Fan Zone: Elio returns to talk Juve in Europe, coaches and CR7

Elio Salerno is back for the second segment of the Q&A. In the initial Q&A, Elio discussed club legends Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero as well as current icons Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini.

This time around the focus is on the Champions League as well as Juve’s coaches and Cristiano Ronaldo. As we have witnessed from the first Q&A and earlier exchanges, Elio is generous with his feedback and he talks in detail about his beloved Juventus. Will this be the season Juve win the Champions League? And has Cristiano Ronaldo impressed enough at Juve? Elio discusses all the points above and more in the sections below…

1) If European competition returns, will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

Now that French football has been suspended I guess it is hard to say how this will play out. If football does return, will Lyon play the game? Will they be in a position to? I think so much has changed between the first leg and now. You would have to say Juve would do it because simply put they have to.

2) One team you’d like Juve to avoid meeting in the Knock-out stages of the Champions League?

I would have said Liverpool but they are out so I’d certainly go with Bayern Munich and perhaps PSG because of their pace going forward. They both appear to have the proper balance in their starting lineup, particularly the Germans. Aside from that, I do not think there is a standout candidate and again it will come down to circumstances- what team is in the best condition at the right moment.

3) Do you believe Juve will win the Champions League if they make the final?

Once they get there, of course they can win it. We all know Juve’s record in the finals. We have reason to be critical of their final performances in years prior to the most recent two. Reality is they were beaten by superior teams in 2015 and 2017- there weren’t any teams at the level of the Barcelona and Real Madrid teams at the time and even today.

4)  If the fee, club rivalries, availability etc are not an issue, who’s the one player you’d like Juve to sign?

What a question! I am torn between my personal preference for central midfield players like Frenkie de Jong and Toni Kroos. However, I would have to go with Kylian Mbappe. He is a phenomenon, a frightening match winner who still has years to come at the top of the game.

5)  What do you make of Ronaldo’s career at Juve so far?

If we say anything other than great then we are being too picky. It is easy to look at his transfer fee and wages etc. I expect the most but the reality is not even Ronaldo can make up for the gaps in this team. He has delivered on every front- on and off the pitch he has given the club what they need. There can be no complaints about CR7, it is a pleasure to watch him wearing the Bianconeri shirt.

6) Would you pick Antonio Conte, Max Allegri or Maurizio Sarri as coach, and why?

I would pick Mister Allegri every day, he is the complete package. He is the ideal representative for a football club, professional in his manner and an intelligent communicator.

As a coach he is adaptable, a winner and knows how to get the best out of a group, even if there are significant changes from year to year. He was unfairly criticized by many Juve fans, but he did what he had to do to win despite fundamental pieces being taken away from his squad.

In this first year at Juve, with a near complete team they played good football- enjoyable to watch and beyond that season he never had that luxury again. Instead, he was forced to adapt, yet still maintained a competitive edge across all competitions. He was an excellent coach.

7)  Who is your captain and his backup from among Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Paulo Dybala, Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic and why?

Chiellini is the captain and should remain the captain as I mentioned previously he is the ideal person and player to lead the squad. Next should be Dybala, I think too much has happened with Bonucci for him to have that privilege while Dybala has invested himself in the club, wants to be a Juventino and I think this resonates with the fans.

8)  Who is the best foreigner to ever play for Juve?

I would have to go again with Nedved for all the reasons I mentioned before. He dedicated many years to Juve and still has a special place and an important role at the club.

If we are talking all-time, then it is hard for me to assess the likes of Omar Sivori, Michel Platini & of course John Charles. I was never privileged enough to experience any of those legends and without having that connection with them I couldn’t separate them.

Fan Zone: Elio on Nedved, Pirlo, Marchisio and of course Del Piero!

In the latest Q&A, Elio Salerno- a football writer and contributor- discusses his love affair with Italy’s Old Lady, Juventus. Elio talks in detail about legends such as Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved as well as current stars like fan favorite Paulo Dybala.

Some of his answers may surprise you but Elio methodically proceeds to explain why he made certain choices- particularly that of Blaise Matuidi. Below is the first part of the Q&A:

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players, and why?

Alessandro Del Piero – This is the obvious answer for me. Del Piero is probably the name the majority of Juve fans would choose. Watching him when I was a young boy inspired me. He is the reason I support Juve. The person and the player were truly iconic and one of a kind. Obviously, the career he had also speaks for itself.

Gianluigi Buffon – This was a close call between Giorgio Chiellini and Buffon. I really cannot separate them. However, Buffon’s longevity and ability to play through different eras of the game while staying in the conversation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers sets him apart. It is an incredible achievement. He has brought so many qualities to the club over the years on and off the pitch. He has collected a large number of trophies and showed unquestionable loyalty even during the darkest of times.

Pavel Nedved – What a player! The level of intensity and ferocity at which Nedved played were admirable. He was a winner and a fighter but also had boundless quality with not one but both feet. A creator and scorer of wonderful goals, he is a timeless player & would be at home in the modern game. The Bianconeri could do with a player of his versatility now.

2) From the current squad, name your favorite Juve player by position (DEF/MID/ATT).

DEF: Chiellini – The captain, the leader and the squad’s foundation. It is a pleasure to watch the passion he defends with. The enjoyment he takes out of thwarting attacks puts a smile on your face. As a fan, he is the example you want at the top of your squad. I say enjoy him before he retires.

MID:  Blaise Matuidi – It is not easy to pick a midfield player out of the current group but, and surprisingly so, I am going with Blaise Matuidi. I am sure very, very few fans would pick him. On face value, Blaise isn’t the type of player I’d enjoy watching. I would not even choose to have him on my team but you cannot belittle what he does and what he brings to the table. Yes he has the obvious flaws but he is arguably the only Juve midfielder who offers consistency- he isn’t going to let you down and at the moment it is undeniable that Juve are better when he is in the starting lineup.

ATT: Paulo Dybala – La Joya has been a favorite of mine from the day he arrived. Yes he has had his problems in recent seasons but his love for Juve is apparent and it is a trait we all want from our number 10. Dybala’s name in the Starting XI always bring joy to my heart. The way he controls the ball so smoothly and can change the course of a game in one magical moment is the reason why we watch football. I hope Juve can build a more complete team because Dybala has more to bring.

3) Name Juve’s most important moment in your lifetime, and why?

It has to be the first Scudetto of the current historic run- it came under Antonio Conte. After everything that happened and everything that has followed this was a pivotal moment and a welcome, much needed success. It felt like the beginning of something special and it has turned out to be the case.

4) Pick your favorite Juve match, and why?

The return leg of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in 2003. Everything about that night was perfectly scripted except for the Nedved yellow card!!! Where to start? The Delle Alpi was on fire. That Juve team, the Del Piero & Nedved goals and of course the Buffon penalty save on Luis Figo’s attempt. The game had it all.

5) Pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

It has to be Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. Pirlo is unique, there won’t be another Pirlo. To watch him in full flight is football poetry. As for Marchisio, aside from what he means to Juventus and the fans, he was an underrated and superb midfield player. He was the glue in almost any midfield set-up, his versatility and ability to adapt allowed for others to shine and he was a huge asset to the coaches and the team.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Is it the right-back position or the midfield which is under constant scrutiny? 

The glaring weakness is in midfield and it has been since 2015. It is the primary area that needs addressing and needs an injection of youth and energy. Juve need midfielders who have a more complete game combined with strong physical characteristics.

Beyond that, do the full back areas need an upgrade? Yes but it isn’t a significant problem and there aren’t many great or available full backs in Europe so I would not waste time in that area unless it is to sell one who is already in the squad.

I also would add that Sarri must decide what formation he will be using going forward. Since it is obvious Sarri favors 4-3-3, I would say a creative attacker/wide player would be a welcome & important addition. A fit Douglas Costa is that player, but we all know his injury problems.

Juve must also sign a versatile striker to replace Gonzalo Higuain- someone such as Timo Werner who can play wide or centrally. Werner would allow room for Ronaldo to be Ronaldo.

7) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It is really tough for me not to say Del Piero. I can only comment on players that I have been fortunate enough to watch in my lifetime & Del Piero succeeded in every way. He has the trophies and the stats to back this up. He was a complete forward, scoring & creating goals, able to link up the game and take on defenders with a sharp turn or a piece of skill. Del Piero was strong physically and difficult to dispossess and he gave you a chance to win whenever he was on the pitch.

8) Who is the one player you would sign from Erling Haaland (STR), Arthur (MID) and Achraf Hakimi (DEF)?

That’s a tough choice. I don’t particularly have a strong feeling towards any of the three names. I would favor Haaland for the simple reason he is a player set to take Europe by storm. He has everything you would want from a modern center-forward and more importantly he knows how to find the net.

9) Juve built a strong reputation signing free agents. Who will be Juve’s next bargain signing?

I feel this is something Juve should move away from unless it really is a deal they cannot afford to pass up. These free players come with a heavy wage, older age and are not always a big enough improvement to really help the team. I would like to see Juve invest more in Italian youngsters but keep them, perhaps even allow room for players currently at the club such as Hans Caviglia, Nicolo Fagioli and Manolo Portanova.

10) What do you make of Mauro Icardi? His stats are decent despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you sign Icardi, Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane

I would go with Gabriel Jesus, for the reason I mentioned earlier with regards to versatility, a player that is not a typical 9 and can allow for Ronaldo to express himself. Harry Kane is a fantastic player, arguably the best in his role but similar to Icardi. I don’t see them at Juve whilst CR7 is still on the books- it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Real Madrid: Total Overhaul?

Few football clubs have enjoyed prolonged glory like Spain’s Real Madrid. In fact, Real is considered one of the most prestigious clubs in the football world, and across all sports fields for that matter. Real achieved this acclaim in a different way than most other clubs, utilizing socios, or club members, who own and operate all facets of the franchise.

Founded in 1902, Real Madrid was estimated in 2019 to be worth 3.8 billion Euros as the second highest-earning football club in the world. For any football pundit, this information isn’t surprising. After all, in their 118 years of existence, Real Madrid lifted 33 domestic league titles, 19 Copa del Rey trophies, a remarkable 13 Champions League trophies, and 4 FIFA Club World Cup titles. Some of these wins stretch back over a century ago, like the club’s first Copa del Rey triumph in 1905.

Real has entertained the fans with some of the greatest athletes of all time, as well. Top goal scorers and creative stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul, Alfredo di Stefano, and Karim Benzema called Madrid home for years. And players like Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos have appeared in upwards of 500 football matches wearing the Real Madrid jersey.

Others, like Ronaldo- the Brazilian or original one as some call him, Luka Modríc, and Cristiano Ronaldo received their prestigious Ballon D’Or awards while on the team. In fact, to this day, Real Madrid’s head coach, Zinedine Zidane, is one of his generation’s greatest players, and won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award in 2002 while playing for the club he now leads.

 Future Plans

Most recently, Real Madrid have been associated with the superstar power of Cristiano Ronaldo. A dynamic and powerful goal scorer with an unstoppable drive, Ronaldo led a highly talented cast for nine years at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The team flew high and attracted record number of fans to the stadium, remote viewership of games, and title wins, leading many to consider this era as Ronaldo’s.

However, in 2018 Ronaldo moved to Juventus to play in Italy’s Serie A. Despite this move, Real Madrid have not crumbled, though president Florentino Pérez seems likely to address the club at its foundational roots in an attempt to revitalize the team following their leader’s departure.

Meanwhile, in the US, NBA franchise the Golden State Warriors have also recently overhauled their mediocre team, drawing in star players as well as solid, vetted athletes. In fact, the Golden State Warriors have a near monopoly on NBA basketball odds in the US since winning the NBA Championship in 2015, 2016, and again in 2018. It seems Real Madrid is looking to rebuild its squad in a similar manner, though this change isn’t motivated by disappointing play. It’s preventative, if anything.

 Stadium & Roster

First, Pérez has shown interest in demolishing Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in order to begin construction on a ‘digital stadium of the future’. However, his comments have left some fans in mourning, and others confused. While many will mourn the loss of a stadium as well-loved as Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, most are waiting for the club to roll out its plans to understand what exactly a ‘digital stadium’ entails.

The stadium is set to have a capacity of 90,000. Other plans for the updated stadium include a wrap-around facade onto which images can be projected, retractable roofs that will cover all seating, and additional leisure and entertainment activities within, like shopping and a museum.

However, Perez also seems hellbent on revamping Real Madrid’s once-motley crew. While some franchises, like the Golden State Warriors, have to start from scratch to build a strong team, Madrid won’t face such challenges. While rebuilding a team is often undertaken for many top clubs that lose a star player, Real Madrid is full of star power.

Still, some athletes may be moving on. Rumor has it that in order to welcome in shining young recruits, Zidane may be letting go of players like James Rodriquez, Gareth Bale, Lucas Vasquez, and Mariano Diaz. Even important figures such as Marcelo and Luka Modric also face uncertain future despite historic wins with the club.

The above moves could be made in order to welcome new talent like Eduardo Camavinga, a 17-year-old midfielder with great promise. This comes after attempts to land Paul Pogba from Manchester United have fluctuated between cold and hoot. There is also interest in Raul Jiménez, a forward who may be able to pick up some of the pieces in attack in case Benzema leaves.

Fan Zone: Alberto returns to discuss Sarri, Higuain, the market and more!

In the second part of our Q&A, Alberto- you can follow him here @alljuvecast- discusses Juve’s weaknesses, coach Maurizio Sarri, Gonzalo Higuain and a few other topics! Without wasting more time. Here goes:  Continue reading

The effect of the Quarantine on football & eSports

Prior to the spread of the Coronavirus, the eyes of fans were turned towards the Champions League, the top European competitions such as the Spanish Liga, Italian Serie A and the English Premier League. Stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kevin de Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe were occupying center stage.

Fast forward to the past few weeks, the Champions League and the Europa League have been put on hold while the European leagues have been suspended. Fans can no longer enjoy the likes of Messi and Mbappe while emerging players such as Erling Haaland can no longer showcase their skills and qualities. Football, and sports in general, have come to a complete stop.

What can the fans do during this difficult time to keep distracted from much of the negative news? One option is to look towards eSports.

How eSports and eSports Betting can “Explode” during the Quarantine

With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world and the economy of the world taking a nosedive, the world of sports betting is not left out. Most major sporting events, including football, have been postponed or cancelled as the world tries to deal with the virus. With sporting events calendar suspended due to the pandemic, there has been a significant reduction in betting opportunities.

Interestingly, all hope is not lost for sports bettors. The eSports betting option appear to be filling a void as sportsbook customers look for exhilarating action during the lockdown caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bookmakers are getting more creative and more eSports events are coming up, giving sportsbook punters the opportunity to satisfy their betting needs. If you are ready to join the action, try searching for the best
eSports betting sites to get started.

Impact of COVID-19 on eSports Events

It’s important to mention that the Coronavirus pandemic has also affected the eSports calendar, just like other sporting events. The only difference is that eSports is much more resilient because the matches can actually be played online. Players do not need to leave their homes or converge in the same place. Of course, having live fans in the gaming arena has its attractions and unique atmosphere but it doesn’t have a significant difference for hundreds of thousands of viewers and fans that are watching through live stream.

Based on this understanding, industry stakeholders are doing all they can to find a replacement for standard sports betting in order to keep their customers entertained and engaged during this dire period. So far, there have been indications that eSports betting value and volume is on the increase. According to the CEO of an eSports betting site, Quentin Martin, there has been about a 54% increase in registration of new players, over a course of a week when it was announced that the English Premier League would have to be postponed due to the pandemic.

Reasons for the Explosion of eSports betting during the Quarantine

Basically, players that are involved in sports betting would likely want to give eSports betting a try since there is practically nothing else to bet on. Many sports fans are either in lockdown or self-isolating and this makes access to a source of entertainment a major need. Interestingly, the only show that seems to be available to sports bettors is eSports. Therefore, it practically makes sense that this is the game that everyone in this category would turn to.

Additionally, eSports betting sites offer an easy way in which competitive tournaments can be accessed without the physical presence of both the players and the fans. Of course, any tournament would preferably be played at a physical venue but this is not required for eSports. By the way, this is the major reason for the continuation of eSports tournaments.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, these are challenging times for the world. For some, the Gaming world and eSports are a welcome distraction. eSports is bound to experience a huge explosion as many fans of traditional sports are exploring eSports for a much-needed escape and entertainment.

Before football stopped, Ronaldo, Immobile, Mbappe & Messi were on a great run

Prior the forced stoppage of football- and world sports for that matter- Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, Juventus and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo as well as PSG’s young star Kylian Mbappe as well as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi were all on a fine scoring run.

Lazio’s Immobile would be the winner of the European Golden Boot if the season ended today. He is having a great season and he is one of the main reasons behind Lazio’s position as second in Italy’s Serie A- just a single point behind current league  champions Juventus.

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski is the closest challenger to Immobile but Portuguese star Ronaldo was posing a great threat to Ciro’s spot as top scorer in Italy. Ronaldo was in great form prior to the halt of football. Ronaldo had scored in 11 consecutive league matches before only providing an assist against Inter.

Elsewhere, Mbappe was also reaching peak form prior to the halt of matches in France. The PSG young hero had scored 4 goals in the last 3 league matches. Barcelona’s Messi remains a threat as usual and is on 19 goals in La Liga- with an impressive 12 assists to add to his tally in the Spanish league.

So what are the factors to be considered to explain why the players above are worth betting on for this season- if it ever resumes- and what reasons should be considered carefully before making a decision?

Different Betting Odds for the Same Events – How to take Advantage of that

If you want to have a competitive edge in sports betting online, understanding changing odds is very important. Why are there different betting odds for the same events and how can you take advantage of this? In this guide, we’ll offer the answers in a simple and straight forward manner. At the end of reading this, you should have a good knowledge of how it works and how you can leverage on the changes so that the next time you want to sports bet online, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on betting odds.

Getting the best odds could be crucial for getting higher returns and that is why odds comparison sites exist. You should take advantage of these to make the best of your sports betting online.

Important Note: Your Bet remains constant even when there are Different Betting Odds

It’s important to note that the changes or differences in betting odds in sports betting never affect your bet. Nothing changes with regards to your bet after putting in your money, irrespective of whether the bookmaker changes their odds or not. Let’s look at a simple analogy to best explain this.

Let’s say you buy a pair of shoes for $40 from a store yesterday and while going through the same store today, you found out that the store is running a sale and the same shoes is being sold for $30. There is nothing you can do about this.

Reasons why there are Different Odds for Same Events

There are three different reasons that can lead to a change in betting odds. First, breaking news can change the prediction of results. For instance, if the main player of a soccer team sustains an injury to its legs, the team would be unable to perform in accordance with the prediction and the sportsbook may change the prediction, which automatically changes the odds.

Second, the bookmaker wants to balance the books and decides to sell more bets on a side more than the other. Thirdly, the bookmaker wants to keep pace with competitors. If there is a big difference between the sportsbook odds and those of competitors, they may decide to change their odds to ensure they are not losing out.

How to take Advantage of Different Odds

Although there is nothing that can change your bet once you have paid but you can still take advantage of the different odds. The first thing you need to pay attention to is the timing. Think of how to make your bet at the best time for the best value. Betting at the early stage of a game can be pretty straightforward but the downside is that you can miss out on an excellent deal along the line. Sometimes, news about a major player, team, or horse may change the result prediction. The following tips can help you take the best advantage of different betting odds for the same events:

- Be intellectually committed to your betting
- Pay attention to the news
- Listen to sports and gambling experts
- Follow your favorite sports over the long term
- Use reputable online bookmaker

Juve still unconvincing despite Brescia win

Juventus are in the midst of a demanding stretch both physically and psychologically. Juve remain in both the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. This means Juve will play two more games than Lazio in the next 15 days.

On paper, Juve have a big squad yet with injuries to key players such as captain Giorgio Chiellini (who made his return near the end of the Brescia game) and the long-term absence of Merih Demiral, the squad is being stretched to its limits. On top of that the club’s management made some questionable decisions in the transfer market, such as signing Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman’s quality is not in doubt, however, his history with injuries and his fitness problems are well documented.

While fans should celebrate a precious win over Brescia (2-0) with Paulo Dybala scoring from a wonderful free-kick, it is hard to find many positives other than the three points and the return of club leader Chiellini. Brescia stand in 19th place and are one of the biggest candidates for relegation. They were missing Sandro Tonali as well as other players in addition to the first goalkeeper only for his backup to suffer an injury early in the game and get replaced with the club’s third keeper.

Dybala did hit the bar and whenever he moved the team looked better. Still, his partner Gonzalo Higuain looks off in recent weeks and his movement appears to get heavier with every passing week. Below are some of the key observations based not just on events during the Brescia game but over the last few weeks:

1) Higuain’s decline in form: Gonzalo has failed to score or assist in the last 6 Serie A matches. His last goal came in the 4-0 win against Cagliari on January 6th, 2020. The bigger concern is how he has looked heavier in terms of movement.

2) Injuries: Fans are well aware of Ramsey’s status and the fact he is injury prone. What makes matters worse is the absence of Douglas Costa who is currently sidelined as well. Danilo, signed to play as right-back or serve as a backup left-back, is also injury prone but he made his return against Brescia. Pjanic barely played versus Brescia before pulling out due to injury.

3) Lack of creativity: With Ramsey’s well documented status, Costa’s absence due to injury and now Miralem Pjanic’s scare, much if not all of the responsibility to create will fall on Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo. Opponents will pay special attention to both stars and perhaps even put extra players to keep an eye on them when they have the ball. This will effectively take away from Juve’s ability to do much during games.

4) Dependence on CR7: Maurizio Sarri did well to rest Ronaldo against Brescia on Sunday. The schedule ahead is demanding and there are some decisive games, particularly in Coppa Italia and the Champions League, around the corner. Ronaldo has scored in his last 10 Serie A games which is a remarkable achievement considering the Portuguese superstar recently turned 35-years-old.

Having mentioned the above, Juve should not keep relying exclusively on CR7 to win games and to score goals. Ronaldo was signed to help deliver the Champions League but on his own he cannot do everything. The numbers do not lie. Ronaldo has done the utmost to keep Juve winning in recent weeks.

5) Playing Dybala: At times, Sarri has opted to “rest” (or to bench would be the more proper word) Dybala but that has meant playing CR7 and Higuain together. Higuain’s recent form is well below the standard he set back in November 2019 when the Argentinian veteran was performing quite well.

With Higuain off-form, Sarri must start Dybala or else all the pressure will fall on CR7. Ronaldo has looked more isolated when Dybala is not starting or playing. It is up to Sarri to find the best formation and strategy to get the best out of both CR7 and Dybala because they have proven they are the difference makers for the Bianconeri.

6) Tough Schedule: Juve’s fixtures for the next couple of weeks will see the club play 5 matches compared to Lazio’s 3 games. Lazio is just one point behind Juve in the league table and can focus fully on the league while Juve must play the 2nd leg against Milan in the Coppa Italia and next week will face Lyon in the Champions League.

Without being repetitive but the growing injury list, particularly to the creative players, means the pressure will keep intensifying on both Dybala and CR7 who will be asked to create, assist and score goals. In addition, the injuries will mean the squad is stretched even further because when players such as Douglas Costa and Pjanic are sidelined then Sarri has no option but to use less convincing players or to use certain players in different positions.

Sarri must pick his Starting XI very carefully the next few weeks and as mentioned earlier, resting CR7 yesterday was a positive move. In the meantime, Sarri must not only find the ideal XI but also motivate the players, work on getting the best out of Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado- both of whom started the season quite well before gradually declining.

It is up to Sarri to push his players and to motivate them the right way. The next two weeks could prove decisive in terms of Juve’s push to win the treble. Making sure Ronaldo and Dybala are getting the proper support from their teammates on the field will go a long way towards determining whether this hectic stretch will be a positive or detrimental one for Juve.

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.