After five wildly successful years, Juventus released a statement today saying that the club and manager Massimiliano Allegri would be parting ways at the end of this season.
The decision is a strange one. Only last week Allegri laughed off rumors of his departure from the club. Yet after a series of meetings between Allegri and Juve’s executives this week, the coach and the club apparently realized their visions for the future were too divergent and so the two called it quits.
Reports from Italy imply that the biggest point of contention between Allegri and Juventus was next season’s roster makeup. Allegri reportedly wanted big changes to the squad so that he could mount a better challenge in the Champions League, the one trophy that has narrowly eluded him since taking over in 2014. Allegri’s vision seems to have been centered on some major sales, including some of Juventus’s best young players like forward Paulo Dybala, right back João Cancelo, and left back Alex Sandro. Presumably the club’s leadership didn’t want to ship out all that talent, and/or didn’t want to invest as heavily as Allegri requested, and/or didn’t feel Allegri’s vision of the future matched their own, and so the parties came to an impasse.
To say Allegri was never a fan favorite in Turin would be putting it mildly. The 51-year-old coach has the misfortune of being inarguably great at his job, but in a way that comes off as boring. He is pragmatic, versatile, good at managing personalities and expectations, even-keeled—all virtues that fans often cast as flaws when a coach doesn’t live up to their exacting standards of aesthetics and success.
It’s ridiculous to consider Allegri’s tenure anything other than outrageously successful, though. The man has won the Serie A title in every one of his five years in charge of the Old Lady, has won the Coppa Italia five times, and, even though the most consistent criticism against him is his perceived failure in Europe, has taken Juve to the Champions League final twice, with two almost entirely different teams.
This season was admittedly somewhat disappointing. Juve’s addition of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer understandably ramped up expectations of the season to come, and the team came up short. Allegri never found a way to get the best out of both Ronaldo and Dybala at the same time (even though those two are probably just incompatible no matter what), and early exits from the Coppa Italia and especially the Champions League, at the hands of the little giant killers of Ajax, marred what was another effortlessly ascendant Serie A campaign. Even though the Italian league is uncompetitive and Juve winning it really should be taken for granted, the way Allegri has managed that domestic success while also coupling it with deep Champions League runs in spite of Juve’s second-tier economic status makes it clear that he is one of the very best coaches in the world right now.
If Juventus believe the club simply needed a change of voice and strategy to keep the players motivated and challenged, and let Allegri go just to freshen things up, then that is probably fine; five years does seem to be just about the outer limit for how long even perfectly happy marriages between club and coach last at Europe’s biggest teams. That there don’t seem to be any obvious upgrades in the manager market makes the choice more curious, though.
Likewise, for Allegri to hold such a hard line in conversation with Juve’s leaders that he wound up out of a job is a little odd when there don’t seem to be any imminent openings at the small number of jobs of Juventus’s stature. But if Allegri didn’t feel he could win the Champions League without a radical shakeup of the roster, and felt he’d be in for an onslaught of criticism from the rabidly demanding fan base that never fully believed in him should he miss out on UCL glory once again with this same squad, then it would make sense for him to leave now. We’ll see if Juventus fans start appreciating Allegri’s steady hands once they’re no longer on the wheel.