A little Juvelation

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

For Juventus fans, 2009-10 was a season of disappointment. The Old Lady finished well out of the title race and didn't even rate a spot in next season's Champions League.

So, when the club comes to Toronto in May to begin preparations for the 2010-11 season, there's no doubt that thousands of rabid Bianconeri fans will be excited to see many of their heroes.

They will also be wondering when this team will return to the glory it enjoyed before an influence-peddling scandal saw it relegated out of Italy's top league in 2006, and stripped of its 2005 and 2006 championships.

"The last season was really, really hard," said Diego, the Brazilian forward who had been the linchpin of German club Werder Bremen's attack from 2006 to 2009.

Juventus will play one of its oldest rivals, Fiorentina, at Rogers Centre on May 25.

Even though many of the international stars -- such as Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Fabio Cannavaro, and Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino -- will be missing because of preparations for the World Cup, the teams promise to bring in healthy rosters filled with stars.

While he was starring in Germany, Diego had made his way to the periphery of the Brazilian national team. In 2008, he played for his country against Canada in a friendly held in Seattle.

But, Diego, who Juventus bought from Bremen for nearly 25 million euros, struggled in 2009-10. Had he played like he did in Germany, he may have been on a flight to South Africa rather than to Canada. But Italy offers a much more conservative, tactical game than Germany -- where 4-2 and 3-3 scorelines aren't unusual. And Diego has just five goals this season.

"Very different soccer (in Serie A than Germany), but it's not a problem," said Diego, who holds both Brazilian and Italian passports.

"I really like Serie A. I feel very good, very happy. But of course I want to win because I play with one of the best clubs in the world so I hope I can win with Juve next season. That would be perfect."

And, like his teammates, Diego will be looking for redemption in 2010-11.

"With Juve, with these players, we can do better and I am sure next season we will (play) better, so we have to know first the coach ... and then we make the plan together."

Ah, the coach. Alberto Zaccheroni is the manager today, but he isn't expected to have the job when the Old Lady arrives in Toronto. A number of famous names have been linked to the job, including Liverpool's Rafa Benitez.

But Diego makes it clear that the players are in a holding pattern.

But there is a sense that, in less than a month's time, the efforts to erase the pain of 2009-10 will already be in evidence.

Still, while the May 25 date offers a classic rivalry, don't expect two-footed tackles.

"It's not hard (to hold back), of course, it's a friendly game," Diego said. "But, always, when we go to play, we want to win. It's going to be a really good game and I hope that Juve can win."


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