As Juventus crashed out of the UEFA Champions League at the Last 16 round, all eyes turned to manager Maurizio Sarri.
A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo was enough to cancel out Memphis Depay’s penalty on the night, but the French side progressed through to the next round via the away goals rule following their 1-0 win back in March.
It marks a second consecutive season that Juventus’ only goalscorer in the knockout stages was Ronaldo and once again they have crashed out earlier than demanded by their fans.
While Sarri seems to be taking the brunt of the criticism, it does go deeper than that. The club’s recruitment over the last couple of years has been questionable despite the big names brought in. Adrien Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey, Emre Can and the return of Gonzalo Higuain have all been questionable bits of business while the signing of Ronaldo was obviously a two-headed dragon.
Despite his obvious qualities and match-winning ability, Ronaldo is a player who needs the team built around him. He’s not as physically gifted as he once was despite his fantastic conditioning and the team is now built to help him as much as possible. That takes away from the creativity and output of fellow attackers while midfielders instantly look immediately to him, sometimes to their detriment.
Sarri has done well to get an amazing amount from Ronaldo, who broke the club’s goalscoring record for a season with 36 goals this year, and Paulo Dybala who won the Serie A MVP award. The upturn in form of Matthijs de Ligt from the new year onwards is a positive too but ultimately, Juventus didn’t have the greatest of seasons.
They lost the Italian Cup final to Napoli, they lost the Super Cup to Lazio and while they won the league it was the most unconvincing title win they’ve had during this streak of nine in a row.
Following the excellent job Sarri did at Napoli, it was expected that with funds and better players he would perform better. The issue since then though has been his stubbornness to adapt his philosophies to the players in his squad. His insistence on taking Gonzalo Higuain everywhere with him is a problem too, since the Argentine is quite clearly way below the standard he once was at.
Journalist David Amoyal put it best on Twitter, Sarri seems to work best at a team where winning isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. No superstars, no huge expectation to win by any means necessary. Just a platform to get the maximum output from players who have ability and believe in his methods.
It’s likely that Sarri will be replaced this summer and Juventus will look to bring in a replacement who can get them back to their convincing ways because this giant Italian club has gone far too long without a Champions League trophy.