After a bright and energetic start, Sunday’s Serie A contest against Salernitana swiftly drifted into monotony.
When Dusan Vlahovic put Juventus 2-0 up inside 30 minutes, the vast majority of supporters were hopeful of not only a thorough Bianconeri beatdown of their sorry opponents, but that they’ll also be treated to seeing some of the club’s talented youngsters earn crucial minutes at a senior level.
Teenagers Matias Soulé and Fabio Miretti, who recently guided Juve’s Under-19s to their first ever semi-final berth in the UEFA Youth League, were among the substitutes. But Massimiliano Allegri saw all the fun his side were having in the opening 45 minutes and quickly put an end to it. Thus, after half-time, Juve opted to preserve their advantage rather than add to it and the likelihood of Juventini enjoying a dash of youth dwindled with every passing minute.
Massimiliano Allegri frustrated supporters during the 2-0 win over Salernitana
Soulé and Miretti, who both made their debuts for the first-team last December, are highly regarded in Turin and some might argue that they’re two of the most exciting academy talents the club have produced since Claudio Marchisio. Their brilliance at a youth level has manifested time and time again, and their ever-increasing prestige has heaped the pressure on the pragmatic Allegri to hand them regular opportunities with the first-team – especially against sides like Salernitana.
For some, Allegri’s hesitance to utilise the likes of Soulé, Miretti and others this season is further evidence of his distrust in youth. Many were left frustrated by the manager on Sunday as veteran wide player Juan Cuadrado joined veteran full-back Danilo in the midfield pivot midway through the second half as Miretti warmed up along the touchline.
Eventually, though, 18-year-old midfielder Miretti made his Serie A debut with a brief four-minute cameo at the end of proceedings. After the match, he described the emotion of the moment as “absurd”. Juventus fan Miretti has been at the club for over a decade and many believe he could follow in the footsteps of Marchisio in Turin.
“When I come to the first team, I’m treated like one of them. The coach gives me all the information I need and they put me in a position where I don’t feel lost and I feel at ease within the group,” he added.
Allegri, meanwhile, has high hopes for the 18-year-old and the Juve boss said after the comfortable Salernitana win (via @JuveFC): “He’s [Miretti] very good, he only played four minutes but he did it with the right attitude. Young players must be allowed to grow.”
Does Allegri not trust young players?
Overall, I’m not sure if I agree with the notion that Allegri is a distruster of youth. During his first stint at the club, there was less emphasis on developing academy talent with much of their energy placed in signing ready-made products. Any young talent, such as Rodrigo Bentancur, were signed from abroad. The persistent additions of big names, which culminated in the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018, and veteran free agents helped the Bianconeri to nine-straight Scudetti and a pair of Champions League final appearances.
The club’s success during the 2010s rivalled the great Giovanni Trapattoni era in the ’70s, and Antonio Conte alongside Allegri largely ascended Juventus and perpetuated their dominance without the influence of their academy. This wasn’t a case of the managers distrusting Juve’s youth, the harsh reality is that the Bianconeri’s academy just wasn’t very good. Do you think Allegri regrets not handing more opportunities to the likes of Rolando Mandragora, Federico Mattiello, and Manolo Portanova? I doubt the Juventus boss tosses and turns in his sleep thinking to himself: “If only I’d given Andrea Favilli a proper chance in the first team…”
Kingsley Coman, who was signed from Paris Saint-Germain, is the only youngster Allegri had on his books who has gone on to make a name for himself at the elite level. The rest of them simply weren’t of the requisite quality.
We’ve seen Allegri facilitate Moise Kean’s emergence, and entrust a young Bentancur during the Uruguayan’s debut season with the club. This season, teenager Koni De Winter has made two appearances in the Champions League while Soulé and Miretti have both now made their Serie A debuts. As the manager said, these “young players must be allowed to grow”. Patience is required.
Allegri isn’t an idiot and he knows what talent is when he sees it. Nicolo Fagioli, who’s currently out on loan at Cremonese, has caught the manager’s eye and alongside Nicolo Rovella, Fagioli could emerge as a midfield option for Allegri next season. Miretti and Soulé should both soon follow.
So while I understand the frustrations from the Salernitana game regarding the two teenagers, this was not an indication that Allegri will allow Juve’s talented crop of youngsters to rot away. Patience is a virtue. Their chances will continue to arrive.