Juve rebuild could leave Maurizio a bit Sarri
After five years under Massimiliano Allegri, even the manager felt a change was needed to maintain the Juventus juggernaut.
Allegri had guided the Bianconeri to five Scudettos, four Coppa Italias and two Champions League finals. However, like Antonio Conte in 2014, both the board and the boss felt a change at the top was needed to stay ahead of the game.
Despite cruising to the club’s eighth straight league title, Allegri had clearly run out of ideas in Europe, with the decision for him to step down seemingly inevitable following the tepid quarter-final defeat to Ajax.
In stepped Maurizio Sarri, previously the scourge of Juve when his Napoli teams would push them all season, only to fall away late on.
Despite their lack of success, the Partenopei’s style of play under the former banker earned them admiration from around Europe, with Pep Guardiola describing them as “one of the best teams I’ve faced in my career” after seeing Manchester City produce a “perfect” performance in a 2-1 Champions League win.
To fans on these shores, the coach is more famous for failing to produce that type of football at Chelsea. He will also go down for his numerous outbursts, the most famous of which saw him fall out with everyone on the planet when goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be withdrawn ahead of the penalty shoot-out in the EFL Cup final.
Despite the discord, the 60-year-old still guided the Blues to third in the Premier League and the Europa League title. That 4-1 Baku battering of Arsenal ended doubts over Sarri’s ability to win silverware and Juve took their chance when he became available.
Allegri started to reduce the average age of the squad and his successor did the same over the summer, with defender Matthijs De Ligt bought from Ajax and Adrien Rabiot signing on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain.
After an early bout of pneumonia, disaster struck soon into his reign when experienced defender Giorgio Chiellini tore his anterior cruciate ligament during training, ruling him out until 2020, and De Ligt has seen more action than expected when he arrived.
The Dutchman is still finding his feet, while rumours suggest Rabiot is already on his way out as part of a deal involving Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen.
A clash could be on the cards with Cristino Ronaldo, with the Portuguese currently playing from the left to accommodate Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine is a favourite of Sarri, having been with him in both Naples and London, and the boss’ system brings the best out of him.
That ‘system’ is a bit of an elephant in the room due to the Neopolitan being wedded to his approach. While it worked at the Stadio San Paolo, player power made it more difficult at Stamford Bridge and things are still settling down in Turin. The worry is that the boss would rather change players than adapt his ideas.
Inevitably, Chelsea’s midfield maestro Jorginho has been tipped as a potential signing, with Miralem Pjanic currently employed in the deep-lying playmaker role. Meanwhile, Blues pair N’Golo Kante and Willian are tipped to be on his shopping list – either in January or next summer.
For all this doom and gloom, things do look good. Juventus sit top of Serie A after beating Inter Milan, picking up 19 points from seven games, while they drew 2-2 at Atletico Madrid in their Champions League opener before thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 3-0.
Everything is rosy when you’re winning. The test will come in the latter stages of the Champions League. That is the tournament the hierarchy want to win after dominating at home for the best part of a decade.
The knives were out for Allegri after that Ajax defeat. Sarri now has to find the right balance, ensuring he does not sacrifice Serie A success in his quest to conquer the continent. If that doesn’t happen, he could be looking for a new club for the third straight summer.