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August 22, 2019

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Juve ventures into the unknown with Sarri

In the last two years, Juventus has introduced a new badge and ditched its distinctive black-and-white striped shirts but, in hiring Maurizio Sarri as coach, it has now made possibly the most drastic change of all.

Italy’s most successful club in domestic terms with 35 league titles, including the last eight in a row, Juventus has habitually been a team which wants to win without worrying about how it does it.

Massimiliano Allegri, the incumbent for the previous five seasons, fitted the bill perfectly. His teams were pragmatic, versatile and intent on getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“(Defending) is just as beautiful as a great attacking move,” he said at one point. “I am very happy for those who can turn football into a show but, as far as I’m concerned, if you want to see a show, you should go to the circus.”

However, Juventus has now ditched Allegri, a man who won five Serie A titles in as many years in charge and took it to two UEFA Champions League finals, in favor of Sarri, who is only happy when his team is playing a high-tempo, passing game.

It is a huge step into the unknown for both parties.

During his three seasons at Napoli, Sarri’s side played the most attractive football in Serie A and pushed Juventus all the way.

Yet, mention the 60-year-old to supporters of Chelsea, where he spent last season, and they are more likely to yawn.

Despite winning the Europa League and taking Chelsea into next season’s UCL, Sarri — who had never previously won a major title — was unable to fully impose his “Sarriball” philosophy, resulting in a style that was often more sterile than thrilling.

Sarri’s methods need intensive training and time to work — something he will not have much of at Juventus where anything other than a ninth successive Serie A title will be regarded as a failure.

He also has a well-known reluctance to rotate his squad, which could lead to a number of highly-talented, expensive players spending extended spells on the bench.

On the other hand, if the move works it will bring a whole new dimension to the Turin side, headed by five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Juventus kicks off the new season at Parma tomorrow although Sarri’s presence is in doubt after he was diagnosed with pneumonia on Monday.

A transformation

The champion is not the only big club undergoing a transformation.

Inter Milan, which hosts Lecce on Monday, has hired former Juventus coach Antonio Conte in a bid to win its first Serie A title since 2010.

Conte will again team up with his former chief executive Giuseppe Marotta, repeating the partnership which brought Juventus the first three Serie A titles of its current run between 2011 and 2014.

Conte has removed striker Mauro Icardi, its top-scorer for each of the past five seasons, from his plans and the club has signed forward Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United for a reported US$80 million.

AC Milan has turned to Marco Giampaolo, previously at Sampdoria, to replace the fiery Gennaro Gattuso and given him the job of leading it back into the UCL after a six-season absence.

AS Roma, meanwhile, has appointed Paulo Fonseca, a coach with no previous Serie A experience, to rebuild the side without midfielder and former captain Daniele De Rossi whose 18-year stint ended last season after the club declined to offer him a new contract.

That leaves Napoli as the only one of the realistic title challengers to have remained relatively unchanged.

Carlo Ancelotti led it to a another second place — its third in four seasons — in his first season in charge and if he can iron out the inconsistencies which bugged it in the previous campaign, it could end its 30-year wait for a title. “Last season was a transitional one,” said Ancelotti, whose side visits Fiorentina tomorrow. “The bow is pulled and the arrow is ready to fire.”


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