AC Milan Title Win Shows Just How Far Juventus Have Fallen
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While AC Milan undoubtedly deserve huge credit for their Serie A title win, their victory offers rival clubs a chance to take stock of their own position and analyse just how far from contention they currently are.

That begins with an honest assessment of the new champions. The Rossoneri lifted their first title in 11 years after a campaign which saw them claim just 86 points which – aside from the COVID impacted 2019/20 season – is the lowest tally to top the table in a decade.

There were some stellar performances along the way. In any other year, Mike Maignan replacing Gianluigi Donnarumma seamlessly might’ve been one of the most unlikely stories of any Serie A title race, but it wasn’t even the most unexpected part of his new team’s defence.

That honour would go to seeing a 24-year-old Englishman – Fikayo Tomori, signed from Chelsea for £25 million ($31.49m) – partnering a 21-year-old Frenchman in Pierre Kalulu in central defence.

Kalulu was a masterstroke of a signing, brought in from Olympique Lyon back in 2020 to add depth to the squad, and seeing him play a major role is even more surprising given that he cost just €1.19 million ($1.28m).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Simon Kjaer and Ante Rebic all missed huge chunks of the season, and while Stefano Pioli deserves all the plaudits he is receiving after galvanising the squad and delivering his first major trophy, all those issues add up to a major missed opportunity for Milan’s rivals.

Neighbours Inter will be the first to feel that they squandered that chance, particularly as defending champions. Yet the Nerazzurri pushed their city rivals to the final day, finishing just two points behind them despite the upheaval of losing Antonio Conte, Romelu Lukaku and Ashraf Hakimi last summer.

Meanwhile, Juventus should be the ones smarting the most. They replaced Andrea Pirlo – a man who had just completed his first ever season as a Coach – with the vastly experienced Max Allegri, handing him a four-year contract that pays him €9 million ($9.65m) per season.

That comfortably makes him the highest paid Coach in the league, yet his team finished 16 points behind the champions and eight points worse than they managed under Pirlo. Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo left, but Manchester United fans can attest to the Portuguese megastar’s current level of contribution.

In his place came €25 million ($26.82m) acquisition Manuel Locatelli, one of Serie A’s best midfielders, filling a true area of need in a squad that already boasted a serious level of talent.

Then in January, the club acted again, paying €70 million ($75.11m) to capture striker Dusan Vlahovic, a player who had bagged 17 goals in the first 21 rounds of action for Fiorentina. Yet after arriving at Juve, where he is allegedly playing in a better team and with better players, he managed just seven goals in 15 matches.

Nothing sums up this season for Juventus better than those numbers.

While the Milan boss is serended in Piazza del Duomo with vociferous chants of “Pioli’s on fire,” supporters of the Bianconeri are marking off the months remaining on Allegri’s contract like Andy Dufresne marking off his sentence on his cell wall at Shawshank Penitentiary.

None of this is to criticise Allegri’s past, his brilliance was crucial to delivering five league titles and two European Cup finals in his first spell at the helm, a spell which ended with him being replaced in the summer of 2019.

With the club having found themselves outplayed by the more modern approaches of Real Madrid (twice) and Ajax, removing him was a clear choice to leave behind the outdated, negative approach that blighted him from the 2017 Champions League Final onwards.

First came Maurizio Sarri, then Pirlo, both men attempting to bring a more modern style to the Old Lady, only for her to turn back to Allegri in a bid to collect more silverware. It is impossible to believe that he hadn’t seen the advances made by high-pressing sides, a man of his tactical intelligence had to notice the rapid pace of football post-pandemic.

Yet immediately it was obvious that he would instead try to play the same pragmatic, safety- first way that had led to his removal, almost as if the two years in between never happened.

So as Pioli and the Rossoneri celebrate their title, we can see them as the epitome of doing more with less, of guiding players like Kalulu, Davide Calabria and Alexis Saelemaekers to a title by making the team greater than the sum of its parts.

In contrast, Allegri has Matthijs de Ligt, Locatelli and Vlahovic but faced a fight to qualify for the Champions League, becoming the first Juve boss since Gigi Delneri in 2011 to finish a season empty handed.

That’s doing less with more, and it has to end.

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