Winner … Simone Pepe celebrates after scoring for Juventus against the A-League All Stars on Sunday.Juventus’ saviour Simone Pepe praised the standard of Australian football and admitted the Italian champions were somewhat surprised by the A-League All Stars who made them work hard for a narrow 3-2 victory on Sunday night.
Less than a day after Juventus entertained Sydney, Football Federation Australia revealed it is in talks to bring another European heavyweight to Australia next year. Manchester City are believed to be the frontrunners.
FFA chief executive David Gallop prolonged the public excitement surrounding the All Stars event by confirming a deal is in the works to bring a world “top 10” club to Australia next year. Several high-profile teams are being lined up for the 2015 A-League All Stars clash. Manchester City are in the frame following their takeover of Melbourne City.
It’s understood the FFA disclosed to A-League clubs a $1 million direct profit from the Juventus friendly match and confirmed the All Stars concept will remain an annual fixture for the foreseeable future.
Gallop remained tight-lipped on the identity of the opponent, but said it is a club that will maintain the standard set by past guests, Manchester United and Juventus. “We’re already in heavy planning to make sure there is another big fixture,” Gallop said. “I can’t exactly announce the team yet, but I can promise it’s a big one. A club inside the top ten in the world and it will be something fans will be really excited about.”
The All Stars concept received a favourable response from the Juventus players. Pepe, who scored the winning goal for the Italian champions, praised the standard of Australian football. The 30-year-old winger was warned not to underestimate the A-League players by former AC Milan and Australia goalkeeper, Zeljko Kalac, but his teammates were forced to learn the hard way against an exhibition side intent on snaring an upset.
“I was speaking to [Zeljko] Kalac today who came and found me in the hotel, because we knew each other, and he told me there’s been great improvement,” Pepe said. ”In fact, I saw tonight that it was a great team because in their game they have strong individuals with good quality, even if we are a little off condition they gave us a great game.”
Juventus were impressive in their tactical set-up but offered little intensity in the opening half as they organised their tactical structure before their first competitive match on August 21. Pepe watched the bulk of the game from the bench before entering as a late substitute and was impressed with the speed and physicality of the All Stars.
“When I was on the bench I was aware of it but when I was on the field I became more aware that they’re in good condition physically,” Pepe said.
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