Massimiliano Allegri is number 42 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next nine weeks.
Having presided over nearly a decade of dominance in Serie A, there was more than a tinge of sadness when Massimiliano Allegri left Juventus at the end of the 2018/19 season.
There isn’t much more you can ask of a manager than to secure five league titles in a row, and Allegri’s calming influence and tactical astuteness helped La Vecchia Signora do exactly that.
Sure, he could never quite secure the Champions League triumph the Italian giants have been craving since their last victory in 1996, but Allegri has left Juve in such a strong position that success in that competition seems inevitable, perhaps sooner rather than later.
Allegri’s best years so far came in Turin, but he had to earn his stripes in the lower leagues of Italian football before that success.
After retiring as a player, Allegri became manager of Serie C2 side Aglianese, the final team he played for, before spells at SPAL, Grosseto and Sassuolo.
He became properly established as one of Serie A’s managers to watch when he took over at Cagliari.
He was hailed for leading I Rossoblu to a ninth-placed finish in the 2008/09 campaign, with many pointing out the limited funds on offer and their quality of attacking football as indicators of Allegri’s blossoming ability as a manager.
If his success at Cagliari was a sign of things to come, his first season at Milan was the materialisation of that promise turning into something concrete. And impressively so.
Bear in mind there’s obviously a lot of pressure when you take over as manager at a massive club like Milan.
|Serie C1 (2007/08)|
|Serie A (2010/11, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19)|
|Coppa Italia (2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18)|
|Supercoppa Italiana (2011, 2015, 2018)|
|Champions League Runner Up (2014/15, 2016/17)|
|Panchina d’Ora (2008/09, 2014/15, 2016/17, 2017/18)|
|Serie A Coach of the Year (2011, 2015, 2016, 2018)|
Allegri won Serie A in his first season with I Rossoneri in 2011/12, finishing six points ahead of runners up Inter for the club’s 18th and most recent title win.
The team was packed with generational talent. Thiago Silva, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf formed its spine, while Robinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato sprinkled the gold dust on the attacking line.
Andrea Pirlo, Ronaldinho and Mark van Bommel were also knocking about, so it’s easy to see why Allegri had some initial joy during his time at San Siro.
However, that success couldn’t be replicated over the next few seasons, with Allegri only picking up a Supercoppa Italiana before being relieved of his duties in January 2014.
It’s safe to say Milan have dropped off a fair bit since Allegri’s departure.
Despite a disappointing end to his career with Il Diavolo, Allegri secured a pretty good follow up gig in the summer, replacing the outgoing Antonio Conte at Juventus. Met with initial scepticism and doubt by fans, it was clear to see Allegri had a lot of work to do in convincing the Juve faithful of his credentials, especially after leaving rivals Milan.
Juventus had a pretty perfect manager in Conte: the Italian was beloved by the club’s fans after spending 13 years in Turin as a player and won all three Serie A titles available to him as their coach. Undeniably, it was a tough act to follow.
But perhaps what is most impressive about Allegri’s spell at Juventus was his ability to build on Conte’s foundations and build a dynasty packed with league titles.
His style is less intense than Conte’s, shown by the switch in style following the latter’s departure. Emphasis on ball retention and possession became evident, ahead of the dogged off the ball pressing that had been previously drummed into the squad.
A Serie A title in his first season in Turin came with little challenge from the rest of Italy’s top sides, Roma ending up a massive 17 points behind I Bianconeri in second. Success in the Coppa Italia was also secured, while they showed their European pedigree by reaching the Champions League final, beating Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid in the knockout stages before falling at the final hurdle against Barcelona.
It was the first in a catalogue of disappointments in the Champions League under Allegri, but don’t get it twisted; Juve have only won that tournament twice in their history, so it’s evidently not a walk in the park.
The following summer saw Allegri effectively replace the outgoing Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and Pirlo with Paulo Dybala, Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic, strengthening the team in his own image before a successful title defence. Juve picked up 91 points during the 2015/16 season, four more than the previous campaign, losing just two of their final 32 games after an inauspicious start filled with three defeats in their opening six.
The Champions League? A 6-4 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich in the round of 16 after extra time in Germany.
Perhaps more pressingly, however, was the emergence of both Roma and Napoli as legitimate Serie A title contenders the following season. Juve had proven their battling qualities under Allegri already during the 2015/16 campaign after an abysmal start, but the margin of victory in the 2016/17 term would be a lot finer than in previous years.
A brilliant transfer window saw Juve sell Paul Pogba but sign Miralem Pjanic, Dani Alves, Medhi Benatia, Gonzalo Higuain and Juan Cuadrado. Again, they recorded 91 points, four ahead of Roma and five in front of Napoli, occasionally switching from their trademark 3-5-2 for a 4-2-3-1 to get the best out of Higuain and Dybala.
The defensive strength of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, dubbed the ‘BBC’, saw Juve concede just three goals on the way to another Champions League final, but they fell again at the final hurdle.
Unfortunately, there’s little you can do to stop a legendary Real Madrid team doing what Real Madrid do: win the Champions League.
Napoli followed up their 2016/17 bid with a firmer challenge the following season, Allegri effectively seeing off future Juve manager Maurizio Sarri, but Allegri’s battling qualities were there for all to see again when the club won Italy’s top flight again in 2017/18. Trailing I Partenopei for most part, Juve ruthlessly took advantage when Napoli dropped points against Roma, Inter, Sassuolo, Milan, Fiorentina and Torino to finish four points ahead of their rivals.
The mentality Allegri grew at the club was one of resilience and ruthlessness, perhaps displayed most prominently by the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018, and Allegri’s role in growing Juve into the European powerhouse it is today cannot be understated.
That Champions League triumph eluded him, as it has many other Juventus managers in the past, but Allegri established Juventus as the dominant force in Italy by winning five Serie A titles on the trot as well as four consecutive league and cup doubles.
A new dawn is upon Juve following the appointment of Maurizio Sarri, and he has some pretty large boots to fill.