The way Allegri is perceived hasn’t changed but his future outlook certainly has

allegri

Juventus’ impressive comeback against Atletico Madrid probably didn’t do much to change your opinion of Massimiliano Allegri. If you’ve been criticizing him for the past two season you can feel vindicated by seeing what his team looks when they actually play attacking football and get the most out of their impressive weapons, if you have been one of his defenders, then your takeaway from the match is this just another tactical masterpiece from the Tuscan manager.

 

 

Before we go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way- regardless of which camp you fall on with Allegri, there’s no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo was the hero of Tuesday night’s showdown at Allianz Stadium and his performance needs to be taken into account when evaluating Allegri. CR7 was the difference between getting past the round and a heroic comeback that fell just short like the ones against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in previous seasons.

 Ronaldo210219_0

 

But back to Allegri, let’s look at this match from the point of view that someone who has been critical of him for the past two years as a result of too many 1-0 wins where Juventus did the bare minimum to win. While I’m certain these folks received plenty of tweets from Allegri defenders after the match, they had their own version of “I told you so” since they can easily say “You see this is what we could be watching all the time, if Allegri didn’t keep putting the brakes on all of the talent on our squad”.

 

 

They probably see Allegri like someone who can only get it together when his back is truly against the wall, essentially like a husband who has been in the doghouse for awhile and to avoid a costly divorce starts buying flowers, playing Adele records in the house and suggests rewatching “The Notebook” on Netflix. To an Allegri critic the comeback against Atletico shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place had Allegri simply not botched the first leg so badly- and they certainly have a point.

 

 

An Allegri defender looks at this game from a radically different point of view. They are likely to say that just like Juventus struggled at the Wanda Metropolitano, so did Atletico Madrid in Turin- in matches of this caliber, the home field advantage is a big deal and that the matchup against Simeone’s team was always going to be incredibly difficult.

 

 

Certainly it’s more than reasonable to say that all too often Juventus plays boring and uninspired football, but someone completely in the tank for Allegri (even more so that one of his defenders) could say that Juventus’ manager is like a great head coach in the NFL who saves all his best plays and formations for games that truly matter in the playoffs. To these people Allegri is football’s version of Larry Bird who back in 1986 famously played a game against the Portland Trailblazers using his left hand, so he could save his right one for the far more formidable Lakers.

 

 

As often is the case with these things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Allegri does deserve criticism for Juventus’ uninspired play the past two season, but there’s also no doubt he’s proven he’s a master tactician who can win you a very tough match in the Champions League by making some surprising adjustments like using Emre Can as essentially a false center back.

 

zidane-

 

But while the outcome of the match likely reinforced your opinion of him rather than change your mind, another event this week radically changed the outlook for Allegri’s future. In fact Zinedine Zidane’s surprising decision to return to Real Madrid took a way a potential landing spot for the Tuscan manager while taking off the table the most realistic and palatable replacement for him at Juventus (assuming you take Pep Guardiola at his word when he said he wouldn’t be moving to Turin any time soon).

 

 

It’s hard to imagine there are many Juventus fans who are excited by the prospect of either Didier Deschamps or Antonio Conte returning to the club, because they don’t play a very different style than what Allegri has used recently. As a matter a fact, Zidane’s decision did more to change the minds of Juventus fans with Allegri than the win against Atletico Madrid.

 

 

Interestingly to those outside the Juventus bubble (and let’s add the Milan one too), Allegri would have been considered to be a top manager regardless of the outcome of Tuesday night’s match. I guess it’s easier for these people to appreciate Allegri’s qualities since they probably aren’t watching all Juventus games, to them he’s someone who has kept Conte’s dominance in Serie A going while also vastly improving the team’s outlook in Europe.

 

 

The only way Allegri will fully change the minds of his critics is to actually lead Juventus to the elusive Champions League win, that is a very lofty standard but in it of itself it should tell you a lot about how much Allegri has achieved in Turin.

 

 

Does Zinedine Zidane’s return signal the end for Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Within minutes of the full time whistling after last season’s Champions League final, with Real Madrid’s players still celebrating on the pitch at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Gareth Bale threw fresh doubt on his future in the Spanish capital. His remarks were the clearest sign yet that the Welshman could be set to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

Of course, as we know, Bale ultimately stayed at Real Madrid. His relationship with Zinedine Zidane had broken down, but the Frenchman resigned from his position before the Welsh winger could plot a route out for himself. With Cristiano Ronaldo also leaving for Juventus, this was seen as a fresh start for Bale.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale look dejected after the first goal of Sevilla team during their soccer match in Seville

The 29-year-old has failed to make the most of this opportunity, though. Under both Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, Bale failed to make himself a first team pick. He has become a scapegoat for the notoriously tough to please Santiago Bernabeu faithful, involved in a number of incidents which have made negative headlines in the Spanish capital.

And now Zidane is back. Indeed, the Frenchman made a shock return to Real Madrid on Monday, taking over from Solari following a week in which their entire season fell apart, dropping out of the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Liga title race and the Champions League all in the space of six days.

With Zidane back at the helm, an overhaul is now expected in the summer. Players like Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have all been linked with a move to Real Madrid as the capital club look to move into a new generation, but many are also expected to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid are weighed down by a number of ageing stars on big money. Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, among others, may well be club legends, but the time has come for them to be moved on. Bale might be another who is moved on.

A parting of ways might be best for both parties at this point. There is now such a circus around Bale that it’s difficult to envisage how he will ever turn things around. The Welshman’s options have never been narrower, with Manchester United no longer so keen and Chelsea recently handed a transfer ban, but staying at Real Madrid might not be open to him either.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best Spanish Fantasy Managers? Play www.liga-fantasy.com now.

Zidane’s Real Madrid return could offer reprieve for Isco

isco-real-madrid-celebration_ninouk1opkmb1kx2vozw19q1p

The return to La Liga side Real Madrid of Zinedine Zidane could spell a return to first team action for midfielder Isco, after previous boss Santiago Solari froze out the Spanish international this season.

The former Malaga player has not started a La Liga game since Solari replaced Julen Lopetegui in back in October 2018, and the club announced earlier this week that they would be opening disciplinary proceedings against him, after he missed a team meeting.

However, with Zidane coming back to the club he left nine months ago, he could look to bring the 26 year-old back in from the cold.

Continue reading

Is Zidane the right choice for Real Madrid?

Screenshot 2019-03-11 at 19.22.01

No one could’ve predicted a scenario that saw Zinedine Zidane take over the Real Madrid hotseat just 10 months after he left it, but that’s precisely what’s happened in the aftermath of Los Blancos sacking their second coach this season, Santiago Solari.

The reasons could be many and though he’s not short of a euro or two, financial considerations will surely have played a huge part.

A promise from Florentino Perez that certain players will arrive or that Zidane will have a war chest of cash to go out and buy the very best is likely to be another. Continue reading

James Rodriguez to lead Real Madrid summer exodus

James-Rodriguez-Pics-1200x700

James Rodriguez is set to leave La Liga this summer, with Real Madrid happy for the Colombian international to move on after an unfulfilled five years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Rodriguez, 27, signed for Los Blancos ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, on the back of an outstanding performance at the World Cup two months before, however his face never seemed to fit at the club particularly under previous boss Zinedine Zidane.

Despite the last two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich, he does not appear to be guaranteed a continued role in Bavaria either.

Continue reading

Stubborn Allegri Costs Juventus Again

Juventus Training Session

With the league just about wrapped up, Juventus travelled to Madrid with massive expectations on their shoulders. Crash out of the Champions League, and their season is effectively over. Despite the magnitude of the clash, the bianconeri looked a broken side at the Wanda Metropolitano and allowed Atletico Madrid to dominate from start to finish. Armed with Cristiano Ronaldo, this season was supposed to be different for the Italian giants and yet, Juventus arguably put in their worst European performance in six years.

While many of their stars frankly didn’t show up, Massimiliano Allegri will have to shoulder much of the blame for Juve’s most recent European embarrassment. With the score tied at zero, and still all to play for, Diego Simeone acted proactively bringing on Thomas Lemar, Alvaro Morata, and Angel Correa, essentially giving his side the extra push they needed to claim the victory.

Allegri, by contrast, acted timidly both with his starting lineup and in-game substitutions, keeping Joao Cancelo on the bench in favour of Mattia De Sciglio and only introduced Federico Bernardeschi by the time it was too late. Meanwhile, the former Milan tactician had Dybala operating from the right, as if he was a natural winger. Naturally, what transpired throughout the ninety minutes was an unmitigated disaster, culminating in a heavy defeat, which if we’re being honest, could have been much, much worse for Allegri. He’ll will be thanking VAR and Diego Costa.

Continue reading

Real Madrid’s average season continues as they look to appoint big name coach

GHGH(2)

Real Madrid have not been themselves this season and that continued after they could only draw 2-2 against Villarreal in their latest game in midweek. To rub salt into the wounds Madrid were leading 2-1 with just minutes to go but could not see the game out.

Despite Madrid winning the World Club Cup in December the pressure is on Santiago Solari to keep his job in the hot seat because the cup was won by beating two sides who with all due respect were not on the same level as Madrid. But the club keep continuing to underwhelm in La Liga.

This latest draw means that with 17 games played they have 30 points and are are 7 behind league leaders Barcelona. Los Blancos are also in the very unfamiliar position of 4th place. Both Deportivo on 28 points and Real Betis on 26 are not far behind and the worry is that if the team do not go on a consistent run they could fall even further behind.

In fairness to Solari who stepped in two months ago when Julen Lopetegui was sacked he has done a decent job in a very chaotic environment, but why are Madrid not firing on all cylinders?

The departures of coach Zinedine Zidane is a major factor, with the French legend guiding the club to an historic treble of Champions League trophies. Although it should be noted that Madrid only won the league once with Zidane in charge.

Madrid have always been about having the very best players- even if it hasn’t always worked out and they have been trumped in that department this season. With Cristiano Ronaldo leaving for Juventus, Madrid never replaced him and he has left a gaping hole in that team. This isn’t to say that Madrid have been poor this season, they just have not been their usual confident selves. Much of the limelight has gone onto the shoulders of Gareth Bale.

Bale has scored 10 goals in all competitions for the club this season and is on course to score his personal best. That is 22 which he achieved in his debut season. Still he only has 4 goals in the league and more would have been expected of him.

This season feels like a write off for the club and yet they won’t be giving up anything just yet especially in the Champions League. However you feel there will be a new dawn at the club in the summer which could mean more star players in, some out and certainly a new coach.

 

Mauricio Pochettino doesn’t have to leave Tottenham for Manchester United but probably will

POCH(1)

Since Jose Mourinho’s sacking earlier in the week there has inevitably been talk of who will permanently be the next manager at Manchester United after caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure ends next summer.

Everyone from Zinedine Zidane to Diego Simeone has been thrown in the hat. In Zidane’s case he is currently unattached to any club and after his immense success with Real Madrid could be the number 1 candidate, but not so… that vote of confidence has fallen to Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino. Despite not winning a trophy for the North London club yet Pochettino has turned Spurs into genuine title contenders and changed the mentality of the club. One could argue that pound for pound Tottenham have been the best team in the Premier League for the past two seasons.

Now the Argentinian is being heavily linked to United and it does make sense. He has bags of experience in England, knows the Premier League inside out and his teams play positive attacking football, he’s also a great guy to be around. But the question that arises is do Manchester United need Pochettino more than he needs them?

There is no question that being offered the United job is a fantastic complement, but being offered it 5, 10, 15 years ago would have meant that there was no turning it down. But with time it feels that in 2018 United simply are not the same club anymore. After spending 26 years attached to Sir Alex Ferguson and one manager, the club have gone through 3 in five years. They feel like the also rans, yesterday’s team, perhaps even of an era changing. There is no question that the club will roar back but that could be 10 years or so away from now.

The knee jerk reaction when United or any of the big clubs come calling is to go, but Pochettino is in a unique position because he is already at a fantastic club- all that they are missing of course is the silverware to go with his tenure. Tottenham if the Gods persist will move into their brand new stadium early next year and the future does indeed look bright.

The only problem though could arise from Tottenham’s owner Daniel Levy being tight with the budget. The club have already infamously brought in no new players in the summer- although as it has turned out it hasn’t affected the club like it should have. But it must still be frustrating for the manager especially when he hinted last week that there would be no money to purchase new legs in January.

There is also the stark reminder of their neighbours Arsenal, who, after their big money move from Highbury to the Emirates went years without silverware and saw their best players leave as budgets were cut. Pochettino will have to weigh all of this up, and it could be the main reason he jumps ship. Levy needs to convince him to stay and offer him a decent budget on players for such a Premier League team.

Ultimately it would be unfortunate if he did decide to leave Spurs, because when the dust settles, it is plain to see that he doesn’t really need to leave, glory could be much closer to home than he thinks.

Eden Hazard’s move to Real Madrid could become very complicated

zzzzz (3)

In the past few weeks the major transfer talk has been of Chelsea star Eden Hazard possibly moving to Real Madrid. On the face of it the deal could make perfect sense for both clubs. But the transfer could end up becoming a saga with many complications involved.

Let’s begin with Hazard himself who is becoming a club legend at Chelsea and at 27 has played 7 seasons with the west London club. There is the option for Hazard to simply remain with the Blues something that he is assured of for at least the next four seasons. He will win trophies with Chelsea, but he clearly wants to win silverware with the likes of the great Real Madrid and add the team to his resume.

The question remains when will Hazard join Real Madrid? On the face of it January looks out of the question as Chelsea will be challenging for major honours including the league. Hazard himself has ruled out a January move. And yet he may have very little say on the decision. The problem is that Hazard’s contract with Chelsea runs out in 18 months time and as the time ticks down so will his transfer fee.

For example Chelsea could demand £100m for the player in January but wait until the summer and that fee could be around the £80m mark. There is also the complication of Real Madrid’s finances at the moment which are not good. For example 300m euros is still owed in debt and the club want to invest up to 500m euros to upgrade their stadium, which when done will look like a spaceship.

Real Madrid face the question of should they dive in for Hazard in January or wait? Their problem is that the team are simply not performing at this time and this season could well be a write off after the big time departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. The fans are clearly crying out for a big name signing, something that oddly deserted them this summer, which just goes to show Madrid’s financial state at the present time.

Hazard has been linked to Real Madrid as far back as 2010 when Zinedine Zidane commented that he would take Hazard to Madrid with his eyes closed- he was that good. It’s been a long time coming and it looks almost guaranteed that 2019 will finally be the year that Hazard becomes a Real Madrid player.

 

Man Utd’s 3-2 win v Newcastle United showed why Zinedine Zidane would be a success at Old Trafford

Having snatched victory from the jaws of defeat a fortnight ago, overcoming a two goal deficit against Newcastle United at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho is reportedly safe – for now. It wasn’t the drama itself that temporarily lifted the pressure on the Manchester United manager but the manner of their second-half performance; his players showed they are stil hungry, still able to rouse themselves when Mourinho demands it of them. Suggestions he had lost the dressing room appear to have been refuted.

Continue reading