as a climatic moment for much of the Juve squad, with the likes of Vidal, Tevez and Andrea Pirlo all leaving for pastures new in the aftermath.

Combine the two and there’s your complete midfielder

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Combine the two and there’s your complete midfielder

That’s not only two members of their fabulous midfield diamond, but also their top scorer that they were now tasked with replacing.

The €32m signing of Paulo Dybala has proved a masterstroke, with the young Argentine’s versatility in attacking positions almost the perfect replacement to fill the gap vacated by countryman Tevez.

Dybala is more than just a Messi prototype

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Dybala is more than just a Messi prototype

Pirlo may have been coming to the end of his career but Vidal was a monster that season, so replacing him with Sami Khedira – on a free transfer from Real Madrid – was equally smart.

The German midfielder is not as eye-catching as the bruising Chilean but he’s just as effective in the Juve system.

Alex Sandro was also brought in from Porto to replace the indomitable but ageing Patrice Evra, with the Brazilian since developing into one of the finest buccaneering full backs in world football.

Alex Sandro and Marcelo are the best in their position in Europe

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Alex Sandro and Marcelo are the best in their position in Europe

2016-17

A lot was made of Juve’s moves to snatch Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic from their two biggest domestic rivals – Napoli and Roma – last summer, but the business has been vindicated.

Pogba’s exhausting transfer saga with Manchester United lasted all summer and was likely to unsettle players, but the classy Pjanic’s arrival has softened the blow.

Pogba hasn’t been missed

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Pogba hasn’t been missed

Alvaro Morata was also saying his goodbyes, heading back to Real Madrid after two years in Italy, but Higuain’s mega move from Naples was arguably the first genuine upgrade Juve made on a departing player.

Higuain has his critics but 32 goals in all competitions, including two in the semi-final first leg against Monaco, has silenced his doubters ahead of a pivotal night in his career.

And look what Juve have achieved this season.

The Old Lady have wrapped up a domestic double, winning Serie A at a canter and beating Lazio comfortably in the Coppa Italia final earlier this month.

The Manager

It was never likely to be an easy task but Max Allergi, who has overcome media acrimony and a constantly changing squad, has now surpassed his predecessor in Antonio Conte.

Allegri could be a character from The Godfather

AP:Associated Press
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Allegri could be a character from The Godfather

Allegri has matched Conte’s three consecutive Serie A titles, taking their run to six league triumphs in a row, and has now masterminded a second Champions League final in three seasons.

Conte, despite his sensational league record that continued with Chelsea this season, never took his Juventus side past the quarter-finals in Europe.

Allegri has also proved more flexible than Conte, moving away from the 3-5-2 and almost impregnable back three of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini to a more fluid 4-2-3-1 this season.

Conte didn’t have the magic touch in Europe

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Conte didn’t have the magic touch in Europe

Bonucci, Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon remain to provide the bedrock to the best defensive unit in Europe but unorthodox roles for Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado further forward have been a revelation.

Allergi has taken gambles and shown impressive managerial gumption to illustrate there can be life after big names leave.

Juventus are now 90 minutes away from proving it was all worthwhile.