The following is a review of the last three episodes of the first season of First Team: Juventus – A Netflix Documentary Series.
You may not have noticed, but Netflix doesn’t always release every episode of a season at once. With some shows and docu-series, they’ve started to release half of the content at one point, only to release the conclusion at a later point (often six months later). Back in February, I reviewed the first part of First Team: Juventus, which was basically three episodes on the first half of the 2017/2018 football season. Now, Netflix has released the second half of the season, and while it is more compelling, it, unfortunately, suffers from some of the same issues that the first part did.
First Team: Juventus, as shown in the series’ first three episodes, is about the legendary Italian club which is chasing its seventh Serie A-title in a row, while their biggest stars are slowly, but surely getting ready to say goodbye to the sport. The second part of season one picks up as Juventus is about to take on Tottenham Hotspurs from England in the first games of the knockout stages of the club football equivalent of the European Championship – the UEFA Champions League, arguably the most prestigious tournament in club football.
The interesting storylines remain the same. Can Juventus win the most prestigious title in club football, and can they possibly continue their dominance of the Italian league? But, perhaps more interesting, will club legend Gianluigi Buffon, one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever play the game, chose to stay in the game, or are we, perhaps, seeing the last games of his career? Fans of the sport know the answer to the question, but getting to see this in a well-made docu-series is satisfying.
The second half of the first season again consists of only three episodes, and it thus doesn’t have enough time to focus sufficiently on all three tournaments that Juventus competed in, even though they are all mentioned. Although the Serie A gets its time in the spotlight, it is the Champions League that is important in this second part with the first two episodes having been built around their games against Tottenham Hotspurs and Real Madrid. That last episode does end the Serie A in a satisfying way, but it is mostly about addressing Buffon’s potential last season with the club.
I really enjoyed how much they decided to show us of the players on the training ground. I think this is what fans of the team are the most interested in — getting to see the stars as they prepare for the big games. Ahead of the Real Madrid games, they even devote a somewhat sizeable section of an episode to one of the club’s match analysts, whose job was explained quite well.
Although plenty of the club’s stars are mentioned and participate in interviews, the players that the second part focuses on are Juan Cuadrado, Gianluigi Buffon, Wojciech Szczesny, Andrea Barzagli, and Mehdi Benatia. We get to see most of these players with their families and both Barzagli and Benatia come across quite well.
The focus on Cuadrado is quite moving, as we get to see his journey back from an injury, which includes a scene of him getting emotional at a fundraiser. The Buffon-Szczesny connection obviously focuses on the passing of the torch as Szczesny had to make himself ready to one day take over from one of the greatest to ever play his position.
While Cuadrado’s section was quite moving in spurts, the most effective emotional moment of the series is when the Juventus docu-series actually devotes the end of an episode to a rival team’s player. As football fans know, Fiorentina captain Davide Astori passed away in March of 2018. Many of Juventus’ players obviously played with him with the Italian National Team. The series particularly focuses on Giorgio Chiellini’s reaction, and it also briefly shows footage of Astori’s celebratory parade. This was a very respectful and moving section on an event in Italian football that I thought this docu-series would ignore. Thankfully, it didn’t.
Of course, as of this moment, it isn’t quite clear whether or not a new season will be released, but Netflix should already be filming one. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or if you don’t know anything about the sport), you should know that Juventus has signed arguably one of the greatest players of all-time – Cristiano Ronaldo, who is perhaps known best for his time at the prestigious club Real Madrid, with which he eliminated Juventus from the UEFA Champions League (as shown in these three episodes).
Ronaldo is probably the most marketable football player in the world, and therefore Netflix would be crazy if they chose not to renew the series. Juventus just got the biggest football star on the planet, and Netflix should do everything in their power to get him on their platform. That said, they need to greatly improve upon this product if they want die-hard supporters to care about the program.
Ultimately, the series suffers from some of the same issues as the first part of the season did. Die-hard football fans will not gain much from watching the docu-series, which isn’t really as in-depth as it should be. But it also isn’t a good place to start for someone unfamiliar with the sport or the Italian league as a whole.
It seems more like a glorified version of a six-episode long football season highlight reel (something often released, at least for Premier League teams) than an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the players playing for one of the greatest teams in the world.
With that having been said, I think this second half is a noticeable improvement on the disappointing first three episodes. This part is much more compelling, and the docu-series crew wisely zone-in on only a handful of players to focus on. And yet some of these player-focused behind-the-scenes sections of the docu-series feel like nothing more than cursory glances at compelling storylines. All in all, while there is significant room for improvement, it is a step in the right direction.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen