Cristiano Ronaldo will let Mario Mandzukic do his dirty work up front as £100m man rations his sprints… how Juventus could line-up next term
Massimiliano Allegri is pragmatic and flexible. His recent Juventus teams haven’t been hugely entertaining. There’s no champagne football on the menu at the Allianz Stadium, but there are plenty of trophies. Four consecutive league and cup doubles is testament to that.
Coaxing the best out of glamorous new signing Cristiano Ronaldo will be manna from heaven for tactics nut Allegri. The slim coach is overseeing a regeneration all over the pitch. Gianluigi Buffon has left for Paris Saint-Germain, defender Andrea Barzagli plays an increasing small part, his companion in the rearguard Daniele Rugani could be going too. And Gonzalo Higuain is heading, reluctantly, towards the exit.
Emre Can finally arrived from Liverpool to compete with the brilliant but fragile Sami Khedira. Classy centre-back Mattia Caldara returned from his highly successful loan at Atalanta. But the most eye-catching new recruit is indisputably Ronaldo.
His Champions League experience is invaluable to the Bianconeri. He has won the tournament five times, his new club have been European champions only twice, and have lost a painful seven finals.
How will Allegri get the maximum from his new forward? The five times Golden Ball winner will be 34 by the time the 2018-19 knock out round starts in February next year. Anyone who has watched Real or Portugal recently will have noted that CR7 rations his sprints wisely.
Naturally, Ronaldo is still a supreme athlete, a monument to conditioning, determination and sacrifice. But no one has ever defeated Old Father Time, and the native of Madeira chooses his runs and bursts judiciously.
For that reason Allegri will be more grateful than ever to have Croatian warhorse Mario Mandzukic in his squad. Big Mario, as they call him, is a warrior and a tireless runner. He has won Juve fans over with his willingness to do the dirty work.
The Gazzetta dello Sport proposes a 4-3-1-2 for the ‘new’ Juventus. The idea is that Mandzukic plays alongside Ronaldo, but the Croatian does the majority of pressing and drops back to help the midfield trio.
The Black and Whites don’t indulge divas. Historically they have shunned big names from abroad, preferring youngsters with promise or honest foot soldiers with something to prove. But they couldn’t pass up the chance to put CR7 in their famous stripes.
The sensation is that Allegri would be foolish to impose a slew of defensive duties on Ronaldo. Due to his age and status, it is much more likely that he will have a similar role to the one Zinedine Zidane gave him at Real.
Opponents will be monitoring the Portugal skipper so closely that there will be space for Dybala to exploit. Once linked with a move to La Liga to Barcelona or Real, the Argentine No 10 is expected to stay in Serie A for at least one more year. The Jewell, as he is nicknamed, will learn so much on and off the pitch from Cristiano.
Allegri also has the option of an attacking trident of Dybala-Mandzukic-Ronaldo in a 4-3-3. That might be less favourable though because Dybala needs to play centrally, so his high-speed dribbling can really punish opponents.
A 4-2-3-1 with Ronaldo up front, backed by Juan Cuadrado-Dybala-Douglas Costa is another, ultra-attacking possibility. That might be a too gung-ho for Allegri’s tastes, but could be useful in a must-win game in Europe.
The most eagerly awaited question is whether Juventus will allow CR7 immunity from tracking back and the less ‘fun’ tasks. But they are an extremely organised, hard working side. Offering total freedom to their new megastar, particularly in domestic games, shouldn’t be a trauma.