Allegri leaves Juventus- what can his replacement expect?

allegri

“When Conte abruptly left, many felt the sky was falling. The Allegri hiring was universally mocked on social media and rocks were thrown at his car when he arrived for his first training session.” I know you’ve read and heard a variation of that line many times, I can vouch for fact I used it many times myself to illustrate that we shouldn’t take for granted Allegri’s success at Juventus.

The expectations were so low when a manager who had been sacked at Milan after being constantly mocked by Rossoneri fans, and even Silvio Berlusconi publicly at a political rally, replaced Antonio Conte, a club legend who had brought Juventus back from the ashes of Calciopoli. 

I bring this narrative once again to illustrate that Allegri’s stature as a candidate for a top club has only risen compared to five year ago and Juventus could very well keep winning even if his replacement doesn’t appear to be adequate at time of hire which is in line with both Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi, who won the Champions League at the club, as well as Antonio Conte.

There also appears to be the potential for some Allegri remorse amongst some of his biggest critics based on the same the names being discussed as his replacement (Simone Inzaghi and Sinisa Mihajlovic) but make no mistake about it- it was time for both Allegri and especially Juventus to part ways. 

It was bad enough that most of the club’s fans were done with pragmatic, defensive and “just do the bare minimum to win” approach, we now had Dybala’s brother and agent publicly stating many of the players were unhappy and ready to leave. Sacrificing all of the likes of Cancelo, Dybala and Douglas Costa (some of whom could still leave) because of their issues with the manager was too much of a price to pay for even the most ardent Allegri defender.

While Allegri will almost certainly land a top job abroad based on the fact he has a much higher approval rating outside of the Serie A bubble (it’s more a matter of when, since he could also take a year off and collect the checks from the last year of his deal at Juventus) it remains to be seen if the name of his replacement will be equally prestigious.

Certainly Juventus made a very significant and surprising splash by landing Cristiano Ronaldo last summer after years of being mocked for loan with option to buy deals, but they historically have always hired an Italian manager- the only exception in past 30 plus years was Didier Deschamps who had some black and white DNA after being a club captain as a player but was also hired when the club was relegated to the second division.

Zinedine-Zidane(1)

The fact that Zidane decided to return to Real Madrid was a game changer- just like Deschamps he has a strong tie to the club already and of course has a remarkable track record at the club. While Juventus would love to make an exception for Pep Guardiola, there appears to be no chance he leaves the club despite their potential escalating Financial Fair Play issues. 

While Mourinho is represented by Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, the biggest complaint about Allegri was his defensive and pragmatic approach and on top of that there’s the Special One’s iconic past at Inter to consider. Hiring Pochettino would be very expensive because of his release clause and he could be a candidate for Barcelona.

Maurizio-Sarri-Chelsea-1(1)

Recently Maurizio Sarri has also been discussed as a possibility. While there’s a distinct possibility he’ll leave Chelsea after the Europa League final, he would be an awkward fit culture wise at Juventus because of his style. It would also be interesting to see how the former Napoli coach would be greeted by all the Juve fans who loudly commented on the fact he hasn’t won anything despite playing beautiful football (at least at Napoli and Empoli)

While there has been a lot of buzz for Antonio Conte’s return, Inter are still confident they will appoint him as their next manager and there appears to still be some bad blood between him and president Andrea Agnelli based on the way he left 5 years ago- many have also noted how much warmer Juventus’ brass was with Allegri when announcing his departure compared to Conte.

Lazio v Salzburg - UEFA Europa League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Stadio Olimpico

That would leave two former teammates of Juventus’ most prominent directors- Simone Inzaghi is close to Fabio Paratici and has been successful at Lazio, while Pavel Nedved played alongside Sinisa Mihajlovic and was one of the finalists for Juventus’ coaching job in the past and has recently raised his stock by turning around Bologna this season.

What is Allegri’s successor walking into? Juventus is focused on winning at least two more Scudetti to make it ten in a row, plus the fans also expect a much more attractive style of play. If that weren’t enough, Allegri had already substantially raised the bar in the Champions League- you can mock him for taking credit for making two finals and losing them, but without the substantial revenues that came with those deep runs, Juventus would have never been able to sign Ronaldo and Allegri is the last manager to eliminate the two coaches in the current final.

While the expectations will be enormous, the next Juventus manager can draw inspiration from his predecessor- Allegri leaves Turin with his profile raised despite fact many assumed he would fail as Conte’s replacement.

 

  

Cristiano Ronaldo’s other Love

It’s quite common for high profile sporting figures around the world to develop a love for
gambling in its many forms. From sports betting to poker, slots to blackjack, there are
sports stars who have taken these games and activities to heart. Many of those who have developed a passion for these games, would have done so after visiting some of the most exclusive casino venues in the world. It is here that a particular game usually appeals to a person and it then becomes a regular pastime.

One such sporting figure, or should we say mega star, who has developed a huge passion for poker is Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo, 34, who signed for the Italian side last summer after enjoying a stellar 9-year stint at Real Madrid is a big
lover of poker and has taken part in numerous games and tournaments over the years.

You could say that it comes as no surprise for Ronaldo to have developed an
understanding and love for poker, as he was introduced to gaming many years ago after
joining Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon. The Portuguese star’s English wasn’t the best when he made the switch to England, so he was given a DVD bingo game to help him brush up on his skills. This will have undoubtedly stood him in good stead as he moved into the more advanced world of poker.

Ronaldo’s poker passion also saw the Ballon d’Or winner secure a deal with mega brand PokerStars, and this saw the Portuguese attacker play both online and at live events around the world, affording him the opportunity to travel to and play at some of the world’s leading casino venues. Ronaldo, a sporting figure who does a lot for good causes, also once took part in a special charity game of poker alongside the likes of actor Aaron Paul, a game which CR7 managed to go on and win.

The five-time Champions League winner has spoken about poker and what it means to
him multiple times over the years saying, “Although football is my world, poker has always been my game.” He went on to add, “I love to play poker, it’s a fantastic game that I play with friends and family. To challenge the best players in the world is a pleasure for me.”

The last sentence gives us a great indication about Ronaldo’s outlook in general, as he’s always up for challenging the best on the football pitch, and the same applies at the poker table too.

So, with Ronaldo now aged 34 and nearing the twilight of his footballing career, a move into poker on a more regular basis could be on the cards. He’d certainly have no problem being invited to the top casinos and poker events around the world, and as a global brand, he would be sure to strike up some great sponsorship deals along the way too.

Allegri’s time is up

When Massimiliano Allegri was hired to replace Antonio Conte, many Juventus fans were opposed to such a move. He was met with discontent and his car was pelted with eggs and even spat at by fans lined up to “welcome him” to Juve.

Fast forward to the end of the 2014/15 season and Allegri has turned doubters into believers making himself a hero in the eyes of many Bianconeri fans… So what changed and when was the turning point? There are several factors to consider:

1) First turning point was the 2017 Champions League Final in Cardiff. Whatever happened at half-time has left a mark on certain players with Dani Alves and Leonardo Bonucci leaving and so forth. Alves would later claim he was “unhappy” at Juve

2) Why would Alves be unhappy? It does seem he was not enjoying his football. He only improved after returning from injury and after being given some freedom to attack on the right flank. Could it be the same story again with another attack-minded right-back in Cancelo? Cancelo seems unhappy too. The same could be said about left-back Alex Sandro who had a remarkable stretch with Juve before everything changed after Cardiff too. Sandro seems disengaged in most games the last 22 months.

3) Could it be Allegri is just allergic to talented players who have the desire to attack and attack more as opposed to track back and focus on defensive duties? This could explain why Allegri has often preferred Mattia de Sciglio over Cancelo?

4) What about the fate of two attackers: Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala? Mandzukic has played as a left-winger, even at times as a left wing-back, for over a year before returning to central striker following the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. As for Dybala, he’s been used in multiple positions which do not suit his characteristics. Again, imagine Dybala, who is not physically imposing, has been asked to track back!

5) Not only attackers and full-backs are being misused, but also Juve’s most creative midfielder Miralem Pjanic is tasked with tracking back, defending, tackling and other defensive duties instead of saving his energy and turning his focus into creating chances for Juve’s attackers! Who’ll create if Pjanic is too busy tracking back! It sure is not going to be Blaise Matuidi, whose control and first touch leaves a lot to be desired, and it is definitely not Sami Khedira- who’s been injured this season and then had other health problems plus is slower than ever and never was a creative player.

Juve’s other midfielder Emre Can can play as a right-back, centre-back or a defensive midfield but he too is not a creative force. The same applies to Rodrigo Bentancur who is still very young and needs time to mature and find consistency.

6) Initially, Allegri’s football made proper use of rotating players and changing tactics- even in the same match at times. However, this has proven to be a failure the last 22 months with the XI coming out often looking like complete strangers. Top teams build harmony by often using the same XI and of course making the necessary tweaks on a regular basis. Allegri went too far, just have a closer look at certain Serie A match. It proved costly.

7) To make matters worse, Allegri not only rotated players and changed tactics, but he also changed the position of certain players on multiple occasions, and often at the expense of the team’s performances and results. How often have we seen Juan Cuadrado used as a right-back? What about the older, slower Andrea Barzagli also being used as a right-back? What about Alex Sandro used across multiple positions from left-back to left midfielder and even left-winger. And the list goes on.

8) Undefined tactics are also one consequence of Allegri’s constant change. What makes matters worse is coaches- such as the ones of Atletico Madrid (well, for the 2nd half of the game in Madrid) and of Ajax as well as even Young Boys have outsmarted and outfoxed Allegri. Diego Simeone saw how predictable Juve were in the 1st half in Madrid and he simply urged his team on to expose Juve and their tame football.

9) The repetitive mistakes are of grave concern. They could have been more costly yet in Serie A the weak opposition, lack of consistency and other factors have meant Juve a big margin of error to work with. Even last season, Napoli left Turin with a precious 1-0 win yet failed to build on it… Napoli had the momentum yet they bottled it.

10) Allegri’s reputation in big games has taken a hit: against Napoli last season, Juve needed a draw and he seemed intent on settling for a draw, even the 0-0 tie without showing much attacking desire even at home! Eventually he was punished with a 1-0 loss before Napoli gave it all away.

Against Atletico in Madrid, Allegri was pleased with a 0-0 draw as well and aimed to do nothing more than sit back and let Atletico have their way. The outcome was a 0-2 defeat.

He also made mistakes against both Young Boys and Manchester United. Against United in particular, with the score reading 1-0 Juve’s way, he opted for an unnecessary change by bringing on Andrea Barzagli. The outcome was a 1-2 defeat in Turin.

11) Juve’s defensive unit has conceded many times from set-pieces- via both corner kicks and free-kicks. A wise coach would work on those visible weaknesses. Instead Juve conceded against Atleti from a corner-kick followed by a free-kick. Against Ajax, the winning game for the Dutch team came from a corner-kick!

12) Several bad results hinted the future was not going to be all bright: The home defeat versus Man United was the first warning. Yes, Juve put in a good display for 80 minutes, but in football you need to play well and focus for 90 minutes. Allegri’s substitution and the team’s obvious weakness from set-pieces proved costly.

Against Swiss side Young Boys, Juve lost as well. The excuse was the game did not matter, however, in Europe a team must always try to win regardless of how important or unimportant the game is. You send a clear message when you take every game seriously.

Against Atletico in Madrid, Juve’s players and Allegri were outfought, out thought and out played by Atleti’s player and manager Simeone. Allegri was too late to react to Simeone’s changes even though one could sense the game’s momentum had completed shifted towards Atleti’s advantage.

13) Even Juve’s greatest win this season, the 3-0 triumph over Atleti to overturn the result and advance to the quarter-finals was also aided by Atletico’s own mistakes, including those of manager Simeone who surprisingly tried to defend a 2-0 lead from the first minute. When Juve were up 2-0, one felt it was too late to even contemplate an Atleti comeback of sorts. They wilted and duly got what they deserve with a 3-0 resounding defeat. Ironically, Juve’s win would serve as their downfall as Ajax’s players and their coach took a hold of the game’s video and surely noticed Atletico offered no fight. Ajax did not sit back in Turin.

14) Other notable Juventus wins are very few to the extent they can be counted on one hand. The 1-0 away win at Old Trafford was a great performance with Juve utterly dominating the first half against Manchester United. The other decent performance was the 2-0 away win over Valencia despite Cristiano Ronaldo receiving a red card in the first half

15) Allegri last season depended heavily on Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain to save him. This season he is counting heavily on Ronaldo. No one can deny how last season Dybala saved Juve time and again earlier in the season and then Higuain as well as Dybala combined to save Juve against Tottenham over the two-legged tie to advance to the quarter-finals to face Real Madrid. Hence, Allegri has not been playing a team’s game but rather relying on individual talents to tip the balance to Juve’s side.

16)  Allegri used to complain about how Barcelona had Lionel Messi and Real had Ronaldo, yet here he is in Ronaldo’s first season not taking proper advantage of the Portuguese star’s presence. While Ronaldo has taken most of the team’s free-kicks this season, that is exactly where one can first claim Allegri is losing the plot. Why would you have Ronaldo take most, if not all, the free-kicks when you have in Pjanic one of the best free-kick takers in both Italy and Europe? And to add to that, you also have Dybala who is very lethal from the right side of the pitch.

Allegri should have integrated Ronaldo in a better and more appropriate way. In addition, the team does not create enough for Ronaldo. Imagine the best finisher in the history of the Champions League is playing for Juve, yet he has been starved of service for majority of the games in Europe due to Allegri’s approach.

17) Just as Allegri’s hiring was a gamble, if Allegri is fired then Juve will simply be taking another gamble though a very necessary one. If the objective is to win Serie A, then there are several managers who could have achieved that with this squad. If the main objective is to compete in Europe, then Allegri’s approach has proven futile on multiple occasions.

18) Fitness and injury excuses have been used as well yet why are several of the the main contenders not complaining or suffering the same way? The likes of Barcelona, who used Messi often and even against weaker sides in La Liga, are still cruising and have made it to the semi-final. Forget about Manchester City who are battling on three fronts and forget Liverpool who are still battling on two fronts, but what about even Ajax, who are also locked in a tight title race with domestic rivals PSV?

19) Of course Allegri is not to blame for everything but why was he so easily convinced of Bonucci’s return? Allegri was the one to leave Bonucci with the crowd when Juve hosted Porto in the Champions League. At the time, Allegri was praised for being brave enough to bench a key starter in an important game. Is there a complicit agreement between management and Allegri to keep him in charge as long as he did not demand much in the market? Above all the signing of Ronaldo must be every manager’s dream and by clear indication coach Allegri had nothing to do with it.

20) With former France and Juve star Zinedine Zidane returning to Real, that took away one more option for Allegri in terms of available jobs. Italy is in the hands of Roberto Mancini while Chelsea are facing a transfer ban, and Manchester City are firmly under Pep Guardiola’s guidance. Barcelona will not be making a coaching change, in particular with everything appearing to be in order at this point. This leaves Arsenal and Manchester United, yet even United seem to have settled for Ole Gunnar Solskjær. This means Allegri senses his options are limited yet also Juve’s options to replace him are limited as well. He perhaps feels a greater sense of security in this ironic situation.

It is highly unlikely to see Juve come to agreement with Jose Mourinho- a coach who appears in decline and whose methods have been questioned regularly in recent years- while Jurgen Klopp seems to be happy in charge of Liverpool.

21) Again the focus returns on that Atleti game in Turin. The 3-0 win over Atletico masked all the squad’s visible weaknesses. Ajax were clever enough to know the team’s defensive unit is shaky and would be even worse without Giorgio Chiellini. Had Juve faced a better equipped side, the results may have been much worse. In addition, Juve’s midfield lacks those who can string a few passes together and is not imposing. When Juve lost to Real in Cardiff, the 2nd half showed how the likes of Casemiro can make a difference. Midfield battles win you games, and consequently can cost you games.

22) Allegri does not care to entertain the fans, and he has made that clear more than once- even stating those seeking entertainment ought to go watch a “circus!”

However, there has to be some responsibility towards fans, in particular those who travel from across the world or pay hefty fees in order to watch their beloved team in the stadium. One thing is to entertain and another completely different criteria is being courageous in your approach. Allegri has chosen the cowardly path on multiple occasions. He did so in Madrid yet escaped after Ronaldo’s remarkable hat-trick. He did so again in Amsterdam, showing he did not learn from his mistakes, but this time it did not payoff since Juve exited in the quarter-finals.

Even in Turin, the XI he put on the field seemed disengaged and at times afraid though Juve were expected to prevail due to the experience factor among other things. A coach needs to prepare his team mentally as well. If the players are afraid as Allegri admitted, then he has failed those players at some points.

Perhaps, the biggest thing is that Allegri’s voice is no longer heard in the sense some players are tired of his demands- such as tracking back- while others have simply blocked him out completely in the sense they pretend they are following his instructions yet show little desire to do so during competitive matches.

The odds are stacked against Allegri. He did well till Cardiff in 2017, however, it has been a downhill ride ever since. Around 22 months of unconvincing football culminating with a heartless and toothless performance against Ajax in Turin.

His obsession with winning trophies and avoiding defeat have often led him to a fear of losing games. When he thinks a 0-0 would do such as versus Napoli last season or even against Atleti away and most recently Ajax at home, Allegri would do his best to get the 0-0 even if in his pregame press conferences he would claim otherwise. Allegri would promote attacking the opponent only for the expected to happen during games: Juve sitting back with the aim of getting the 0-0 draw.

Juve got what they deserve but above all it is time for Allegri to leave in May 2019.

Ambition now bites the nails of Juventus’ success

ronaldoallegri

On one of U2’s best songs from the nineties “The Fly”, Bono mentions that “ambition bites the nails of success”, a fitting description of what has been happening at Juventus in recent weeks. After a resounding loss in the Coppa Italia to Atalanta, the Bianconeri now find themselves on the brink of elimination in the Champions League.

While Juventus has always made domestic success their priority, last summer’s acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo, on top of redeeming the rights to Douglas Costa from Bayern Munich, bringing back Leonardo Bonucci after a season at Milan and acquiring Joao Cancelo made it quite obvious that the club was going all in for the Champions League.

This was a natural evolution for Juventus. When Max Allegri replaced Antonio Conte, one of the first things he said was that his immediate goal was to consistently get his team to the quarterfinals of Europe’s most prestigious competition. The thinking was that one year, things could break their way and they could finally lift the cup, something that had eluded Juventus since the 1990s.

Juventus did come close, ironically more so the first year Allegri arrived in Turin when a controversial non call on Dani Alves tackling Pogba in penalty box could have swung things the Bianconeri’s way. A few years later, Juventus went to Cardiff with much more confidence, only to be outclassed by Real Madrid.

But the Cristiano Ronaldo acquisition was not only a marketing bonanza, it was also a statement of intent. While the club’s brass had always been very cautious saying the Scudetto was the main objective and that the Champions League was a crapshoot, things changed across the board- from the president to the players- with statements that winning the trophy with the Mickey Mouse ears was the priority.

While Juventus did win their group, the first leg of round of sixteen against Atletico Madrid was a disastrous as the Pop tour was for U2. The bainconeri’s best player was keeper Szczesny, the duo of Chiellini and Bonucci struggled, Dybala played scared and Allegri’s decision to start De Sciglio over Cancelo was widely criticized.

Diego Godin

To make matters worse, Juventus gave up a goal to Diego Godin who is set to join their arch rivals Inter and Diego Simeone’s celebration went viral and will be added to the list of moments that illustrate the Bianconeri’s underachievement in Europe.

But despite all this, is it fair to describe Juventus as being a team in crisis? Or has the team’s consistent success in Italy given them an almost impossible bar to surpass to define success?

It’s certainly fair to say that Atletico Madrid was arguably the most challenging opponent they could have faced in this round. The last second injury to Sami Khedira, who despite being hit like a piñata by Juventini on Twitter, is a proven commodity in the Champions League and the midfielder who scores the most goals in Allegri’s scheme forced the Bianconeri to have to make a last second adjustment.

khedira
While Rodrigo Bentancur has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the first half of the season, he doesn’t bring much offensively. If that weren’t enough, Pjanic came down with a fever the night before the game making him even less valuable than usual (it’s fair to say that Ronaldo taking so many free kicks had already made him less decisive this season).
But it’s also true that Atletico Madrid was without some key players in the match and they played with much more determination. Ronaldo was brought in for exactly these types of games and his only highlight was his mocking of the fans with the number of Champions League he won.
This wasn’t exactly an aberration for the former Real Madrid striker during this Champions League campaign. So far he has only scored one goal in Europe, and while it’s great that he’s leading Serie A in goals scored, Juventus really didn’t need him for that.
So where do Juventus go from here? In the short term, they need to try to come back for the first time from a 2-0 loss in the first leg and channel the same energy they showed at the Santiago Bernabeu last year when Simeone’s crew travels to Turin in 20 days.
ramsey
Should Juventus fail to overcome this deficit, which won’t be easy against a disciplined and staunch team like Atletico, they’ll have to think long and hard on what they need to do next season. While it’s fair to expect that Aaron Ramsey will make more of an impact than Emre Can has so far, it remains to be seen if he’s enough to upgrade a midfield that is a fair cry from the one Allegri fielded when he faced Barcelona in Berlin.
Considering the seven previous Serie A titles- and closing in on number eight- it’s going to be very hard for Juventini to talk themselves into how meaningful another Scudetto is. The rightful ambition the Bianconeri made by acquiring Ronaldo truly bites the nails of success- it is now Champions League or bust for Juventus and this is a good thing.

When you invest in football at the right time & it pays off

Football is a strategy game and if you play your cards right you can keep your winning streak. Most clubs ensure that the managers and players just do that since it is a result-driven industry and business. With all the money that is at stake and all the investments made, no one can afford to let it go to waste.

But how do you put a winning strategy into place? Well, it encompasses more than just putting eleven men on a pitch. You have to think about the team's formation, select the right players for each game, make sure there is great chemistry within the team but also between the players and managers.

You make choices prior to starting the competition wishing it would just work fine. You select the best people available out there and aim for another successful season. Sometimes it does work perfectly and other times the contrary happens. And this is the time where you need to be smart and act fast if you want drastic changes. Being by acquiring new players or changing managers if needed.

We have seen it recently with the sacking of José Mourinho by Manchester United in mid-season. Following a bad start for the club, he has been replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer which has proven to be a successful decision. This type of change paid off in Premier League but some investments have been profitable in other European teams as well this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer from Real Madrid to Juventus is probably the most illustrating example. After 9 years with Real Madrid and more than 300 goals scored, he decided to take on a new challenge. In the 30 games he has played with the Bianconeri, he already scored 19 goals. The most notorious being the only goal against Milan allowing the team to win the Supercoppa final.

Another phenomenon of the Italian League is Krzysztof Piatek. The young Polish pistolero, is worth every penny the club spent during the winter transfer window. He replaced Gonzalo Higuaín that was not showing enough results for the club (8 goals in 22 games). It seems like the Argentine striker is doing a way better job at Chelsea where he already scored 2 goals in 3 games.

Piatek had already scored 19 goals for Genoa before his transfer. After only 3 games with his new club, he already showed tremendous skills and scored 3 goals. Not to mention that he scored twice for Milan against Napoli, a decisive win that sent them through the Coppa Italia semi-finals. According to Gattuso, Milan’s coach, he is a far better striker than Higuaín and the fans already adore him.

In the Bundesliga, Paco Alcácer is another impressive player. The Spanish striker had been loaned by Barcelona to Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of the season. He made a great debut with the club on top of securing decisive wins in his early games. Management was so impressed by his amazing performances that it decided to sign him on a permanent basis. So far he has scored 12 goals in 15 games.

In Monaco, there has been a lot of drama going on lately with the dismissal of Thierry Henry and the return of Leonardo Jardim. Cesc Fàbregas joined the club in mid-January and already illustrated himself. The player scored the winning goal for Monaco against Toulouse. This was his first one but an important one. This gives Monaco its first win in seven league games and allowed them to get out of the relegation zone.

These few examples show the importance of investing in the right people at the right time. If a team is not performing well then someone has to ring the alarm and make the necessary adjustments. When done properly it can have a huge positive impact on the team’s success.

Legend Cristiano Ronaldo continues to score goals in Italy with Juventus

auteur-d-un-double-cristiano-ronaldo-a-contribue-a-la-victoire-de-la-juventus_244140(1)

When Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in Italy he arrived with a reputation that included breaking almost every goal scoring record that was ever recorded, if it wasn’t him it was Lionel Messi. This is why Juventus were happy to spend £100m on a player who is 33, and we will likely never see such money thrown down for a player of his age again.

The question for Ronaldo wasn’t about if he would win more titles in his career, that seems a given at a side as strong and dominant as Juventus, but could a player who has scored freely in the Premier League and La Liga do the same in Serie A?

Ronaldo has said himself that the league is tight, the play hard and that there is not much space for forwards to get the opportunity to score goals. In short he is playing in the best defensive league that he has ever known.

And yet once we take a look at his goal scoring feats this season we must just wonder how great is the Portuguese player? He has scored 14 goals in just 19 matches in the league and in all competitions he has 15 from 24. He is on course to have his best goal scoring season league wise since 2015/16 and he is getting older which simply is not affecting him.

In Italy it is very rare for a goal scorer to get past 30 goals in a season. Of course we all know who is sitting at the top of the goal scorer standings? That’s right CR7 himself. He leads by 1 goal and nothing will give him satisfaction than by finishing in the top spot. In the last two seasons the top goal scorers have been Ciro Immobile and Eden Dzeko who both reached 29 goals each and the season before was very special when Gonzalo Higuaín scored 36 goals, this is an all time record in the league and Ronaldo may just have one eye on this.

But Ronaldo has done much more than just score goals and let’s face it if Ronaldo was not playing at Juventus they would still be leading the table by some 10 points and would still win the league. He adds that touch of luxury and what has been most impressive is that he wants to integrate into the team. In short he wants to become a legend at the club just like he has done with Manchester United and Real Madrid.

The ultimate prize for Ronaldo and Juventus will of course be the Champions League, Juventus are looking for their first win in 23 years, Ronaldo is looking for his 4th in a row. Can the serial winner make Juve the serial winners in Europe? Watch this space.

Juventus will face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League round of 16

Despite grabbing the top spot in the group, the Nyon draw was not kind to Juventus and it paired Juve with the fiery Atletico Madrid for the round of 16 of the Champions League. The first leg will be played in the Spanish Capital on February 20th, the second one in Turin on March 12th. The two teams played together just twice in their history, but the matches are recent and date back to the group stage of the 2014 edition: the Colchoneros won one-nothing at home and then the two sides shared the spoils in a nil-nil draw at the Juventus Stadium. Both teams advanced.

Continue reading

Ronaldo talks Juventus, Messi & the Ballon d’Or

ronaldo5

Cristiano Ronaldo gave an attention-grabbing interview to Gazzetta dello Sport: “I am happy to be here, the city is very pretty, the fans are nice and Juventus is a fantastic club with an extraordinary organization. The players are humble and work hard. The first impression has been wonderful.”

On the squad: “This is the best group I have played in, we are a team. In other clubs, some players felt like they were bigger than the teammates, while that is not the case here. They are aligned and they want to win. Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic are happy even if they do not score. I noticed the difference. Compared to Real Madrid, this is more like a family.” Continue reading

Chiellini, Dybala, Paratici, Pjanic and Nedved speak at Gran Galà

juventus

Monday was a day of awards, as the Ballon d’Or was handed to Luka Modric, with Cristiano Ronaldo finishing second and Mario Mandzukic 25th, and Serie A held its Gran Galà. Juventus triumphed as best team of last season, Massimiliano Allegri prevailed as best coach and four and a half Bianconeri got into the ideal XI: Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybala, while Joao Cancelo was recognized for what he did last year at Inter.

Several personalities spoke to the journalists during the event. Continue reading

Looking back to how Cristiano Ronaldo emerged as a centre-forward at Real Madrid

ronaldo-juve-6

On the 4th January of 2016, a new era began at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Zinedine Zidane was announced as the new manager of Real Madrid on a two-and-a-half-year deal. The departure of Rafa Benitez was simply inevitable, as his short and unconvincing time at the club had to come to an end.

At the time of the announcement, there were a lot of mixed thoughts on the decision made by Los Blancos, with the majority being filled with excitement as the Frenchman aimed to extend his legacy at the club by bringing in success as a manager. However, the rest of the footballing world felt the appointment was a huge risk, with Zidane lacking managerial experience and tactical knowledge.

During his time as the coach of Real Madrid, Zidane went on to one La Liga title, three Champions League trophies and one Spanish Super Cup as well as a number of individual awards. The European dominance along with winning the club’s 33rd league title in 2017 would not have been possible had the coach kept Cristiano Ronaldo on the left flank instead of moving him up top as a lone forward.

Focusing more on Ronaldo, he first started to acknowledge this new role under Benitez, when Karim Benzema was suffering from a few injury issues. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner faced a number of problems whilst playing in this position, with the main one being the side was not built around him, and Benitez’s defensive style of play did not work well with Real Madrid’s free-flowing system.

On the other hand, once Zidane was introduced into the managerial picture, Ronaldo became the perfect number nine in Europe due to his movement on and off the ball and his pure instincts. The best example to show that he adjusted to a new approach and style is the 3-0 victory over rivals Atletico Madrid in November 2016, when his hat-trick summed up his growth as a centre forward.

The 4-4-2 diamond formation got the best out of both strikers in Benzema and Ronaldo, with the former playing as the deep-lying forward who would combine with the midfielders, whilst the latter would remain in the final third of the pitch and come up with the goods for when his side needed him the most. Overall, the improvements became evident as the trophies started to come in.

Ronaldo’s transition from being a dazzling winger to a dominant and ruthless forward became much easier, when Portugal coach Fernando Santos started playing him up front alongside either Ricardo Quaresma or Luis Nani. Playing in the same role as well as a similar formation at both club and international level has allowed the Madeira-born star to adapt and thrive within this new change.

It’s definitely not easy to pick out an international game that proved Portugal were on top of their game and the opposition. Though, the most recent and memorable competitive fixture that comes to mind is the World Cup match between Portugal and Spain, where Ronaldo’s incredible hat-trick allowed his team to pick up a vital point early in the tournament as they went past the group stages.

Throughout the closely-watched game, Portugal were defensively sound and composed to a certain level whilst Ronaldo’s influence on the pitch gave Santos’ men some hope that they would get something out of this match. In the end, the test of patience pulled through as Portugal earned themselves an invaluable point and Ronaldo went on to steal the headlines for the next few days.

Overall, it is fair to say that two to three managers have helped Ronaldo to become the centre-forward he is today. Although he is playing as a left-winger for Juventus at this moment of time, the Italian side will be relying on his individual brilliance in strike as the Serie A and Champions League campaign goes on, especially given that they are aiming to complete the treble this season.