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May 7, 2012

Juve stars savour Serie A title triumph

Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero and vice captain Gianluigi Buffon led the title celebrations after the Bianconeri secured a first Scudetto since 2003 on Sunday.

A 2-0 victory over Cagliari ended Juve's nine-year wait for the Serie A title and the triumph was particularly poignant for the Italian pair, who along with Claudio Marchisio stayed at the club following demotion to Serie A in 2006 in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal.

Mauro Camoranesi, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved also stuck by Juve at the time and though all three have now moved on or retired, Buffon paid tribute to his former team-mates for their role in keeping the club alive after they were stripped of two titles and relegated six years ago.

"Tonight, without doubt after the World Cup, is the greatest joy of my sporting life," Buffon said. "Finally it can give a sense to the phrase that hard work pays off.

"I thought of many people in these moments and there are many dedications to make, first of all to Alessandro Del Piero, as finally we were able to celebrate together again. I also thought back to Camoranesi, Trezeguet and Nedved, who also deserved to be involved on this night.

"I thank my family for standing by me throughout and guiding me to the right decisions. At the end perhaps I was the one who had the most offers, but when winning a World Cup and going down into Serie B straight away, it's never easy.

"I think the only reason we did it was our love for the club, sense of belonging at Juve, respect for the fans and friendship between us. I suffered a great deal, as six years are a long time, but it was worth the wait."

Juventus are the most successful domestic side in Italian football history by some distance and their latest title is a record-extending 28th, though those involved with the club consider it their 30th as they include the 2004-05 and 2005-06 trophies, which were taken away from the Bianconeri as punishment for Calciopoli.

"The issue of how many titles we have has been going for a long time and will probably never end," Buffon said. "I won five titles on the field, then they put three on my CV, but there's not much I can do about it. I can only say what I experienced and celebrated at the time."

For Del Piero, Juve's all-time leading scorer and appearance maker, Scudetto glory was made even more special because of events in 2006 and though the captain has taken more of a backseat this season - starting just three Serie A games - he was still relishing claiming a sixth winners' medal of his career.

"I start every year to win. Sometimes it doesn't happen - recently a lot - but this repays us with a very special flavour for what happened in 2006," Del Piero said. "My experience here has been wonderful, I am embracing my team-mates tonight with great happiness and enthusiasm, as I do in all the games whether I played or not.

"I remember everything from our Serie B season, which was wonderful for me and the others who experienced it, even if it started out as traumatic. This is why for me and the others like Gigi Buffon, Claudio Marchisio, etc. who were there have a very special sensation with this title."

Juve boss Antonio Conte, who played for the club when they last officially won the title in 2003, described the achievement as "super extraordinary" and set his sights on a "historic" unbeaten season; the Bianconeri need to avoid defeat at home to Atalanta on the final day of the campaign in order to emulate the AC Milan side of 1991-92, who were crowned champions without losing a game - albeit in the days of an 18-team Serie A.

"The sensations are something indescribable, fantastic, extraordinary," Conte said. "We are so happy to have achieved a super-extraordinary season.

"I thank the players who worked so hard, the fans who put themselves behind us 100 per cent and I also tip my hat to Milan, who provided a huge challenge and are a great club. It's even more satisfying to get the better of a side like that, as it was unexpected.

"Only the slip-up with Lecce [a 1-1 home draw last week] caused a little apprehension, but we are champions of Italy with a round to go and unbeaten after 37 games. We hope to end the season unbeaten, as that would be truly historic. It is my first Scudetto and I am truly very happy."

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