Former Juve forward Mario Mandzukic believes it will take time before The Bianconeri return to winning ways and shares his formula for being successful in Turin. Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, ‘Mandzu’ gave his assessment of why Juventus are struggling at the moment, what they can do to return to winning ways, and why he still believes Max Allegri can lead them out of this difficult period:
What have you made of Juventus’ problems; They’re out of the Champions League and dropped places in the league?
“From the outside it is not easy to judge. But in football nothing lasts forever and Juve’s dominance was destined to end sooner or later. Juve has lost several key leaders, guys who knew how to win continuously. It is relatively easy to play a great game, but it is difficult to repeat it every week and that is what you need to do to win a league title. Juve still has a lot of quality, but it takes time to build a team and a championship character, to acquire league title habits. The pressure is different when playing in big clubs. Juve is not for everyone. But top clubs always find their way: I’m sure that sooner or later Juventus will return to the level that fans want. How soon? I can’t say…. “.
You have always had an excellent relationship with Allegri, but lately he too is highly criticized by fans …
“It is not surprising that fans criticize the coach, whoever he is, when the results are not good. It’s the nature of football and the coaches life: it doesn’t matter what you did one, two or five years ago. Or even five weeks ago. The only thing that matters is how you are doing now. But I don’t think these results depend on Allegri, who has proven to be a great, successful coach. As I said, it takes time to build a great team and Juventus had to rebuild after several important changes. Even if the new players had all the talent in the world, you don’t become Giorgio Chiellini in one or two games.”
Are you still in contact with Allegri?
“Yes, but we never talk about the season and the results. Allegri is an excellent coach and I think he can turn the situation around because the team has quality and he has repeatedly shown that he can create winning groups “.
What will you never forget about your time with Allegri?
“I can’t choose a moment, because I really enjoyed every training session: it was a joy to work and talk to Allegri. Maybe I could mention our basketball challenges: he thinks he’s a good player, but I have shown him that he is not as good as he thinks…”.
Juventus are 10 points away from the leaders, Napoli. In January, with the return of Pogba and Chiesa, could they make a comeback like yours from the 2015-16 season?
“We were 10 points behind … and we managed to turn the situation around: so yes, it is possible! But it does not depend on a single player, but on the whole team, who must demonstrate collective spirit and an iron determination in wanting to achieve the goal. Of course, when you’re so far behind, you also depend on others. But Serie A is a tough championship, everyone is likely to lose points along the way. In 2015-16, when we were behind, we got together, we talked to each other and together we decided to reverse course. The team had character and determination. Now I’m not in the locker room and therefore I can’t say more, but we are still at the beginning of the season and everything is possible. Obviously the returns of Pogba and Chiesa will help, but they do not play alone: the whole team is needed.”
In this ’emergency’ period, several young players found places: if Miretti, Fagioli and Soulè asked you, what would you say it takes to do well at Juventus?
“My formula is very simple: work hard every day, listen to the coach, watch the players in your role and learn from them. And once you have your chance in a game, give everything you have.”