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Allegri's Juve rebuild off to rocky start following Ronaldo exit

China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-21 07:28
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Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. [Photo/Agencies]

Massimiliano Allegri is the man who has taken Juventus closest to its dream of Champions League glory in recent years, but he begins this season's European campaign in the midst of a dreadful start which has put the club's domestic credentials under the spotlight.

The 52-year-old was pelted with eggs by fans when he arrived for his first spell at Juve in 2014, after rows with Juve while managing AC Milan and because he was replacing club legend Antonio Conte. However, he won over supporters by leading Juve to five straight league titles and two Champions League finals.

The 'Old Lady' of Italian soccer tried to go one step further with the shock 2018 signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, who had ended the Turin giant's hopes of a first Champions League title since 1996 in the final in 2017 and then in the quarterfinals in 2018.

The 100-million euro ($117 million) gamble didn't quite pay off, and Juventus allowed Ronaldo to leave at a fraction of the price three summers later, the club's status in Europe less than it had been when the five-time Ballon d'Or winner arrived.

Ronaldo is the Champions League's all-time highest scorer but even with him in the team, Juventus failed to go further than the quarterfinals and in the past two seasons were dumped out in the last 16 by Lyon and then Porto.

Juve has lost its way domestically, last season finishing 13 points behind league winner Inter Milan under novice coach Andrea Pirlo and only qualifying for the Champions League on the final day of the campaign because Napoli failed to beat Verona at home.

Now Allegri returns to the Juve dugout not as an enemy but an old friend, charged with reestablishing its preeminence in Italy and with rebuilding its European reputation with a weaker lineup than the teams he took to within one match of glory in 2015 and 2017.

After Ronaldo was rumored to want out this summer, the charismatic Allegri practically shrugged his shoulders while announcing last season's top scorer in Italy had no intention of ever playing for Juve again.

Never a coach short of confidence, Allegri said "life goes on" as he played down the exit of one of the game's greatest ever players, but the coach's second spell is off to a wobbly start.

After managing just one point from its opening three Serie A games, including a loss at Napoli, Juve at least got its European campaign off to a better start with a 3-0 victory at Malmo in Sweden.

However, Juve now finds itself in Serie A's bottom three and still searching for a first league win of the season following Sunday's 1-1 draw at home to Milan.

Alvaro Morata's fourth-minute goal gave Juve the lead but Ante Rebic headed in a 76th-minute equalizer as Milan ended the weekend in second place on goal difference behind city rival Inter.

Milan could have won the match in the dying moments but Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a brilliant point-blank save to deny Pierre Kalulu.

Juve is 18th with only Cagliari and Salernitana propping it up.

Allegri had harsh words for some of his stars. "You have to be determined, to bring home the tackle, keep focused. This is part of the general growth process of some players," he said.

"I will admit that I made mistakes on the substitutions, I got it wrong. I should've put more defensive players on and put the 1-0 lead under lock and key."

Allegri even admitted he couldn't wait for the match to finish."Luckily the referee whistled for the end otherwise we could have lost it," he told DAZN.

Next up for Allegri is a midweek trip to Spezia where Juve will be expected to end its win drought.

 

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