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April 22, 2019

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Ronaldo’s the future but Juve needs more to rule in Europe

Massimiliano Allegri insisted that Cristiano Ronaldo was the future of Juventus, and the Portuguese superstar said he was “1,000 percent committed to staying” but despite sealing an eighth consecutive Serie A title the Turin giant needs to find more if it wants to conquer Europe next season.

Allegri’s side claimed an eighth consecutive Scudetto — the 35th in its history — on Saturday to help ease some of the pain of its shock UEFA Champions League quarterfinal exit at the Juventus Stadium to Ajax on Tuesday.

A come-from-behind 2-1 win over Fiorentina was enough to give Juventus a 20-point lead on nearest rival Napoli with five games to play.

“The exit from the Champions League hurts, but this title says it all about what we managed to do — eighth in a row with five games to spare,” said Allegri.

“Now let’s enjoy the party, then I’ll meet club management and we’ll talk and analyze what didn’t work this season.”

The Italian club has overtaken French club Lyon for the record of consecutive victories in the top five European leagues.

But again it has been unable to take its domestic domination to Europe, winning its last UCL title in 1996 and losing five finals since.

The club spent 100 million euros (US$117 million) to five-time UCL winner Ronaldo from Real Madrid last summer, hailing the 34-year-old record goal-scorer as the missing piece in its jigsaw puzzle.

But this season it won less than the previous campaign, lifting the Serie A title and the Italian SuperCup but ending its four-year Coppa Italia reign.

Juve has lost only two matches, against Genoa on March 17 and SPAL last weekend, when it could have won the title with a record six games to spare.

The Juventus coach estimated that the title had been in the bag since February 2 when Paulo Dybala scored the only goal in a win over Bologna. “That success was crucial because it came at a delicate moment, caught between the challenge with Atletico Madrid and the direct clash of Naples,” said Allegri.

The 51-year-old blamed “too many injuries and unforeseen events” and the players being unable to react to setbacks.

In recent weeks the club has been hit by injuries to Dybala, defender Giorgio Chiellini, Sami Khedira, Mario Mandzukic, and Douglas Costa.

The challenge next season for Allegri will be to find the right cast for Ronaldo.

He scored six goals in the UCL to bring his record tally to 126, including an incredible hat-trick against Atletico Madrid that lifted Juventus into the quarterfinals, and is its leading scorer in Serie A with 19.

Dybala, its top Serie A scorer last season with 22 goals, was overshadowed by Ronaldo, scoring just five this campaign, with teenager Moise Kean bursting through during the Portuguese star’s injury absence.

But while the forward line looks healthy the problems lie elsewhere.

Emre Can, Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanic came up short often in midfield, while the defense was at times leaky with goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saving it from a heavier defeat against Ajax.

Defender Chiellini, 34, is at the end of his playing career with Andrea Barzagli, 37, retiring at the end of the season.

Allegri, who took over in the 2014-2015 season, and has won 11 trophies, insists there won’t be a revolution.

“There’s no point enacting a revolution,” said the Tuscan.

“We have to improve the quality of our football and learn how to deal with unexpected events better, because those moments can change a tournament.

“I might try a few players in different roles. Paulo Dybala had a good season, especially up until January, because it was not easy to play along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Mandzukic. Clearly, with Ronaldo by your side, you will play differently.”

Arsenal’s Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey will arrive next summer while the club has also been targeting Ajax defender Matthijs De Ligt.

Juve’s final five matches will give Allegri plenty of room to experiment against Inter Milan, Torino, AS Roma, Atalanta and Sampdoria.


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