Allegri appointment leaves Juve evens for fourth straight Scudetto
Massimiliano Allegri’s arrival at reigning Serie A champions Juventus has coincided with a lengthening in their odds, with Coral, on taking a fourth consecutive Italian top-flight title to evens.
Antonio Conte may have felt the unprecedented achievement (in the modern era) of three league crowns in a row was as far as he could take the Old Lady. Whether Juve’s former manager takes over as Italy national boss remains to be seen.
Once Conte quit Turin, however, gossip columns became rife with linking players following him. Paul Pogba, the reigning Golden Boy winner for best youngster in Europe and World Cup Young Player of the Tournament, is coveted by Europe’s elite. More pressing for Juventus, though, is a reportedly fractured relationship between new boss Allegri and playmaker Andrea Pirlo.
This pair worked together at AC Milan, but it was widely reported Pirlo only left the San Siro because Allegri became convinced his legs had gone, and therefore he had nothing to offer any more. The Rossoneri have struggled ever since, eventually sacking the coach who made such a poor judgement on this outstanding player in January.
Whether Allegri deserved another crack at a top job so soon is a moot point, because he’s been installed in Turin. Midfield could be decimated, though, with Liverpool and Manchester United chasing Chile box-to-box star Arturo Vidal. Exits for Pirlo, Pogba and Vidal is the doomsday scenario, mind.
A change in setup is expected at Juve. Allegri never favoured 3-5-2 at Milan, so the players will have to buy into a new system. New £15m striker signing Alvaro Morata will be unable to hit the ground running up front, however, because a knee injury in training has cost him six weeks of the season before a ball has even been kicked.
Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella, both 30-somethings, have been sold, leaving Morata just competing with Carlos Tevez, compatriot Fernando Llorente and Sebastian Giovinco for a space in attack when he returns. Patrice Evra, meanwhile, is the other major summer recruit, plus Udinese’s Argentine utility man Roberto Pereyra as a loan acquisition.
Inter Milan, backed by Indonesian investor Erick Thohir’s billions, look capable of mounting a credible challenge at worst. Their odds for the Italian title with Coral are a tempting 14/1. Nemanja Vidic will marshal the Nerazzurri defence following his free transfer to the San Siro from Old Trafford.
Walter Mazzarri has also added another option at left back by bringing in Roma’s Dodo. Controversial French midfielder Yann M’Vila is a loan arrival from Rubin Kazan. Ageing Argentines Esteban Cambiasso, Diego Milito and Walter Samuel have all been let go, while compatriot and long-serving Inter skipper Javier Zanetti has retired.
It is capital club Roma that are rated as Juventus’ closest challengers, however, at 5/2, as Rudi Garcia looks to better being runner-up in his second season. Defence has been a clear transfer window priority, with the free capture of Chelsea and ex-England left back Ashley Cole only the tip of the iceberg.
Urby Emanuelson will act as his backup in that spot, while Cagliari’s highly-rated centre back Davide Astori has arrived on loan. Landing former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita and Fernerbahce’s Salih Ucan also shows the engine room could be due an overhaul, with Dutch international Kevin Strootman still out with a serious knee injury.
Roma have also splashed big on up-and-coming Argentine Juan Iturbe, who can expect a wide berth. Teenage Paraguyan frontman Antonio Sanabria may add something extra in attack if he can get past the established striker Mattia Destro and icon Francesco Totti.
Napoli, 6/1 shots, are making astute additions to ensure they kick on from a Coppa Italia triumph under Rafa Benitez last term. Michu, the Premier League’s bargain buy of 2012, has arrived on loan to play under his fellow Spaniard in Naples. Benitez is also close, at the time of writing, to getting World Cup-winning defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer.
AC Milan, like their San Siro ground-sharers, are 14/1 and cannot be discounted, with no European football for Filippo Inzaghi, so there’s just the league to focus on. The new Rossoneri head coach has got PSG pair Alex and Jeremy Menez for free, while keeping hold of firebrand Mario Balotelli.
Fiorentina, and up-and-coming manager Vincenzo Montella, are the best of the rest at 16/1, but Allegri’s arrival means Juventus are far from certain to continue being top in Turin.