Coming into Saturday’s Champions League final, Massimiliano Allegri had one of the fastest-rising coaching stocks in European soccer.
Following the 4-1 Real Madrid win, Allegri still remains one of the top coaches in Europe, but after being thoroughly out-coached by Zinedine Zidane in the second half, other top teams will most certainly take note.
With the score tied at 1-1 at halftime, Zidane – no stranger to taking obscene risks in important games – looked to spark his lethargic Real Madrid all-star squad by bombing both full-backs Marcelo and Dani Carvajal as far forward as possible. The two had 46 touches in the Juventus half through the 45 minutes; they racked up over half that in the 15 minutes after halftime alone.
The strategy worked, and immediately Juventus found itself pinned back in its own half – of the 5 chances created between those two players, four came between the 45th and 65th minute (only Carvajal’s assist on the first Madrid goal came outside that span).
With his team suddenly under siege, Allegri made no changes, tactically or otherwise. Likely, he hoped to take advantage of the counter opportunities presented by a suddenly relentless Madrid, but those opportunities never presented themselves. Juventus had a full 15 minutes to change tactics before the Spanish giants scored its quickfire double to put the game out of reach.
After a first half in which Juventus saw itself the better side, Madrid’s time was clearly coming, and Allegri most certainly had to be prepared for the eventual onslaught his team would face. Yet when it came to fruition, he had no response until it was too late, bringing on Juan Cuadrado with the scoreline now 3-1 and the game all but lost.
This is not to take away any credit from Real Madrid, who deserved to win the crown. Their squad is utterly loaded, potentially one of the best teams ever, and stopping them would be a tall task. Yet for a Juventus club that had conceded all of three goals the entire Champions League tournament, they were the most equipped of anyone to halt the Madrid machine, and they showed that through the first 45 minutes. Allegri froze when his team desperately needed some type of reaction. He quite simply came up small in the season’s biggest moment.
To make matters worse, after the match he criticized the squad for slumping mentally after Madrid’s second goal.
“We conceded that goal with a deflection and then let go psychologically,” Allegri said. “We should’ve reacted and defended with nails and teeth, but this is another step we have to take in [the] future to learn from this and mature. Even if Real Madrid had a very good second half and have excellent players who can change the game at any moment, that second goal knocked the wind out of our sails.” That’s a weak response from a man who should have shouldered much of the blame.
Max Allegri has no doubt guided Juventus through a fabulous campaign, and has proven a man who has squeezed the most out of this squad on numerous occasions. He should still remain a top coach among the European landscape as it stands. However, when prospective clubs down the road inspect his full body of work, this blemish should be one they inquire about. In a match that Juventus appeared up to the task, their manager went missing when they needed him the most.