Juve coach Allegri finally gets credit he deserves
ABS-CBN Sports on May 31, 2017 03:04 PM
FILE - In this Sunday, May 21, 2017 filer, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri holds the trophy as Juventus players celebrate winning an unprecedented sixth consecutive Italian title, at the end of the Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Crotone at the Juventus stadium, in Turin, Italy. Juventus will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday, June 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File)
DANIELLA MATAR, Associated Press
There was widespread anguish among Juventus fans in 2014 when coach Antonio Conte was replaced by Massimiliano Allegri, who had been fired by AC Milan just a few months previously.
But Allegri guided the team to its first Champions League final in 12 years in his first campaign and the Bianconeri have won league and cup doubles in all three of the seasons he has been in charge.
Now he is bidding to lead the famous Italian club to its first European title in more than two decades when Juventus takes on defending champion Real Madrid in Saturday's final in Cardiff, Wales.
Conte famously bemoaned the difference between his team and the top European clubs when, in his last season, he said: "When you sit in a restaurant where a meal costs 100 euros, you can't think about eating with just 10 euros."
But it was with more or less the same squad that Juventus reached the final the following year and it has continued to grow under Allegri.
Like Conte, Allegri is a strict disciplinarian and has instilled in his players an unwavering focus and a duty to never drop their guard.
Just as in 2015, Juventus is now seeking a possible treble and it will be hoping for a different outcome than that night two years ago in Berlin, where Barcelona won 3-1.
The team has matured since then and after an impressive quarterfinal victory over Barcelona, it dug deep against Monaco to reach the final and has not been allowed to relax.
"Allegri is a very intelligent coach," Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira said. "He has the ability to keep us always focused on the game to come, even after nights like Monaco. He always finds the right solutions and substitutions, knows how to read the game and understands what's happening in various moments of the match.
"Allegri is one of the best coaches in circulation."
Considered a master tactician, Allegri is not afraid to shake things up, as witnessed by the daring 4-2-3-1 formation he deployed in January.
The system puts forward Miralem Pjanic in a deeper midfield role alongside Khedira, with Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic sitting just behind Gonzalo Higuain — utilizing all five star attackers.
Not only has Juventus been more creative and more dangerous going forward, but it has also remained solid at the back.
The players saw that as a turning point to their season.
"The change of system gave us the awareness that we are more 'European' and that's been our strength, along with the fact that we all sacrifice ourselves for the team," Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci said.
The 49-year-old Allegri is finally getting the credit he deserves for his coaching skills. Many feel he was underrated during his time at AC Milan, despite leading the team to its first title in seven years in his first season in charge.
Allegri started his managerial career in the lower leagues and guided Sassuolo to the Serie C title and a first-ever promotion to the second division in 2008 before leaving for Cagliari.
He led the Sardinian club to a ninth-place finish in Serie A and was rewarded with the league's coach of the year award, beating Inter Milan's title-winning coach Jose Mourinho.
Milan signed Allegri in 2010 but club president Silvio Berlusconi never really warmed to the Tuscan coach. Allegri's job there became even more difficult as Milan sold or released their best players, with the title-winning team being dismantled in favor of bargain buys and inexperienced youngsters.
Despite the departures, Allegri still managed to coax the side to a credible third place in 2013, but he was dismissed the following January after a defeat to Sassuolo.
As a player, Allegri never really lived up to his early promise and spent most of his career in the lower leagues apart from stints with Pescara, Cagliari and Napoli.
It was during his playing career, however, that he showed his talent as a future coach.
His mentor and former coach Giovanni Galeone said: "He was a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room, a captain and man everywhere."
Against a Madrid team that is determined to retain its title, Allegri will certainly be needing those leadership skills on Saturday.