Allegri one of three finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Coach award
Former team-mate John Sivebaek believes determination got him there
Both played at Pescara in the 1990s, when Allegri was a creative midfielder
There were around 300 supporters camped out to welcome Massimiliano Allegri when he signed on the dotted line for Juventus, replacing fan favourite Antonio Conte as coach, in July 2014. It was not quite the greeting he would have hoped for.
Seen by some of the club’s hardcore fans as a cast off from rivals AC Milan and a step in the wrong direction, the new allenatore for i Bianconeri explained his simple tactic for tackling the low expectations. “How to win them over? With results, work, respect and professionalism. Then, the fans would have a reason to recognise me.”
Three years on, three Serie A and Coppa Italia doubles alongside two UEFA Champions League finals – their best run in Europe’s premier competition in two decades – have ensured that initial fears were a little misguided.
That drive to make the most of the situation is not a new phenomenon, being present a quarter of a century ago back in his playing days. “He was very determined in his career,” explained ex-team-mate John Sivebaek, who first played alongside the then creative midfielder at Pescara in Italy’s top flight in 1992.
“We were young at the time but he was one of the key players in our team and the coach (Giovanni Galeone) liked him a lot. He was very good, a great creative player. The way he coaches, that I can see, on the sideline he seems as determined as he was back then.”
One of The Best No matter which way you dissect his reign in Turin, it is hard to argue with Allegri's status as one of the top coaches in the game today. He has chalked up a staggering win-rate of 70 per cent in competitive games since taking up the role – 116 victories from 166 matches – with an average goal difference above the 50-mark in Serie A.
“Results in football change everything,” the former Danish international and 1992 European Championship winner said. “If you get them, you’re the king. If you don’t, you’re sacked. You can see that in Munich now! That’s the way it is,” referencing the recent dismissal of Allegri’s compatriot Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern.
“Coming after Conte at Juventus is not easy, but he has done very well. He's proved that he's one of the best coaches,” Sivebaek added.
Evolution then revolution Some could argue that Allegri just kept the ball rolling on a winning formula, seeing as he has simply extended Juventus's domination of the Italian title race from three years to six in the wake of his competitor for title of The Best FIFA Men’s Coach. They would be mistaken, however.
Just three of the starting eleven against Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final – Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci – were present two years later versus Real Madrid. A startling transformation from the side whose midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba were the toast of world football, in their new dynamic 3-4-3 formation with Paulo Dybala as its crown jewel.
Sivebaek sees this as an exceptional reflection of the staff the coach - who started to make waves when he led Sassuolo into Serie B for the very first time - has surrounded himself with, as well as his talent for recruitment and managing characters in the dressing room.
“The clubs with the big money can buy the best, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they play the best. You have to get the players to work together and that’s not always easy,” the former full-back, now an agent, said. “When you’re good at it, you get the results and it seems like Allegri is very good at that.”
While his approach on the field, being a player who loved the ball at his feet and being creative according to Sivebaek, is tough to translate into coaching, it is certainly a role he has valued in the make-up of his teams. Riccardo Montolivo and Kaka at AC Milan, through to Pogba, Dybala and Miralem Pjanic with La Vecchia Signora have always been key to the side’s successes.
So, while determination may be the driving force throughout Allegri’s career on either side of the white line, the love for a bit of artistic flair from his playing days is still helping him climb to the top of the game. Can it earn him The Best FIFA Men's Coach Award on 23 October, too?