By Kris Voakes | International Football Correspondent
“Andrea, our coach Massimiliano Allegri reckons that if you stay, you won’t be able to play in front of the defence. He’s got a different role in mind for you. Still in midfield, but on the left.”
Those were the words of CEO Adriano Galliani on the day Andrea Pirlo’s spell with AC Milan came to an end. After 10 years at one club, most players get a testimonial. Pirlo got a kick in the backside.
But it was Allegri who felt it the most in the long term.
Pirlo took the snub with dignity, went to Juventus and won three successive titles. He was the metronome around which Antonio Conte based his entire squad, and the catalyst behind the club’s revival.
While all this was going on, Allegri was making major errors of judgement. Having won the Scudetto in his first season in charge, he let the success go to his head. He decided that Pirlo and Mark van Bommel couldn’t play in the same side, and the Dutchman couldn’t perform anywhere but in front of the back four.
Despite Van Bommel later going on to show at PSV that he had more than enough ability to play off-centre, the coach was adamant, and without Pirlo Milan struggled to gain midfield control in many of their fixtures.
He also risked Thiago Silva’s fitness against Roma three days before a Champions League clash with Barcelona, the Brazilian lasted 10 minutes, missed the rest of the season, Milan lost the title and the defender never played for the club again.
Yet still Allegri didn’t learn his lesson. Alexandre Pato was regularly rushed back despite his significant record of muscle issues, while Van Bommel and others were also asked to play when short of fitness and both results and bodies suffered as a consequence.
Tactically, he proved himself to be short too. Much of his spell with the Rossoneri was focused on the individual brilliance of one man. In his first two seasons, that man was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but after the failure to win the title in 2012 the Swede was gone. The following term began abysmally, with only Stephan El Shaarawy’s meteoric rise saving Milan from ignominy, and the January signing of Mario Balotelli gave Allegri a new totem pole to lean on.
There was also nothing of note that appeared to come from the training ground. After cleverly posting Mauro Tassotti to the task of working with Ignazio Abate immediately after being given the Milan job, Allegri’s coaching gained little extra credence. Other than the converted right-back, there were no obvious improvements in any of the players he had inherited.
The result of it all was that in January 2014, with Milan struggling in the bottom half of Serie A, Allegri was fired. The Diavolo had lost 17 points from leading positions over the first half of the season, culminating in a 4-3 loss at lowly Sassuolo.
Allegri may have had little support on the market in a time of austerity, but he had done absolutely nothing to help himself. There was no direction, no tactical ingenuity and no real rhyme or reason to team selection. His Milan had become one of the ugliest sides the club had had in living memory.
When he was pushed out of the same door from which Pirlo departed two-and-a-half years earlier, nobody could have foreseen that his destination would be the same as the midfielder’s.
The decision by Juventus to follow the resignation of Antonio Conte with the appointment of Allegri is a major own goal.
A club already in chaos – with the the futures of star players in doubt, political wranglings, transfer plans up in the air, Conte’s resignation fresh in the mind, and a disappointing European season to make up for – has just added another item to its list of issues.
Will Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal, who has been flirting with Manchester United the past week, see the arrival of Allegri as a good reason to stick around? No.
Will potential replacements believe that the ex-Cagliari and Sassuolo boss is the man to entrust with their short to long-term futures? Probably not.
Will the 46-year-old continue the recent trend of Juve playing high-energy, attack-heavy football? History suggests no.
Juventus have not signed a coach who will take them forward. They have signed somebody with a proven track record for going along with whatever his employers throw his way. It might sound like the kind of thing they need having just lost a man who was unwilling to meet them halfway, but Allegri’s approach hasn’t got him nearly far enough in the past.
Roma in particular have dealt very well this summer, bringing in the experience of Ashley Cole and Seydou Keita. But the biggest boost to any potential Scudetto challenger has come in Turin this week.
The exit of Conte was enough to have the rest of Serie A rubbing its hands with glee. The appointment of Allegri will probably spark parties in every non-Juventino house in the country.Follow Kris Voakes on