Two years after getting the boot, Massimiliano Allegri is back with Juventus. The 53-year-old had been looking to get back into work since last summer, but the COVID situation made things unpalatable for him to make a successful return into management. He had been flirting with Real Madrid in the past few months over a potential deal, but Los Blancos never really managed to make up their mind, eventually choosing to take a different route, leaving Allegri open to a move back to Turin on a four-year deal.
Now that Allegri is back at Juventus, it begs the question – what was the point of sacking him in the first place?
The last two years at Juve
Truth is, over the past two seasons, Juventus have deliberately chosen to drift away from the core beliefs that made them successful in the first place. After winning 11 trophies under Allegri, the Bianconeri decided they needed to change tact to win the elusive Champions League crown. Hence, out went Allegri, and in came Maurizio Sarri.
The 62-year-old is famous for his signature brand of football – Sarrismo (Sarriball). However, Juventus’ squad couldn’t be farther from what a typical Sarri team looked like. Theirs was a team built for immediate success, especially after bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo. Sarriball not only required a rebuild of the squad, it also required patience.
And no one displayed any of that during Sarri’s only season in Turin, as the players found it hard to adhere to his ideals and continued to drift away. Juve did win the Serie A, but it was their worst performance during their nine-year monopoly at the top of Italian football. Two weeks after finishing their league season one point ahead of second-placed Inter Milan, Juventus were knocked out of the Champions League in the Round of 16 by Olympique Lyonnais, which sealed Sarri’s fate.
After a near decade-long dominance of Italian football, Juve’s star had started to wane as the teams below them started gaining on them. Their inevitable dislodgement off the summit was further accelerated when they decided to replace Sarri with a coach whose managerial career spanned not even ten days.
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Andrea Pirlo’s coaching badges weren’t even in the mailbox when he was asked by Juve to step up from the U23 job at the club – given to him only nine days earlier – to take charge of the first team. Again, there were talks of a long-term process with Pirlo and his idea of expansive football at the centre of it all.
And that went just as well you would expect. Pirlo’s inexperience at this level – or any level, for that matter – ensured he made mistakes throughout the season, unable to decide upon a stable starting XI – pretty normal at a stage so nascent in his career. This allowed Antonio Conte to take advantage with his Inter Milan side and run away with the league, punctuating the legacy he himself started back in 2012. Pirlo’s fate, ultimately, was sealed with his side’s Champions League Round of 16 exit at the hands of FC Porto.
A month before Allegri’s dismissal in 2019, the club reassured everyone that he was to remain at the club. Three weeks before Sarri’s firing, Juve’s then chief football officer, Fabio Paratici, declared that the Neapolitan was set to be at the club the season after. Three weeks before Pirlo’s marching orders, club president Pavel Nedvěd “confirmed” the 42-year-old’s stay at the club, only this time no one held their breath. With a Top 4 finish, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana came the end of Pirlo’s time at the club.
A wonderful thing, hindsight is, for these decisions look even more baffling when looked back upon from this side of the Super League episode.
Massimiliano Allegri’s return is not just the club attempting to return to their roots, it’s the need of the hour. With COVID continuing to be a drain on resources, it is wiser to put aside any visions of long-term success built upon entertaining football in favour of an appointment that will make do with the personnel at hand. With Andrea Agnelli, Juventus chairman, Allegri has maintained a long and prosperous relationship both on and off the field. It was only at Paratici and Nedvěd’s counsel – with the former now out of the club – that the 45-year-old decided to end what was otherwise a very successful spell within the domestic circuit. Having made a series of decisions that look increasingly silly with each passing season, Allegri’s re-signing feels like a step in the right direction.
At the end of the day, Allegri’s a pragmatist. He knows Juventus’ philosophy and She knows his. He works with the squad at his disposal to set up a team that knows how to win, regardless of the ensuing aesthetics (or lack thereof) of his football. “Winning isn’t important, it’s the only thing that matters,” reads Juventus’ motto. After two years of acting-out, looks like it’s time for the Old Lady to go back to her old ways.