I was too long delayed in finishing my own piece on the return of Max Allegri, which began and had paused just as the waves of confirmation began washing over my shoreline. Some of the response still holds some relevance, which guides me to include some snippets below in the hope that the absence of the full text won’t preclude any flow to the reader.
I raise my hands to concede that I was an out of tune squeal of the chorus demanding, urging, hoping for the end of his last stint as Il Mister. We had become stale, not quite listless, still capable of winning, but a ship with no rudder. Sailing in circles, neither likely to move deeper in pursuit of foreign, alien climes and challenges or towards anywhere we had not been before. Perhaps, in hindsight, it was too easy to get carried away with the idea that any change would be for the best. Though it may well turn out, if all goes perfectly to plan, that this will be proven the case. Maybe Max needed the break, to take breath after five draining seasons and ever increasing discord with his superiors, and I suspect, it was the management and the squad which needed to sink deeper, to hit what we hope is/was our rock bottom, before planning the rise and resurgence back to where we belong. With the sights to achieve this aimed not just at the squad, but above and beyond…
If pushed for brevity, never my forte, I would assert that whilst Max is probably not the idea of many as the ‘best coach’ on the planet, he is most likely the finest option the club could have chosen, given our circumstances and his recent history. This is a man who found great success with an AC side of veterans, many of whom seemed long overdue putting out to pasture. His work thereafter in Turin, ranks him in the company of Lippi and Trappatoni, such was the dominance and glory he oversaw domestically and the progress he made on the continental stage.
5 straight scudetti
3 Coach of the year awards
3 Panchina d’oro
4 coppa italia
2 super coppa
2 CL finals
There were more awards, but they are the main achievements of his glittering 5 year previous stint as our manager.
It is clear that Max is not walking back into the same well built squad brimming with talent that he found previously. Yet nor do I believe that the current roster is as poor as our season would suggest. Added to this is my conviction that Allegri has already proven far more versatile than many are now suggesting. He may well be pragmatic, and his style, if there is one, can never be likened to Pep or Klopp. But so what eh? We have never been that kind of club. And whilst it is definitely fair to add that our efforts to become a more entertaining outfit were roughshod given the odd choice of Sarri to lead the charge, then the even more bizarre roll of the dice with Pirlo, I refuse to accept the idea that the very attacking styles of Pep and Klopp are the epitome of ‘modern football’. They are certainly entertaining, when they work, yet the pragmatism of Tuchel put simply to the sword all the lofty idealism often amazing to watch, of Guardiola.
Aware that it matters very little to many, my perceptions of a manager or player are pivotal in my appreciation of them as a Juventini. I found Sarri brutally honest, though a poor fit for the players and club as an ethos. Pirlo came across too often muddled between towing the party line and speaking weasel words. Conte was another honest to brazen chap, yet he is enigmatic and ever focused on nothing ever beyond Conte, sometimes, even often – especially when any failure emerges – this grates…Max was able to maintain his integrity, never insult players directly, always protect them, always deflect and assuage blame. He was able to always retain his integrity, love for the club, professionalism, and come out smiling. And still win more silverware and more often than any other manager since Lippi.
The behaviour of Donnarumma, guided by Raiola, against the club who raised him should serve as a warning to more juventini. He is a mercenary with zero loyalty or so weak in character that he allows his agent to make him appear so. Not the kind of mentality Juve needs.
— Daniel Pennuto (@thegutterpoet) June 2, 2021
The keeper with the best save percentage in Serie A last season was Perin. Who we own, yet will not return to Juve, because we do not want him and he does not want us. Which is a shame, for other than his injury issues, I believe Perin remains a top class keeper. Also consider Tek well above the young italian in terms of reliability and certainly experience. His only failing, for me, is a vague perception of his lack of connection to and command of his back four or three. Still, he seems more reliable than Donnarumma.
I understand and like the tradition of the national keeper playing for juve, and agree that the in limbo lad has potential to improve as has shown strong form which belies his age. However…
Donnarumma, some say we MUST take the opportunity. To bring him in on huge wages when we need to reduce the wage bill. He will also require a mega sign-on fee, with his agent Raiola assuredly demanding similar. I have little idea what these fees could be, but suspect they will run to at least 20-30m at best, on top of the high wage. If we had a glaring need for a new keeper, I would be more supportive of the move, though still prefer Perin. We have other areas of the squad in more dire, urgent need of serious improvement costing serious money. Which Max is rumoured to have also concluded. Namely the lack of creativity in midfield, the Ronalda-Morata-Dybala situation sorted and ideally a replacement of a long jaded Sandro.
Peeking back at this piece on our last CL winning campaign I was reminded of the focus back then more on mentality than marketing. We lost some top class talent that year with Kohler and Baggio both departing. We brought in Jugovic, Lombardo, Vierchowod, Padovano, Pessotto (amongst others). And what strikes me of all these players is their mentality. Extremely hard working, beyond competent footballers, whose focus, professionalism and drive makes a mockery of the recruitment we have found of recent years. I like players with menace, with zeal, players who ever offer the enduring impression that they are hateful of the final whistler, whether we are losing or winning, for they simply want to keep fighting.
Lippi and Moggi did not seek to build a side of superstars. They sought to create a team of the collective based on a firm foundation of grit and work. It is what I hope we can slowly or swiftly return to as the guiding light of our recruitment policy. And perhaps, Signore Arrivabene can help steer that direction. An experienced operator, long part of the Juve board, who has the nickname from his F1 days as ‘Iron Mauri’ due to his reputation of proving determined, demanding and eminently capable of pulling various parts of a team into the right focus for combined success. No matter whose feathers he ruffles…if he believes it for the good of the team.
This goes some way to explain why I am against the move for Donnarumma. I do not want any players who are more guided by their agent than their club. Impossible, many will quip, and yes I agree it is tough but there are varying degrees of loyalty to a shirt and shared cause to be found even during these times of mega money.
I would go as far to suggest that it is not merely the mentality of the players we have signed which has contributed to our demise, but also the mentality of the management. If you place in charge a man focused mainly on marketing, then the sporting side will suffer. This is what encourages me of the impending arrival of Iron Mauri. Yes, he has top drawer experience with sponsors, but he also has the same history of dealing with multiple parts of a system and not in the slightest putting any one element before another. And I am glad to have such a character likely soon emerge as our CEO who will rule with an iron fist balanced with praise when deserved.
It is also why I would be pleased to see Ronaldo leave. Which I suspect Arrivabene will have a strident opinion towards. Nobody will be above him.
The evergreen superstar’s winning mentality is beyond doubt, nor is his sporting potency regardless of his age, yet his focus is all about Ronaldo first and foremost. The privileges he receives by default, whether that be taking every free kick when failing with 75/76, playing what position he chooses or getting a day off to visit the bosses ferrari chums is not good for squad morale. Add to this his staggering gross wage of 55m annually…with which we could pay huge money to 5-6 high quality players, if not more. All of this combines, especially given our current circumstances, to conclude he is too much a luxury. The issue will be, I suspect, that we will struggle to shift him.
Only United and PSG seem remotely viable. Even these options wold represent a sizeable drop in income, which should matter little to Ronaldo, given his immense sponsorships and hunger for more records and victories. The nut of the matter is that we cannot afford to be paying any single player a gross wage of 55m. That is for the peak galacticos of Real Madrid, not current Juve.
Morata is a curious case. Add another 10m for part payment/next loan fee and it does not resolve much and costs a fair amount. Could the money be better invested in a Zapata for 30m? Who is 30 and may well not command a fee beyond that. Faced with the choice, I would take the Colombian. For not only does he offer proven serie a success, he is a beast of a player, extremely physical, extremely determined.
Some speak of Vlahovic, and he appears very promising but the fee talked of is too high at 50m+…Scamacca?? May well go for 25m yet has hardly had a break through season no matter how highly he is rated for potential.
Donyell Malen, the dutch lad, of course with Raiola…seems an interesting potential purchase. Yet I know nothing of his mentality or have watched him ever before beyond brief highlights.
And for an outlandish idea…
Nikolai Baden is a Danish prima punta, 21 years of age, who we signed in 2018 from FC Nordsjaelland U19 for 1.25m. A loan stint in the Netherlands produced a few goals, then back to Juve, some time mainly in the primavera last year, some brief stints in the U23s, then to Tirol of the Austrian bundesliga on loan. He has blossomed there…with 18 goals, 4 assists from 32 appearances. Not bad at all for a kid still learning his craft. Superb physicality, comfortable with both feet, a threat in the air, capable with dropping deeper to play the creator…Will hope Max assesses him, and if continuing to show promise, Mr Baden may well prove a powerful understudy to our first choice prima punta, whoever that may be…
It will take another piece to begin analysing the midfield and defence. Let alone get into the front line with the required depth. Which can wait. I have more virtual ink to spill for a former pixie I once lured with a poem, many moons ago, who has briefly emerged from her long ago vanishing and I must write to her before I dive too deep into the smirnoff.