Another Award For Juventus Boss Max Allegri But Champions League Success Remains The Dream
The best players in the world compete every year for the Ballon d’Or, France Football famously awarding a Golden Ball to the winner of what is widely seen as the most prestigious individual accolade in the sport. It stands to reason then that, when the Italian FA was looking to name its prize for the Coach of the Year, it opted for “Panchina d’Oro” – The Golden Bench.
First handed out in 1991, the award has undergone a number of changes and was first given to the most outstanding Coach in Europe. Since 2007 however it has been bestowed upon Serie A’s best Coach and is voted for by the bosses themselves, meaning any winner has clearly earned the respect of their peers.
Last week saw Max Allegri become the first man to collect the trophy for a fourth time, putting him ahead of three-time victors Antonio Conte and Fabio Capello. The Juventus Coach – who received 17 votes, with Simone Inzaghi of Lazio and former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri tied for second place with eight each – was clearly delighted when he spoke to reporters after the ceremony.
"It's an honour and a privilege,” said the 51-year-old. “I’d like to thank the club, the players and my staff, who all make my job easier. They are always the architects of these victories. What will it take to win another one? We have to try to win the eighth league title, which is the main objective. Then there's the Champions League; we've played in two finals, facing the two strongest teams at the time. We'll see if this year luck will give us a helping hand, now we have to work hard to move forward.”
Of course that will not be easy, but Allegri’s team have made an impressive start to the 2018/19 campaign. Despite some recent errors, they have lost just once this term when Manchester United recorded a 2-1 victory in Turin, but the Bianconeri looked vastly improved in their next outing against AC Milan.
A 2-0 victory that day maintained their six-point cushion at the top of Serie A, while a win against Valencia next week would secure a place in the last-16 of the Champions League. Given the sheer depth of talent at Allegri’s disposal, that is the least the club can expect, but in truth the Tuscan boss has spent his entire career surpassing expectations.
Indeed, his first Panchina d’Oro did not come during his time at Juve, nor even in his previous role with AC Milan, but instead was won back in 2008/09 when he was still at Cagliari. Joining the Sardinian side ahead of that campaign, he took over a squad which had only narrowly avoided relegation in the previous season and led them to the brink of a European spot.
A ninth-place finish came thanks to some entertaining attacking football, with the Isolani recording memorable wins over Lazio (4-1), Juve (3-2) and Napoli (2-0) along the way. Players like Robert Acquafresca, Alessandro Matri and Andrea Cossu thrilled the crowds at the Stadio Sant’Elia, but it was the impact of Allegri that caught the most attention.
After another season with Cagliari he joined Milan, leading them to a league title in his first year at the helm, bringing the best from an ageing squad in what would be their last great season. Sadly the players would be retained and the Rossoneri would lurch from one crisis to another, ultimately culminating with Allegri being sacked in January 2014.
Six months later he would be appointed by Juve following Conte’s shock resignation, and he has gone on to enjoy unprecedented success. Winning a league-and-cup double in each of his four seasons in charge, Allegri has also steered the Bianconeri to two Champions League finals and now has the players at his disposal to end the club’s 23-year wait for European glory.
“The quality of the squad has always improved year-on-year and this is essential for us to remain at the top level in Italy and in Europe,” he told JTV earlier this week. ”The team is fine and we are leading the table but now there will be nine matches before the winter break and we have to prepare ourselves better, and play with the calmness with which we have played so far.”
“It's an important season,” he added, and there truly is no escaping that fact. For Max Allegri, the individual recognition that a fourth Panchina d’Oro represents is fantastic, but nothing would beat lifting the Champions League trophy in May.