When Massimiliano Allegri and his grizzled Juventus side met Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League Final, it was about more than just a tussle for a trophy. It was a clash of ideologies.
The beauty of Barça – the idea that intricate build-up was not just nice, but necessary – against the ruthless beasts of Juve. Fittingly, Le Zebre were a team that always took the light with the dark.
As pretty football has swept across the continent, it was comforting to see that the Old Lady weren’t for turning – Allegri built his all-conquering Italian masters from the remnants of Antonio Conte’s side and didn’t polish the pieces.
Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonnuci were each classy operators but also fortified the old-school philosophy of throwing your body where it needed to go. Juve were a European giant with a big man up top; who prioritised wiliness over wizardry.
“Winning isn’t important,” the club’s motto reads. “It’s the only thing that matters.”
Which made the decision to oust Allegri from his throne in 2019, in favour of the cerebral ex-banker Maurizio Sarri, all the more jarring. After an impressive rebuild of his 2015 side, Allegri had taken Juve to another Champions League final two years later.
Looking back it was a staggering achievement, but there was a feeling that it was as far as he was ever going to go, in a brave new world of expansive football and Guardiola disciples. Quarter-final disappointment in his last two seasons meant the end of the road.
Italian culture has always been very sure of itself: in cuisine, music and art. Traditionally, it has worked within its boot-like border, rarely looking to outer influences for change. Now, even the days of craving a more graceful style, in line with what everyone else is doing, are over.
The simple fact is that Juventus did even worse without him under Sarri and then Andrea Pirlo, via embarrassing last-16 exits to Lyon and Porto.
Handily, though, Chiellini and Bonucci are now European champions, with Matthijs de Ligt studying his seniors. Paulo Dybala will be particularly keen to reignite under his old mentor, while compatriot Rodrigo Bentancur hopes to dazzle once more. In Federicos Bernardeschi and Chiesa, Allegri has young game-changers to mould, though the Old Lady are now adjusting to life post-Cristiano.
After two years away finding themselves, Juventus feel much more recognisable now. The landscape has changed and Don Max is scouring his new horizon – but there’s only one thing in his mind. Winning is what matters.
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