Pippo Inzaghi put his arm around Andrea Pirlo’s shoulder before kick-off at Allianz Stadium. It was an instinctive moment of reconnection between two men, who played together for a decade in Milan. They were brought to San Siro by the same agent, Tullio Tinti, in the summer of 2001 and shared more than 200 matches side by side.
As players, they achieved some of the highest highs in football. In the 2007 pictures of Milan Champions League final victory over Liverpool, you can see them in an identical pose, Inzaghi closing in on his friend as they head to the locker room at halftime. He had scored the first goal of the game moments before, deflecting a Pirlo free kick past Pepe Reina.
What was at stake over the weekend was different. Minor, in the most obvious sense, but perhaps major in others. There was no trophy waiting for the winner in Turin, but Pirlo needed a victory to keep the hopes of the Juventus Scudetto alive and prevent his first season in office from being remembered as a catastrophic failure. After nine consecutive Serie A titles, the Bianconeri trailed Inter by 10 points in the standings. This was his only game in hand.
Inzaghi faced a different kind of pressure as he looked to snap an 11-game winless streak. Benevento, playing in Serie A for the second time in its history, had far exceeded expectations during the first half of this season, but now found himself slipping into the relegation zone.
They did not have their highest paid player, central Kamil Glik, or central midfielder Pasquale Schiattarella. Inzaghi would later confess that he had prepared the statement he would give in defeat, “partly out of superstition, but [mostly] because I need to be rational. “
Defeat seemed the most likely outcome. Juventus, despite all their disappointments, had won 10 of 13 league games so far in 2021. They could summon a team of world-class players, led by the man who just passed Pelé on the table. of all-time scorers. Cristiano Ronaldo received a commemorative shirt before the start of the match, adorned with the acronym GOAT (the greatest of all time).
Perhaps those truths made Juventus complacent. Possession and shot count dominated Sunday, but there was a lack of intensity, a presumption that a goal would eventually come. Instead, in the 69th minute, Arthur played an unnecessary low pass through his own penalty area. Benevento’s Adolfo Gaich intercepted and fired a shot past Wojciech Szczesny.
Too late, Juventus discovered their urgency. Federico Chiesa was denied a penalty and Cristiano Ronaldo sent a shot from above. The champions racked up the expected goals, but couldn’t find a real one and fell in a 1-0 loss.
“We could stay here for three days trying to understand why we play like this,” said Juventus football director Fabio Paratici. So just a third of the time he and his colleagues took to promote the rookie coach hired to care for his Under-23s to the role of first-team manager last summer.
Pirlo is not the first person in charge of the regression of Juventus. That responsibility falls on Paratici and his fellow directors, whose staff in the three years since Ronaldo’s signing seemed driven more by name recognition than consistent vision.
However, the inexperience of the technician has played a prominent role. Pirlo’s failure to tailor his ideas to suit the players at his disposal was only further exposed in this encounter with Inzaghi, who also jumped into the background when he took up his first managerial job in Milan in 2014.
Despite a two-year apprenticeship coaching the club’s academy teams, Inzaghi still struggled a lot, finishing 10th at the end of a season that featured indignities like having his boss, Silvio Berlusconi, in his locker room and order him to yell “Attack!” to his players, over and over again.
Six years later, Inzaghi is still learning on the job. He has had some successes: he led Venice to promotion from third tier in 2016-17, then led Benevento’s breakneck run to the top of Serie B last season, when they finished 18 points clear. In between, he had a terrible stop in Bologna, winning two of the 21 games.
What stands out in this campaign is its flexibility. Benevento started playing the same enthusiastic soccer that won promotion last season. They came back 2-0 against to beat Sampdoria in the opening weekend, but ended up on the wrong side of a 5-2 losses to Inter and Roma. When Benevento faced Giallorossi again last month, they tied 0-0. Inzaghi has learned that sometimes it pays to be cautious, swapping his back four for a back five.
“We had lost touch with reality a bit,” he said Sunday. “By setting all those records in Serie B, and then the numbers that we had in the first half of the season, some people were fooling themselves.”
It would have been difficult for anyone involved with the club not to get a little carried away again on Sunday. Benevento is the first newly promoted team to beat Juventus in eight years, and the first to keep a clean sheet at their stadium in nine. They have taken four points away from the champions this season, after drawing at home against them.
The club’s sporting director, Pasquale Foggia, jumped off the bench full time and ran up to the stands to hug the club president. “He had the brilliant idea of trying to get up, but then he felt something dig into his back,” said Oreste Vigorito. “I had forgotten that I weigh 70 kilos. Lying on the steps of the Stadium, we discovered that it is wonderful ”.
They deserved to take center stage, but the scene was stolen Sunday night by Massimiliano Allegri, who appeared on Sky Sport’s Calcio Club. He has given few interviews in the two years since he parted ways with Juventus, so this was a good time for his revival, with his former club at its lowest point in a decade.
Allegri’s interview was extensive and spoke with characteristic eloquence about the struggles of Italian teams in Europe and the qualities that he believes must be cultivated in the coaches to ensure better results in the future. He also offered his observations on the current Serie A season, highlighting the traits that impressed him at Inter from Antonio Conte.
However, headlines made headlines for his comment that he plans to return to management in June. Allegri said he was fascinated with the idea of training abroad, in England or Spain, but also that he would happily return to Serie A. When asked about Juventus specifically, he deviated and pointed out that they already have Pirlo.
“Being a coach is very difficult,” he reflected at one point. “You cannot explain how to do it. There are managers from Monday to Saturday, which is a trade, then Sunday is a completely different thing because you need to navigate the unexpected. So it has nothing to do with technique and tactics, you will not find the answers in a book. A manager lives on his feelings “.
The prevailing sensation among the fans in Turin on Sunday night was the longing for his return.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism