TURIN, Italy, Feb 12 – Massimiliano Allegri may be breaking records in Italy but the Juventus coach’s quest for the elusive Champions League grail continues on Tuesday against English side Tottenham Hotspur.
The 50-year-old marked his 200th game in the Juventus dugout with a 2-0 win in Florence on Friday, capping a record breaking three-and-a-half years in Turin.
A surprise replacement for Antonio Conte in July 2014, the former AC Milan boss has won seven consecutive trophies with the Turin giants including the last three Serie A titles.
Italy’s national side are in disarray after the four-time winners’ humiliating World Cup exit, but Juventus are in fine form under Allegri.
So much so that his name has not only been among those touted as the future Italy boss but as a potential manager of English giants Chelsea and Arsenal.
The six-time defending champions are currently engaged in a gripping battle at the top of the Serie A table with Napoli for the Scudetto.
Juventus have won 11 matches in a row in all competitions, conceding just one goal in 16 games -– an all-time club record.
But two Champions League final defeats in the past three editions have dented Allegri’s standing.
A 3-1 loss to Barcelona in 2015 was followed by another crushing 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid last year after which Allegri revealed he almost quit.
“I wondered if I should write the final chapter to my story at Juventus,” said Allegri at the time, saying that his “love of teaching” had encouraged him to continue.
“It is truly the joy of my life. I like making players better and smarter. I know I still have a lot to prove. And I know I still have a lot to teach.”
– Ageing squad –
Instead he signed a new contract until 2020 and his Champions League quest continues with a last 16, first leg meeting with Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham.
Taking over from Conte — who went on to coach Italy and Chelsea — could have been a hard act to follow, but Allegri has managed to stamp his mark on the Turin side with even greater success than his predecessor.
Conte took Juve to three Serie A titles and oversaw the team’s return to the summit of Italian football after the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal of 2006.
Allegri’s 200 games in charge may be dwarfed by Giovanni Trapattoni’s record 596 but his percentage of wins are in a class of their own — 142 in total — a success rate of more than 70 percent.
Allegri has accumulated a 238-point haul in Serie A to overtake the previous records of 234 by Conte and Carlo Carcano back in the 1930s.
He plays down the coach’s role, insisting “the players win, I try to do the least damage possible”.
But an ageing squad could hamper Allegri’s quest for the European title Juventus won in 1985 and 1996.
The team’s domination of the Serie A is largely down to the side’s formidable defence, commanded by goalkeeping legend Gianluigi Buffon, 40, who reached a milestone 500 league games on Friday.
Defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli are 33 and 36 years old respectively, with star striker Gonzalo Higuain a sprightly 30.
Injuries are also a concern with Barzagli and Paulo Dybala in a race against time to be fit, and Juan Cuadrado, Blaise Matuidi and Benedikt Howedes out of action.