On May 22nd 1996, Juventus overcame tournament favourites Ajax on penalties to win their second ever European Cup in one of the greatest finals ever seen in the competition.
More than 50,000 Juve supporters packed in to see them crowned European champions that night, but 23 years, 18 Champions League campaigns and five finals later, the Old Lady have not tasted European glory since.
That wait will end in 2020.
The team they defeated in the 1996 final came back to haunt them in 2019, as a youthful Ajax side provided a massive upset, beating Juve 3-2 on aggregate to progress to the Champions League semi-finals.
At the time of his signing last summer, Cristiano Ronaldo had just come off the back of three straight European triumphs with Real Madrid, and spending €100m on the Portuguese forward was a not-so-subtle way of saying ‘please, please, please go and win us a Champions League.’
Whilst Ronaldo was unable to deliver on that front, his signing has come to massively benefit the club in a way which they may not have foreseen, as the Portuguese forward’s mere presence has proved a very attractive proposition to Juve’s transfer targets this summer.
“Ronaldo is a great champion. The chance to play with him definitely had a bearing on my decision.”
Adrien Rabiot on his decision to join Juve this summer, via AS
Adrien Rabiot, possibly the Old Lady’s most notable signing of the summer so far, cited Ronaldo as one of the reasons he chose Juventus.
Along with Aaron Ramsey and Gianluigi Buffon, the Frenchman was signed as a free agent following the expiry of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain. Free agents of this calibre will always attract interest from a number of clubs due to the low-cost, low-risk nature of the deal and convincing these players to pick Juve over rival bidders would have been considerably harder without Ronaldo.
This appears to be no different with the Old Lady’s pursuit of Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt. The Dutch defender appears to be edging towards a deal with the Turin club, despite significant interest from the likes of Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City.
And it is with this signing, presuming it goes through, that Juve must become favourites for the 2019/20 Champions League.
Aged just 19, De Ligt led Ajax to the Champions League final four, dominating in defence and scoring key goals in both the quarter-final and semi-final stages. He followed that up with an UEFA Nations League final appearance with the Netherlands, where he ultimately lost to Ronaldo’s Portugal side. And not wanting to pass up a golden opportunity, ‘agent’ Ronaldo took the time to ask the young defender to join him at Juve.