The image of a haggard-looking Maurizio Sarri wearing sweats, playing with a cigarette stub, and ambling around the Juventus sideline was, for me, minus all of the stressful context of last year’s campaign, one of the most delightful and hilarious images since I became a fan of this club.
Equally memorable, though completely different, is the smoldering gaze of Andrea Pirlo, his wavy hair falling across his forehead, his beard thick, his eyes piercing everything.
But it turns out that neither eccentric man is right for the job. The former banker and the former Juventino both failed, each in his own way. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20 — although, let’s be real, both of these appointments drew a substantial amount of immediate criticism, even if many of us, despite our reservations, expressed hope that they would work out — but selecting two coaches aiming to implement extremely specific approaches to the game, one of whom had literally no managerial track record to speak of, was misguided at best, colossally stupid at worst.
If Pirlo were to be canned and a new coach hired, that’d possibly mean four managers in four years. But if the rumors, increasingly audible, are true that Massimiliano Allegri is an option for the club, that’s the route management should take.
Bring Mad Max back.
Pretending this is a romantic comedy (the Old Lady is a project)
Imagine this is a romantic comedy in which two people who are great together, for various semi-comedic reasons, find each other separated about two-thirds of the way through the film. One of them is doing great; let’s call him, and this is completely random, Max.
Max took some time off to work on himself. He traveled some, he learned new languages, he probably drank a lot of very good wine. There were times in the past in which Max was sort of a cranky guy — he was known for screaming at people across big pitches of field; once he took off his jacket doing so — and so maybe he worked on some of that, too.
The other character in this movie (Julie?) is an absolute wreck. Julie is trying to be like her Instagram influencer friends, wracking up the followers, wearing new fancy outfits, buying new fancy toys, but she always finds a way to blunder her posts. She’s high maintenance and finicky; she says she wants one thing but you always suspect she wants something else. (She even tried to start an Extremely Secret Ladyclub, which she called the “ESL” for short, and it spectacularly blew up in her face.)
OK, to pull the veil on this extended metaphor, “Max” is Max Allegri and “Julie” is Juventus. I bet you didn’t see that coming!
Here’s the dumb point: Juventus is a project, on and off the field. “Project” might even be overly kind. This team is a mess in so many ways. Every team in the world has its flaws, but if I were a top manager right now — Pep, Jurgen, Zidane, or whoever you think is a top manager — I would have more than one doubt about walking into Turin to lead the Juventus revolution. There’s even a fair chance that this team isn’t playing in the Champions League next year, a fact that would surely be prohibitive for a large number of managerial candidates.
But if the rumors are true, and Max is interested in a return, then he might be the only “top” manager in the world who has a thorough understanding of what he’s getting into and the willingness to get into it.
This is not an endless cash situation
Another shocker: Juventus are not made of moneybags. Blame Cristiano Ronaldo or Andrea Agnelli or the global pandemic or the fact that this team just kind of sucks and keeps getting knocked out of the Champions League before cashing in the really big checks or blame “free” transfers with high salaries or blame Sami Khedira for some reason, but the Bianconeri accountants buried somewhere in the basement of J Village are probably not loving the situation right now.
Firing Pirlo wouldn’t cost as much as firing Sarri did, but it still wouldn’t cost nothing. It’d also mean hiring another coach, which would cost something. The managers I mentioned above are going to cost an arm and a leg, and Juventus don’t really have arms and legs in the bank account to spare. Max might not be as cheap as Pirlo, but he wouldn’t be as expensive as Zidane or Pep.
Pragmatism and grinta, please
Losing always stinks. Losing to Fiorentina stinks, losing to Benevento stinks, losing to Atalanta stinks. Nobody likes losing.
There was plenty of griping in Allegri’s last year about the manner in which Juventus were winning — in hindsight, how comical this is. The line of thinking was the Allegri’s football was old-school, that the club needed someone to move the team into the future tactically. Sarri managed to do this about 5% of the time. It’s been almost a full year since Pirlo has been in charge and I’m not going to lie to you: I have no idea what he’s trying to do tactically.
The pragmatism of Allegri seems like the right approach for a team that, as constructed, is a bit of a mess. This is a very, very strange collection of players, and coming in with X or Y system that you’re trying to impose doesn’t make a lot of sense. What does make a lot of sense, though, is looking at the guys at your disposal, and putting them in the best position to win; Allegri does nothing if not that.
More than just pragmatism or winning, though, I can’t remember a time when Allegri’s teams didn’t fight like hell. They were grinta from top to bottom. Allegri was the right combination of man manager and tactical planner (not to mention his delightfully playful relationship with the media) to spur on the lads with a fire in their bellies.
Agnelli, you strange fellow, I implore you, if there is any truth in Allegri’s willingness to come back to Turin, find Pirlo a modeling gig out in Tokyo and bring Mad Max back.