KT: The Old Lady is back

ESPNSTAR.com's Kelvin Tan takes a look at how post-Calciopoli Juventus have come back from the doldrums to lead the Serie A table after beating AC Milan 2-0.

Celebrations at the final whistle.

It has been a long and painful road for fans of the Old Lady of Turin since 2006, when Italian police unveiled that team managers of top Serie A and B clubs had been colluding to rig games by selecting favorable referees, and Juventus were disgraced, and banished from Serie A as a result, as investigations showed that then-general manager, Luciano Moggi, was one of the main men behind the scandal. 

Imagine your favorite club subject to the laughs and sniggers of your rivals, and their titles stripped, as well as a forced relegation to the dregs of Serie B.

Yes, it sucked to be a Juventus fan in those dark days, didn't it?

Although AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina were also implicated in the saga, arguably Juventus suffered the harshest punishment as a result of Moggi's direct influence, as they were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 scudetti, kicked out of the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League, and initially cast down to Serie C1, which was latest amended to Serie B after an appeal.

This, in turn, set off an exodus of stars from Stadio del Alpi, with players like Fabio Canavarro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Emerson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Liliam Thuram fleeing the now shamed-Serie A giants.

To make matters worse, they were given a nine point suspension for the 2006/07 Serie B campaign, which could have very well left them stuck in lower division for a further season.

Fortunately for Juventus, the club managed to retain both the loyalty and services of several stars like Alessandro Del Piero, Pavel Nedved, David Trezeguet, Gianluigi Buffon, Mauro Camonaresi and Robert Kovac, which helped them rebound back into Italy's top flights, scoring 83 goals to win promotion at first time of asking.

However, things were not all bed and roses after the Turin club returned to Serie A, as they found that Inter Milan had taken their place of dominance in Serie A in their absence.

After snatching their first Scudetto in over a decade from Juventus as a result of Calciopoli, the Milan side had continued to bully Serie A by winning the league two more times in succession in the 2006/7 and 2007/8 seasons, and the arrival of Jose Mourinho at their helm only added to their dominance in Italy, with the Portuguese leading them to two further Scudetti in the 2008/9 and 2009/10 seasons.

Although Juventus did manage to qualify for the 2007/08 and 2008/09 editions of the UEFA Champions League under Claudio Ranieri, it was clear that the seven-time European champions had reached their limitations under the Italian, especially after suffering a 4-1 rout by Bayern Munich at home during the group stages of the competition.

However, heavy investment was always going to be a challenge for the Turin club, who suffered from dwindling crowd attendances after moving to the Stadio Olimpico, and suffered a financial loss in the 2009/10 season after the books showed them to be €10 million in the red.

Enter Antonio Conte.

The 42-year-old was appointed to the top job at Juventus after the exit of Luigi Del Neri, and came with an impressive resume, having previously led both Bari and Siena to successful promotion campaigns, and the Italian's ability to meld the experience of Andrea Pirlo, Andreas Barzagli, Loca Toni, and of course, Del Piero, together with the young vibrancy of players like 19-year-old Frederik Sorenson has revived the Old Lady.

Of course, what has helped Conte is also the fact that he is part of the Juventus family, having spent 12 seasons at the Stadio del Alpi, which has endeared him to the normally demanding home support.

In addition, the club have also been reinvigorated by their new home, the Juventus Stadium, which was built on the site of the old Stadio del Alpi.

Unlike the old ground, there is no running track, which means the pitch is only 7.5 meters away from the stands. This has helped build an impressive atmosphere at the stadium, which has helped Juventus to the top of the Serie A table after notching up 11 points from five fixtures.

Of course, there is still a long way to go in the Serie A season, but for fans of the Old Lady, it's a wonderful time to be back on top.

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