Once upon a time in Turin, Massimiliano Allegri’s name and reputation intertwined with success. The manager who first arrived at Juventus as an unwanted alien swiftly settled into his surroundings and his predecessor’s name soon become a distant memory within Continassa’s walls.
In a day and age when top football managers became brands, with each having his own recognizable style of play, the Livorno native is a throwback to simpler times. In fact, he hardly made any changes to the starting formation that he inherited from Antonio Conte. After all, why change a winning recipe?
Fitting the Juventus Mold
Yet, the Bianconeri faithful scarcely offered any objections. While the coach’s style of play wasn’t exactly compelling, this lot know what they had signed for, and supporting Juventus means waiving the right to enjoy entertaining football. As we all know, the club famously adopts the motto “Winning isn’t important, it’s all that matters”. Nothing about Total Football or Tiki-taka in there.
So the club demanded wins, and wins he delivered.
Hence, Juventus and Allegri were a match made in a black and white heaven. Aside from the results on the pitch, Max proved to be the ideal character for Italian football’s hottest seat. Elegant in his fashion, charismatic in his press conferences and above all, a true company man (unlike his predecessor who had a knack for stirring the pot every now and then).
Divorce and Reconciliation
But after five largely successful years, two of the club’s top officials decided to wield the axe on one of the most successful tenures in the club’s history. Pavel Nedved and Fabio Paratici got bored with Allegri’s less-than-thrilling ways and his consecutive European letdowns, so they conspired to replace him with Maurizio Sarri, and former Juventus president Andrea Agnelli did his part by signing the papers, albeit reluctantly.
Long story short, the ex-Napoli boss was an awkward presence at the Allianz Stadium, and at a time when winning Scudetto titles became a mere formality for the club, a ninth domestic triumph on the trot wasn’t sufficient to salvage this ill-fated reign. Expectedly, the “Hail Mary” appointment of Andrea Pirlo didn’t turn the tide in the Old Lady’s favor, so Juventus simply decided to get Allegri off the shelf.
But almost two years following his return to Continassa, the stark lack of tactical identity still plagues the Livorno native’s second tenure.
Admittedly, Juventus no longer possess the same top-notch stars who graced the Allianz Stadium turf during his initial spell. Moreover, a freak injury crisis left him with a depleted squad for the entire first half of the campaign. And of course, we can’t deny the damning effect that the legal crisis has on the current season.
Hollow Juventus Bow Out of Coppa
Yet, this is hardly enough to justify the miserable display witnessed on Wednesday night, as Juventus crashed out of the Coppa Italia after suffering a 1-2 on aggregate at the hands of Inter.
We can easily discuss some of the manager’s tactical blunders that hindered his team’s chances, like leaving Danilo on the bench or starting the match without a genuine striker, but the most inexplicable occurrence from the most recent Derby d’Italia was the absolute lack of fighting spirit.
Despite spending almost the entire second leg trailing by a single goal, it felt as if the Bianconeri resigned to defeat immediately after conceding Federico Dimarco’s avoidable goal. One would be made to believe that the Nerazzurri were leading by several goals based on the Old Lady’s non-existent reaction.
Against all odds, Wednesday’s clash turned out to be a mostly peaceful affair, with the two sets of players trading handshakes at the final whistle. While we certainly don’t condone the ugly episodes that ensued at the end of the first leg, this sort of row suggests immense determination and a certain hunger for glory, whereas Allegri’s men displayed none in the second leg.
Allegri and the New Role
In a campaign where Juventus have been enduring all sorts of financial, legal and administrative storms, Allegri remains the most controversial topic among the club’s supporters, and this should be telling enough.
Nonetheless, let’s give credit where credit is due. You don’t have to be a staunch Allegri supporter to admit that this season could have ended on a more calamitous note for Juventus. After all, the team remains third in the Serie A table (barring another potential point deduction) and still has a Europa League semi-final to contend.
Thus, the 55-year-old’s best achievement in the campaign (at least thus far) is avoiding a total collapse.
So basically, the man at the wheel hasn’t truly built any winning foundation since rejoining the club and mainly aspires to keep the ship afloat while occasionally promising a better tomorrow. Hence, the definition of a caretaker manager perfectly applies to Massimiliano’s second stint in Turin.
Even for the neutral supporter, a six-time Scudetto winner reducing himself into a hesitant and unambitious figure must be a cringing view, but it’s Juventus whoe are getting the worst of this unpleasant arrangement, since caretaker managers don’t usually collect nine million per season, nor do they get the protection and comfort of a long-term contract.
In the final month of the campaign, perhaps Allegri will pull a rabbit out of the hat as he did so many times in the past, but for Juventus, the writing has been on the wall for quite some time, and despite all the appreciation and affection felt towards the amiable coach, Turin’s winds of change might be irresistible, even in the summer.
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