As Juventus stand at the summit of Italian football yet again, many would credit their resurgence to the current Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte. He took the club from seventh the season prior to his appointment to an undefeated title-winning campaign in 2011-12, oversaw a campaign which ended in a record points tally (102) two seasons later. His overall contribution to the team will be etched into the club’s history.
Since 2014, the team has been under the guidance of Massimilliano Allegri, who has done well to keep the team performing at such lofty standards. Allegri has proved himself as a manager capable of handling top teams in Italy, from Milan to Turin. However, question marks remain over his ability as a manager due to the quality of Serie A and the vast gap between the teams he has managed and the rest of the league. Perhaps it is now time for Max Allegri to ease out of his comfort zone to show his pedigree amongst the best managers in Europe.
There is a feeling among many that the Italian was gifted a squad that easily eclipses the quality of his closest competitors, handing him an easy task of just guiding them along to a title. The same criticism has been thrown at Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, and Carlo Ancelotti, which is exactly the company Allegri would want to be in. It’s not as easy as guiding the very best teams to expected league titles. These elite managers have also made their mark on Europe’s elite competition, and to Allegri’s credit in his first season at Juve he led them to the final, losing out to a fantastic Barcelona team. Considering that he has not managed one of the big three in Barcelona, Real Madrid, or Bayern Munich, it would be difficult for him to guide his teams to European glory, just as Jürgen Klopp and Diego Simeone have found out in recent years. Even then, Allegri has still found it hard to have his name mentioned even among second-tier top managers like Klopp, Simeone and Thomas Tuchel. This can be attributed to his understated demeanour and perhaps to the fall in stock of the Italian top flight.
Even with multiple league titles to his name, Max Allegri still seems overlooked among the group of elite managers in today’s game. There is no questioning the prestige and quality of The Old Lady, but the current state of the Serie A offers very little competition to Juve. With the Serie A steadily losing some of its biggest stars – the latest being Paul Pogba – a drop in overall quality is to be expected. Additionally, Serie A clubs can hardly match the financial strength of their European counterparts, hurting their ability to make major signings. This most definitely affects how the league is perceived from a competitive level, especially when in this case, Juventus has a significant advantage over their rivals.
While there is definite pressure to meet league and cup expectations, the true test will be seeing how Allegri stacks up against the best managers in the Champions League. Ultimately the Serie A, while a great league in terms of tactical nous, should be used as a stepping stone for Allegri, and at this point, he has won all there is to win in Italy. There is no longer a challenge there for him and being at the strongest club in the league, there is no reason for anyone to believe his abilities as a manager are truly being tested. For Allegri, it will not be enough for him, fans, and pundits to continuously win the Serie A as Juventus are seen as the automatic winners. After almost winning the Champions League in 2014-15, they fell in the Round of 16 stage to late goals scored by eventual semi-finalists Bayern Munich last season. This season, after again qualifying for the knockout rounds, Allegri will be hoping to lead Juve to the much-coveted European title on his third try. With massive hurdles of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid standing in his way, the odds are certainly against Allegri to achieve European glory.
An alternative would be to make his mark in a more high profile league, with options being the Premier League, La Liga, or the Bundesliga. In the latter two, taking over the strongest teams would still see question marks arising about his managerial ability, but would put Allegri’s name in the mouths of more fans. Alternatively, choosing the route of Simeone or Tuchel in trying to slaying the beasts of their respective leagues would earn him more acclaim, although it may not guarantee a trophy-filled career. The popularity of the Premier League may appeal more to the Italian as taking over one of the top six teams will see him go up against top managers more often, have funds to build his ideal squad, and have a more balanced league in terms of the spread of quality players at all the clubs. All these leagues would test Allegri as a manager and allow for a proper assessment of his skill set.
Despite the level of success earned at Juventus, Allegri may see the need to challenge himself abroad and compete against top managers and teams on a more consistent basis. At least if he is to earn the respect as a top-class manager, he cannot remain in his comfort zone in Italy. Even though winning Juve’s first Champions league in decades would be his crowning moment and one to thrust him into the limelight, it is unlikely. Even if he were to achieve that at some point, with the monies and projects teams in other top leagues would be willing to propose, Allegri’s skillset as a manager would surely be tested if he moved from a big fish in a pond to trying to survive in the ocean.