Netflix have released the first half of episodes in a six-part series following the Italian giants during the 2017-18 season. WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
“Juventus uses it’s past to define it’s future.”
Football club documentaries haven’t exactly been successful in the past. Just look at 2012’s Being: Liverpool.
However, Netflix’s new documentary “Juventus: First Team” is a beautiful insight into Italy’s most prestigious football club. After watching the first three episodes (the rest will be released in the summer), you’ll find yourself understanding the club’s philosophies and ethos. It’s a real eye-opener that is stunning to look at and easy to absorb.
Focusing on the first half of the season, episode one introduces the team and their recent achievements – six successive Scudetti and three consecutive Coppa Italia’s. However, these honours are overshadowed by failures in the Champions League, with two final defeats in the last three years. The club’s aims are simple: more silverware.
We learn during the pre-season how the culture of the club centres around it’s fans. The players see their supporters as family members- making it a tight bond between the two. Six straight wins to start the campaign makes the opening 40 minutes a rather upbeat viewing.
But the show isn’t shackled by Juventus wanting to portray themselves positively, as we see in episode two. The documentary also delves into the struggles and setbacks the club and the players faced whether that be form, pressure or injuries.
Gigi Buffon features heavily in this, which is no surprise given his legendary status at the club and the fact he is nearing the end of his career. Retirement is a question brought up almost every time he is on screen, and it’s interesting to watch as he and others throughout Italy discuss when he should call it a day and what he plans to do next.
The documentary also sometimes shifts away from Juventus and onto other subjects- such as Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup finals in Russia this summer. Much of the side that lost to Sweden in November’s play-off play for Juve, so seeing them in the aftermath was a nice change of direction, and didn’t feel like an unnecessary distraction away from the main focus point.
We are treated to beautiful cinematography of Turin and the Allianz Stadium, making the city look as bright and vibrant as ever. The football pitch looks like a sea of emerald gemstones and really stands out on the screen.
There is a fine balance on and off the field, with unprecedented access to Massimiliano Allegri’s training sessions in Vinovo, the stadium facilities and player’s homes.
We learn a lot about Allegri and his management style. The Italian is very psychological and is constantly talking about mentality. During his training drills, he is always reminding the players to be focused and to think like the opposition, which we see quite evidentially as they prepare for a defining match against Napoli.
Current and past players such as Claudio Marchisio, Gonzalo Higuain, Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved provide us with powerful and insightful interviews that help not only portray Juventus Football Club, but also the joys and struggles of being a professional footballer.
The series isn’t perfect though, and there are scenes that do seem to have been put in for commercial reasons and to fill time. Obviously it’s interesting to see the players doing what they are obligated to do in their contracts, but these segments just seemed to have been put in for the sake of it and without any real meaning.
This is not a history lesson either. After the opening five minutes the focus is very much the present. If you were hoping to find out more about Juventus’ past, then this won’t be where to find it.
The one issue that was frequent throughout is the subtitles. They have a tendency to jump around the screen, whilst introductions of interviewees come in mid-way through a sentence, making it difficult to read and understand at times.
Above all though what helps makes this series tick over is the fact that it hasn’t been plain sailing for Juventus this season, making the narrative much more tense than it could have been had the show been constructed two or three years ago.
If you are a football fanatic that’s fascinated by the day to day life at a famous football club, than this is the show for you. It may even be one that defines the future making of football documentaries.