What's next for Massimiliano Allegri and Juventus' superman, Cristiano Ronaldo?
Juventus are just a win away from winning the Serie A for 8th consecutive time when they host Fiorentina. For most teams in the world, this is bound to be a monumental achievement but when the Old Lady eventually wins the Serie A, their victory parade will be marred with a hint of regret.
The Bianconeri celebrated their fourth consecutive domestic double before the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. It was obvious that the Serie A giants spent over €100 million on former Real Madrid star to fulfil their European dream. Juventus were defeated in the Champions League finals in 2015 and 2017 and the board was desperate to reduce their struggle in Europe.
The arrival of someone like Ronaldo was bound to be a boost in their Champions League challenge but Juventus may have underestimated the nature of football - which remains a team sport. While defeat against Atlanta in the Coppa Italia could be termed as a minor hiccup, Ajax brought them back to Earth which a majestic display at Turin.
The youngest side in the tournament dominated the Old Lady and even Ronaldo's two goals over the two legs were not enough to push Juventus into the semifinals. After nine years, Ronaldo will not feature in the semi-finals of Champions League and the premature exit is evidently a matter of concern for Juventus and Ronaldo.
Amid rumours, it looks like both Allegri and Ronaldo will be staying at Juventus for another campaign. No matter how overpowering the Juventus side may be at the Italian top flight, without reform the Bianconeri will continue coming up short in Europe.
A defense which is no longer formidable
Teams like Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Ajax showed that Juventus defense is no longer the wall it used to be. There are cracks in the rearguard and the ageing defenders are no match for the quick movements of young attackers, as was depicted in their defeats. It will come as a surprise to fans that Juventus rearguard were unable to hold on to the pressure, which was their asset even a few seasons ago.
Moreover, the likes of Chiellini and Bonucci are not getting any younger. Barzagli already announced his retirement after the end of the season and while Alex Sandro is good at sitting back and guard the fort, his continuous failures in overlapping and during counters will be a cause of concern.
Proactive or Defensive?
Massimiliano Allegri is often criticised for his ultra defensive approach against relatively weaker opponents, especially when they lose. Ronaldo is not what he once was under Jose Mourinho back in his initial years at Real Madrid, he is more of a poacher. It is certainly a problem for Ronaldo, who thrives with more chances rather than in a defensive set-up.
Allegri has shown that he can be pragmatic in his style and versatile in his approach when Juventus defeated Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu last year. Juventus took the fight to Atletico Madrid's door during the second leg in Round of 16 this season and managed to mount a sensational comeback.
The question remains what should be Allegri's plan of action going into a match as their plan to survive is backfiring in crucial stages at Europe.
The Dybala conundrum
Like the defense, Allegri and Juventus hierarchy needs to fix the Dybala situation. The Argentine forward is clearly a fish out of water after the arrival of Ronaldo. Despite spending numerous seasons at the club, Dybala clearly had problems adjusting with the squad this campaign.
Dybala is known for his link up play but he was often used as a substitute this campaign by Allegri. There was no immediate impact but rather, concerns regarding what is wrong with the player. Considering his age and potential, Dybala may turn out to be an asset and Juventus face a major decision regarding the player in the upcoming transfer window.
Time is running out for Cristiano...
Age catches up with mortals, no matter how great they are. Ronaldo will be 35 next season and despite being a tremendous athlete, Ronaldo is not getting any faster and he needs more rest than before.
With age, the time and patience for Cristiano to win another Champions League or a Ballon d'Or is running out. The Portuguese star told his mother that he alone can't make miracles happen after the Champions League elimination and it remains to be seen whether he can survive another year with how things are at Turin.