Massimiliano Allegri

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Italian president’s burning remarks provide path for USMNT

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There’s no question whether the Italian national team job is a different class than the United States men’s national team.

Aside from the fact that both sides failed to qualify for the World Cup, have a vacant manager’s chair, and decent recent results at youth level, the disparity is striking (and not all in negative ways for American fans).

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

Italy has won four World Cups and a EURO, and played in four additional title games. Their domestic league is Top Five, and only six pool players who’ve been called up in the last 12 months come from outside Serie A. Three play in the Premier League, two in La Liga, and one in Ligue 1. It’s qualifying slate meant top Spain or face a home-and-home playoff with another top European team.

On the other hand, the U.S. faces the most forgiving qualifying run this side of Oceania. It’s room for improvement on the international stage is much higher, and its current group is so much further from its potential than the Italian side that it’s hard to find an apt comparison (Consider that, playoff loss aside, Italy has beat the following sides in the last 18 months: Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, and Uruguay).

Differences/similarities aside — and yes, it’s a tad ridiculous to get this deep into what separates Italy from the U.S. in terms of soccer — the USSF could do worse than monitoring how the Italians are handling their World Cup disaster.

1) Accepting responsibility without caveats about their previous successes — Here’s federation president Carlo Tavecchio (who it must be noted has said some reprehensible racist things. We would never gloss over something like that, but we’re talking about the soccer side here). After blasting player selection, he then said, ‘Yeah, but I hired the dude”:

“How can you not play [Lorenzo] Insigne? I told the staff, not him. I can’t intervene [with the coach], there are rules. I have to acknowledge it; I chose the coach. It’s been four days that I haven’t slept. I wake up continuously. We have always played crosses against tall defenders, some almost two meters tall. We had to play around them with the little players, who were on the bench.”

2) Waiting a while to make the correct move — By most accounts, this is very much the plan for the United States (especially with a presidential election looming in February). While most new presidents wouldn’t begrudge the hiring of an highly-qualified name, plenty of prospective bosses would want to wait until the new (or current) man in charge cements his place.

Tavecchio dropped plenty of names, and is especially interested in Chelsea’s Antonio Conte. And he said it’ll be worth the wait.

“We’re looking for the best. They already have commitments until June from a contractual point of view. Then when we get to June, who will be free? The ones are Ancelotti, Conte, Allegri, [Claudio] Ranieri and Mancini. This is the truth of those available.”

Granted the U.S. does not have the wealth of elite experience coaches that Italy does, but the Americans are also not limited to hiring an American.

USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan is a respected soccer name who is not going to light the shop on fire while the right hire is made during this upcoming string of friendlies.

It’s a top-bottom failure. It includes nearly every part of the system, but the man in charge is the most important part considering that the USMNT should qualify for every World Cup and somehow managed to bungle it.

America needs a bungle-free hire.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Coutinho to Barcelona, Roberto to Man United

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With Barcelona frantically looking to replace Neymar before the window closes, Philippe Coutinho remains their top priority, and while it still seems unlikely, they are taking a “never say never” stance, according to Spanish journalist Guillem Balague.

According to Balague’s reports on Twitter, Liverpool is still refusing to sell at any price, having already officially rejected an offer of $94 million in as little as 45 minutes after it was received. Barcelona knows that the best way to push Liverpool to act is player pressure, and Balague reports they already have a deal hammered out with Coutinho, although that seems hard to believe because it would almost certainly have enraged the Reds for tapping up.

It seems likely that the only way Barcelona can get Liverpool to sell is if Coutinho were to ask for the transfer himself, because the Reds are holding their ground to keep their best player.


According to a report by The Sun, Bayern Munich is hoping to test Tottenham Hotspur over the availability of midfielder Eric Dier.

It’s hard to see Spurs chairman Daniel Levy allowing Dier to leave after cashing in on Kyle Walker, especially after the club already rebuffed Manchester United for Dier earlier in the summer. Bayern apparently hopes that Spurs turned United down after not wanting to sell to a league rival, and that they’d have a better chance of securing the England international with a move out of the Premier League.

Spurs have been criticized this summer for failing to bring in reinforcements, with in-house replacement Kieran Trippier set to replace Walker. Therefore, it’s tough to envision Dier being successfully pried away.


With Manchester United unable to grab Dier from Spurs, they seem to be targeting another midfielder in Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto. According to Spanish outlet Don Balon, the Red Devils are considering triggering Roberto’s release clause of $47 million.

United is hoping to cash in on the chance that Barcelona could bump Roberto down the depth chart if they replace Neymar with another midfielder. In addition, Roberto was often a scapegoat for some of Barcelona’s failures last season, and he might be available for departure should a team want to pay up.

The 25-year-old is under contract at Barcelona until 2019, but should Manchester United trigger the release clause, that would not matter, as they found out in the Neymar saga. The Red Devils reportedly would face competition from Chelsea and Roma.


Chelsea have been told there is “no chance” they will sign Juventus full-back Alex Sandro.

Old Lady boss Massimiliano Allegri said after a friendly in London against Tottenham, that, “Alex Sandro is a Juventus player and he will stay one.” When asked again, he said “no chance.”

Sandro was linked with Chelsea after a stellar season at Juventus where he helped the club reach the Champions League final. The Blues seemed like a perfect landing spot with Sandro excelling in a three-CB system at Juventus, the same system that Conte plays at Stamford Bridge.

Allegri’s coaching stock should take a hit after Champions League dud

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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.

Breaking down how Real Madrid-Juventus reached the UCL final

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In a little over three weeks, Real Madrid and Juventus will meet at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to decide this season’s UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Real reaches third UCL final in four years, moves past Atletico ]

For Real, it could be the club’s third UCL crown in the past four seasons, an astounding feat that hasn’t been met in the Champions League Era. Meanwhile, Juventus will go for its third-ever Champions League/European Cup title, and would be the Italian side’s first since the 1995/96 season.

PST takes a brief look back at how the two sides reached the UCL final:

Real Madrid’s road to Cardiff

Zinedine Zidane’s side were never really in doubt of missing out on the knockout phase, but Real definitely had a challenging time with Borussia Dortmund, who went on to win Group F.

The Madridistas went on to finish second in the group phase, two points behind Dortmund, setting up a meeting with Napoli in the Round of 16.

From there, the La Liga side went off with a six-goal aggregate performance against their Italian opposition. What was even more impressive was that Real did this without capturing any goals from Cristiano Ronaldo.

That certainly wasn’t the case for the Portuguese star though in the quarterfinal round as Ronaldo went off for five goals against Bayern Munich, including a controversial hat-trick in the second leg. Many considered Bayern among the title favorites in the competition, furthering Real’s case for returning to the final.

The semifinals brought out an all-Madrid clash when Real took on Atletico, and it was Los Blancos that took a convincing lead into the second leg after Ronaldo boasted another hat-trick in leg 1.

Despite Atletico’s best efforts in the second leg, and even pulling the aggregate score back to 3-2, Isco’s first-half finish put the tie to bed, setting up Real’s meeting with Juventus.

Juventus’ road to Cardiff

It all started back in Group H, and while it may have a fairly challenging set of group stage opponents to deal with Juventus still handled their business comfortably and confidently.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side breezed through their six group stage matches with an unbeaten record and +9 goal differential, setting up a Round of 16 clash with FC Porto.

The Italian giants picked up two crucial away goals in Portugal courtesy of Marko Pjaca and Dani Alves, while Juventus put the tie to bed when things returned to Italy for the second leg.

The quarterfinals may have been Juve’s most impressive performance of all, as Allegri’s men disposed of mighty Barcelona, 3-0, over two legs. To that point, Juventus still hadn’t allowed a goal during the first two knockout rounds.

That brings us to the final four as the Serie A leaders met up with one of the most exciting attacks in all of Europe; Monaco.

Despite boasting the threats of Radamel Falcao, Kylian Mbappe and others, Juventus did exactly what it has prided itself on for years and that’s stifling opposing attacks. After notching two away goals in France, Mario Mandzukic and Dani Alves gave the Italians another pair of finishes to make it 4-1 on aggregate at the Juventus Stadium.

Champions League Wednesday: Leicester’s last stand; Porto-Juve

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Previewing Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League round-of-16 action…

[ MORE: Man City win in epic comeback vs. Monaco | Atleti blitz Bayer ]

Leicester City vs. Sevilla

There’s no two ways about it: Leicester’s season — and perhaps their status as a Premier League club — is quickly spiraling out of control. The Foxes, just nine months after winning the PL title, sit 17th in the league table, one point clear of relegation, with 13 games still to play. Chances are, they won’t be back in the Champions League anytime soon, making Wednesday’s round-of-16 first-leg clash away to Sevilla all the more a monumental moment in the club’s history.

Where has hasn’t it gone wrong for Claudio Ranieri‘s side this season? If you’re of the mind that one player — N'Golo Kante in Leicester’s case — doesn’t make a team himself, then we’ll have to go one step further in diagnosing the stunning regression seen at the King Power Stadium this season: Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, who combined to score 41 goals in the PL last season, have managed all of eight together in 2016-17. It’s the loss of Kante, though, that has left the defense forever exposed (43 goals conceded in 25 PL games, after conceding 36 in 38 all of last season), and the goal-getters forever feeding on scraps (24 goals scored, compared to 68 last season).

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]


Porto vs. Juventusfrom the AP

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci will be left in the stands for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Porto as punishment for his outburst aimed at coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Allegri announced the move on Tuesday at the pre-match news conference, saying he had agreed it with club officials as “a fair decision, out of respect for the squad, the fans and the club.”

Bonucci became embroiled in a heated argument over substitutions with Allegri after a 4-1 win over Palermo on Friday.

Allegri also will punish himself for his angry reaction to Bonucci, announcing a donation to charity.