Max Allegri’s position in the recent Four Four Two rankings of the best managers in the world has caused some stir and unhappiness amongst Juventus supporters. Allegri was ranked third behind Chelsea’s Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid, both former members of the club. This isn’t a knock on those who compiled the list, as arguments can be made for either one of those three to be listed first following the season they just had, but more on why Allegri deserves the recognition he never receives.
Had Juve accomplished what Real just did, winning two Champions Leagues in as many years, then would Allegri have received the plaudits that Zizou has? Maybe.
But looking into that hypothetical scenario, the feeling is that the intimidating backline of the Bianconeri or the dazzling attack of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain would be pointed to as the reason for success, and not ‘Mad Max.’
Don't get me wrong, those factors are a big reason why Juventus are as good as they are, with the praise they garner in every way deserved. Yet, Allegri wouldn’t be hailed as the best manager in the world, or a tactical mastermind if such a situation ever occurred. In fact, for proof of this, Juventus’ six successive Serie A titles has been credited to Conte even moreso than his successor.
Conte’s influence on the current crop of players can’t be ignored. He turned Juve into a domestic powerhouse again, capturing three titles and helping instil a winning mentality that has remained long after his departure. But Allegri kept the ship sailing in the wake of Conte’s controversial exit. It was right before preseason, following a year that contained the disappointing Champions League group stage that seen the Bianconeri drop into the Europa League knockout rounds. The squad were on knife-edge, unsure of where the club’s future lie and now facing one without their passionate manager. In stepped Allegri, into shoes that seemed too big to fill and too daunting to even try.
And here we are.
Allegri has been courted by many across Europe, but has stuck with the project which began in 2014. It only took him less than a calendar year to guide Juventus to their first Champions League final in 12 years, where they lost 3-1 to Barcelona. The result was disappointing but the journey to it was a feeling of nostalgia. The good old Juventus were back. And Allegri deserved so much more credit than given to him. People sang the praises of Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, who left Turin during that summer. That was supposed to be the end of Juventus’ fast-tracked return amongst Europe’s best, and the beginning of Allegri’s struggles.
Neither of those occurred. Max steadied the ship again, only too happy to work with what the board gave him in the wake of a huge summer of departures and very little established players in arrivals. The board believed in their manager as much as the manager believed in himself. It paid off with another Serie A title, though a second round exit to Bayern Munich in Europe’s premier competition disappointed many.
Again, Allegri was pointed to as the reason why Juve weren’t more successful in the Champions League. He got his tactics wrong, his team selection wrong and his substitutions wrong. He managed extra time wrong in the second leg during extra time when Bayern ran riot. Everything Allegri done was wrong, and anything he done right was only because of the players at his disposal.
Juventus were just a Patrice Evra clearance away from knocking off Munich and most likely progressing to another Champions League final. Allegri countered Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka, heavy possession based offense with quick players attacking Bayern’s slow defenders. Alvaro Morata was brilliant, Juan Cuadrado put in one of his better performances and Paul Pogba controlled the midfield delightfully. Allegri had the blueprint but one mistake from a veteran made it all redundant. Bayern clawed back and eventually won out.
Once again, Allegri had to face doubts over his future. Despite spearheading two successive Serie A and Coppa Italia triumphs, and a Champions League run that brought back fond memories of the past to Juve fans who suffered through the ‘calciopoli’ scandal, the 49-year-old still had to prove himself. That 2015/16 Serie A success was one for the ages, as Juve recovered from a poor start where they won just three times in their opening ten fixtures to a 15 game winning streak and blew their title rivals away. But because Juventus are who they are, people refused to give their manager credit. It was down to the better players and not the savvy tactics that the team achieved such a feat. Not only had Juventus dominated during their 15 game winning streak but they also won 25 in 26 games to finish out that year. Not all of that comes down to player's talent.
Once Pogba left for Manchester United last summer, questions were raised over his influence on Juve’s success. They had now lost the midfield which brought them so much success, with Claudio Marchisio’s ACL injury adding salt to the wounds. Morata was also gone due to Real using their buy-back option. Now, Allegri would be exposed as a weak manager, and it would finally be proven that Juve’s achievements were in spite of him and not because of him…right?
Wrong. Allegri passed what should be his final hurdle in terms of recognition from the footballing world. And I know that world is as fickle as can be, and the three league titles he’s brought to the Bianconeri would be deemed irrelevant in that universe if they fell short next season, but after overseeing so many rebuilds in so little time, there’s no more excuses or reasons why Allegri shouldn’t be looked upon as a prime reason why Juventus are one of the top clubs in Europe again. He was one trophy away from making history, and achieving what the likes of Marcello Lippi, Fabio Capello and Conte never could.
He dealt with the Pogba and Morata sales, like he dealt with every departure before them. After signing a new three year deal earlier in the month, he’s going to have a lot more challenges facing him in that time. But he’s committed to the project he took on in 2014. He doesn’t care who recognises him as a great manager, or that the majority doubted his ability to still be here three years later with two Champions League final appearances to boast about.
In those contests, he made mistakes but he was also a big reason why they were there in the first place. His change this year to a 4-2-3-1 system was admirable, realizing where the right balance lay in Juve’s offensive and defensive assets. He still won’t get credit for it, though. You’ll still see question marks over a manager playing Mario Mandzukic on the wing, despite his overwhelming success in that position. You’ll still hear murmurs of doubt over whether Allegri could enjoy success in the Premier League the way his predecessor Conte has, following links to Arsenal earlier in the year.
But, as said above, Allegri won’t care who thinks what. He’s constantly outperformed his expectations, always answering his critics with managerial wizardry when it was required. For next year and the remainder of his contract, whoever Juve sell or buy in the transfer market, Allegri will continue to shine as one of the best managers in the world.