Juventus’ Season Breakdown with Elio Salerno
They discussed all things related to Juventus' season including Massimiliano Allegri, Maurizio Sarri, Paulo Dybala, and Gianluigi Buffon.
Before the 2018/19 Serie A season could end, Massimiliano Allegri announced he wasn’t returning to manage Juventus for the 2019/20 season. The managed to bring a lot of success to the Bianconeri in his time with the club. What were your thoughts at the time when he announced he was leaving Juventus?
“My overriding feeling when it was announced that [Massimiliano] Allegri was leaving, I felt it was the right time, but it also left me thinking what if. Allegri had been a huge success during his time at Juve, but towards the end it did appear that a mutual separation was best for all involved.
“It was an intense few years for Max and, at the end of the last season, it felt like he had taken this group as far as he could go, he had maximised his time and performances on the pitch were becoming increasingly functional. At the same time, Allegri had been left in a difficult position by the Juve management.
“Despite the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, over the years the board had slowly stripped Allegri of a complete squad and left him to piece together what was left or fit in any new players that arrived. To his credit, he kept the group competitive and found ways to continue winning despite issues within the squad. The starting XI was arguably never as complete as the team he had in his first 18 months or so and that will forever remain a shame, who knows what else Allegri could have achieved with Juve.”
After the departure of Allegri, the club were linked to various names such as Simone Inzaghi, and were always heavily linked to Pep Guardiola. However, in the end, Juventus decided to hire Maurizio Sarri as their new manger. When this happened what were your thoughts of Sarri becoming Juventus’s new manager?
“I was underwhelmed with the appointment of Sarri, I have an appreciation of what he has achieved previously and the style of football he promotes, even if it does require very specific characteristics/circumstances to achieve it. My thoughts were that I wanted a different character for the Juve bench, Allegri presented himself professional and gave off a friendly/intelligent vibe. Sarri is very closed and in modern football I think fans like a coach they can connect with, someone with a more open personality.
“Sarri has done reasonably well so far, he has adapted to the Juve environment well & I think his time in the Premier League coupled with his first few months in Turin has changed him in a positive way. Juve have had a bigger effect on Sarri than Sarri has had on the team at the moment, but it was always going to be a difficult task for him to transform the team’s playing style. It will take time and new players, but it remains to be seen how much time Sarri will have.”
Juventus were close to selling Paulo Dybala to Manchester United but the deal never fully went through. Juventus was constantly rumoured to sell Dybala, however, this never materialize and never happened. It could be said that maybe it was the best thing that happened for Juventus this season. What were your thoughts of Juventus trying to sell Dybala back in the summer? Looking back, was it the wrong decision by the club? What are your thoughts on how Dybala has done this year?
“[Paulo] Dybala is and has been one of my favourite players to watch in a Juve shirt over the last decade, in possession he’s aesthetically pleasing and he appears to have a strong bond to the club which is appreciated by many fans. The rumours around his sale have been a constant over the years but this is the first time it felt like he was on the brink of leaving. At the time, I felt disappointed but understood why.
“His last 18 months/2 years in Turin have seen a steady decline in performance and with it a smaller return on goals/assists. With the arrival of Ronaldo, Dyabla took a back seat and Allegri found it difficult to find a formula that could fit him in the team with CR7 whilst maintaining balance across the XI.
“Juve are a club that look for opportunities in the market and, before Dybala’s stock dropped further, they attempted to cash in, fortunately it never materialised and he stayed. Allegri’s Juve became increasingly direct over the years but with Sarri’s more possession-based style, it has placed an importance on Dybala again, playing more in attacking areas, find goals/assists and strike an understanding with Ronaldo.”
Cristiano Ronaldo is now entering his second season with the club after his mega blockbuster deal last summer. The forward has scored some pivotal goals for Juventus and has shown to still be able to play at high level at his age. How has Ronaldo done in his first two seasons with the Bianconeri? Do you think the deal was the right one by Juventus?
“People will find ways but you cannot question Cristiano Ronaldo’s adaptation and effect on Juve/Italian football in general. It has become normal to see him score numerous goals over the years and of course he has continued this in Turin. Ultimately, if you are Juventus and the opportunity to sign one of the best to have ever played the game arises (and if you can afford it!), you take it then ask questions later.
“CR7’s presence at Juve will have a lasting effect. Even if they do not manage to win the Champions League whilst he is at the club, his overall impact on & off the pitch will be felt for a while after he has left. It should be seen as a source of pride for Juventini to have a great like Ronaldo at the club and performing to high levels, showing desire to win for the shirt and continue to achieve.”
Juventus has shown to be the most dominate team in Serie A winning eight straight Scudettos in Serie A. However, the same cannot be said about Champions League. Juventus continue to work hard in winning Champions League and in doing so, last season signed Ronaldo. Can we see Juventus eventually win this prestigious trophy or has time ran out for the Bianconeri?
“Winning the Champions League should always be a target for a club like Juventus, it has been a ridiculous amount of years since they last lifted the trophy and that has to change but it shouldn’t be the thing that defines them every season. Winning the Champions League is not a given, it is far from easy and there are too many variables involved to demand that a particular team should win it and they are failures if they do not.
“There are clubs across Europe that have spent billions in the last decade in an attempt to win the Champions League but haven’t got close. In a way, Juve are a victim of their own success, they have elevated themselves to such a level over recent years that people expect and anything outside of those expectations is deemed not good enough.
“Absolutely there should be a disappointment at not winning the Champions League and, as I said, the demand should be to win it but it requires a very particular set of circumstances to fall your way in order to make that happen. It goes beyond having the best players or best coach, timing is crucial in the run to win the Champions League. Form, injuries, fatigue, the draw, the opposition etc., you get where I am coming from. I hope and believe Juve will get there before too long.”
Gianluigi Buffon is slowly nearing the end of his playing career. How would you describe the goalkeepers’ career with Juventus and what is your fondest moment of Buffon?
“Simply put, Gigi Buffon is the greatest keeper of all time and Juventus are fortunate to have had the great man for the majority of his career. Although I must say it is a little strange to see him as a backup keeper now and to have seen him leave before returning, certainly feel that when he left Juve it should have been to retire, not to go and play elsewhere but who am I to question Buffon!!?
“It is always a pleasure to see him at the club, even in in this different role as he still carries that same fire inside. He celebrates every goal scored, he loves keeping clean sheets and it still means as much to him as it ever did. Superman is unique.
“There are so many Buffon memories to love for the national team and Juventus. The save against Zidane in the 2006 World Cup final will always stick out, his debut for the Azzurri against Russia, staying with Juve in Serie B when he could have gone to any club in the world and the countless unbelievable saves with the celebration to follow.
“The way his team mates have spoken so highly of Buffon over the years shows what a great person he is and aside from his greatness on the pitch, it is that warmth that Gigi gives off that always endears you to him.”