A quick glance around some of Europe’s biggest leagues makes for interesting reading as domestic football takes its customary October break. With a pause for the round of international games on the agenda this week, it is hugely surprising to see that Bayern Munich are not in the Bundesliga top spot, but even more stunning are the La Liga standings where Sevilla sit first above Barcelona, Real Madrid and even Diego Simeone’s Atletico.

In Italy however, it is the usual story. Juventus – Serie A winners in each of the previous seven seasons – are already six points clear of everyone else, with their goal difference +8 over their closest rival even at this early juncture. Having also won both their Champions League outings thus far, the Old Lady has launched into 2018/19 by somehow setting a new all-time mark by claiming victory in her first ten competitive games.

To have been so dominant in recent years yet still be setting records is testament to the work the Bianconeri have done off the field, the influx of talent a credit to departing CEO Beppe Marotta and his staff. It also owes much to the tactical acumen of Max Allegri when his side take to the pitch, the Coach constantly altering his approach with a demand for flexibility and adaptability that ensures his players never become complacent or lose focus.

Yet there is something different this term too, a swagger that was previously absent. It was not there in the first few games of this season either, but in the past few weeks there has been an undeniable shift in mentality. Among the factors many would seek to credit are a better balance in a midfield where Sami Khedira has been replaced by younger, faster player like Emre Can or Rodrigo Bentancur, as well as the momentum gained from piling up victories in those early outings.

But in truth, the team – which had been notoriously slow out of the gate in Allegri’s first four seasons at the helm – has been pushed to new heights by Cristiano Ronaldo. It might appear simplistic or obvious to say that breaking the club’s transfer record to add one of the best players in the world has made a difference, but the arrival of the Portuguese star is not only one man making a difference. Instead, every aspect of Juve’s attacking play has been sharpened since the completion of the €112 million deal.

Where previous incarnations of the Bianconeri have eased up after taking a comfortable lead, this version – much like Ronaldo – is always on the hunt for more goals, to the point that even Allegri has been angrily pushing them to play better.

Often criticised for his pragmatic approach, the Coach was seen ranting about Federico Bernardeschi (more on him later) shooting when he should have passed on two separate occasions in the Champions League game with Young Boys. That game saw CR7 serve a one-match ban for his red card against Valencia, but in his absence to other attacking players looked eager to make an impression, a Paulo Dybala hat trick seeing Juve take all three points.

The past few games have seen a rapid return to form for the young Argentinian, who might have scored three goals with Ronaldo sidelined but has begun to find his way alongside him too. That has been largely due to Allegri giving him a free role behind the Portugal international rather than sticking out on the wing, but the rise of Bernardeschi has not been exclusively down to the former Fiorentina man himself.

Returning to pre-season training with a new mindset, the 24-year-old has appeared hell-bent on making an impression on Ronaldo with vastly improved play. No longer playing as if for his own personal satisfaction, his approach has seen Bernardeschi lay on 15 clear scoring opportunities for his team-mates in just 427 minutes of action. Also weighing in with two goals, he has – outside of Ronaldo – been the club’s most impactful forward.

In midfield, the presence of Can or Bentancur next to Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi has seen the team push the ball forward more quickly. They are eager to feed Ronaldo and co but playing a more direct and proactive style has been a pleasing side effect, and one a number of squad members believe is traceable back to CR7.

“The thing that amazed us about Ronaldo is how normal he is,” Dybala told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “If you see him on social media and TV, you get a different idea of what he’s like, but really he’s the same as all of us. He trains well, is 100% concentrated in every training session, but jokes around like everyone else.”

Bernardeschi went further still. “Having Ronaldo close is an example for the youngsters, even at a great club like Juve,” the Italy international told Tuttosport. “You have to be intelligent, you’re training with the best player in the world and if you’re lucky enough to do that you need to try and steal a few things. It’s like riding a wave, he has helped me and still is. He’s an example to follow, obviously staying firm on your personality and objectives.”

Above all is the team objective, and Cristiano Ronaldo has been the underlying factor to improvements across the board, making a major impact upon Juventus every time they set foot on the pitch.

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