Gazzetta Delle Alpi: Juve Get A Whole Lotta Motta

Juventus and Thiago Motta clashed on the park on Monday against Bologna, but the Brazil-born tactician looks set to take over after Max Allegri’s Cup Final drama saw him leave the club in disgrace.
Thiago Motta and Paolo Montero at Bologna FC v Juventus - Serie A TIM
Thiago Motta and Paolo Montero at Bologna FC v Juventus - Serie A TIM / Image Photo Agency/GettyImages

A week is a long time in Juventus at the best of times, but this last week’s cavalcade of cup wins, confrontations and comebacks takes some beating.

As the black-and-white clad fans of the Bianconeri made the pilgrimage to the Stadio Olimpico in Rome for last week’s Coppa Italia final against Atalanta, not even the most deluded fantasist could have predicted what would unfold over the next few days.

Dusan Vlahovic fired home an early Cup Final winner, getting on the end of a beautiful Andrea Cambiaso pass in the fourth minute. Vlahovic burst through the defence before firing past Atalanta keeper Marco Carnesecchi with his right foot to seal a 1-0 win for the Turin side and a record 15th Coppa Italia triumph.

Massimiliano Allegri let emotions get the best of him

But the real headlines would be made by manager Massimiliano Allegri, his frustrations with the refereeing decisions boiling over. After stripping off his jacket and tie, Allegri unbuttoned his shirt and screamed in the face of the fourth official, earning a red card. Allegri would continue his tirade, calling out Gianluca Rocchi, the designator of referees to games in Italy. He then warded off Juventus directors upon his return to the pitch during post-match celebrations, and then physically threatening a journalist when they returned down the tunnel.

It would be Allegri’s final act as Juventus manager, with the club releasing a statement on Friday confirming that the head coach had been sacked for behaviour ‘incompatible with the values’ of the club. Considering Juve’s status as the pantomime villain of Calcio, it just shows how wild Allegri’s actions were. It was a black mark on a triumph that saw Allegri become the most successful manager in Coppa Italia history and Juventus extended their record of most Italian Cup wins to six ahead of second-placed Roma.

But there would be no time for sentiment as Juve headed to Bologna on Monday night for the first game of the post-Allegri era. Juventus Primavera manager Paolo Montero would take charge for the final two games of the season, the first non-Italian Juventus coach since Didier Deschamps in the 2005/06 Serie B campaign.

In the opposition dugout was the man likely to become the next Juventus manager if the word on the streets is anything to go by. Thiago Motta had already secured his Bologna side their first assault on the Champions League next season, a 2-0 win over dethroned champions Napoli sealing their spot last weekend. With whispers of a three-year contract from Juventus on the table, Motta was keen to get one over his prospective employers. With the bonus of extra prize money and preferred Champions League seeding, both teams were eager to clinch third place.

It was a baptism of fire for caretaker Montero as a disastrous opening saw Juve  lucky to only be two behind at the break, before going 3-0 down after 53 minutes. It was a night to forget for Vlahovic, making his 100th appearance for the club, and subbed off after 62 minutes. Things would quickly change after the introduction of Nicolò Fagioli, making his first appearance back after a seven-month ban for placing bets on football games.

With Fagioli in midfield, Juve was revitalised, battling back with three goals in eight minutes. First, Lukasz Skorupski’s punt out was poor. Juventus pounced, intercepting the ball and handing it off to Federico Chiesa, who dispatched the ball past Skorupski on 76 minutes for 3-1. Seven minutes later, Juventus found themselves with a free kick in shooting range. Arkadiusz Milik stepped up to the plate, rocketing his free kick straight into the top corner, with Skorupski a mere spectator in the Bologna goal. 

Bologna, now spooked by the complete erosion of their lead, tried to calm themselves and slow things down from the kick off. Juve immediately forced them into a mistake in the centre of the park seconds after the restart. Kenan Yildiz snatched the ball and started to bear down on the Bologna goal. From range, Yildiz had a crack, firing a swerving drive past Skorupski to bring Juve level. Juve nearly got the win moments later, with Chiesa and Yildiz combining for some excellent link-up play, but Yildiz’s effort was shut down by a last-ditch sliding tackle from Michel Aebischer as the game ended 3-3.

Juventus go into the final game of the season level on points with Bologna, but their fate is out of their hands. By the time Juve line up against Monza on Saturday, they will know what they need to do to achieve third place. If Bologna fails to beat Genoa on Friday, a win will suffice. If not, it will need a minimum four goal swing in the direction of the Bianconeri (depending on Bologna’s result) for Juve to take the final podium place.

In the last few hours, Bologna has announced that Friday’s clash with Genoa would be Thiago Motta’s last for the club, having turned down a new deal with the club. Now able to leave for free at the end of June, there are multiple reports coming out of Italy in the last few days that Juventus and Motta have essentially agreed to a deal that will see the Brazil-born tactician take his place in the Juventus dugout this summer. Motta’s contract is reportedly a three-year deal worth €4 million a season. 

It will be interesting to see how Bologna fans react to their departing hero on Friday after taking the club to their highest finish of the modern era. If Bologna fails to win, and Juventus pip them to third place on the final day, Motta may receive a frosty welcome back to Stadio Renato Dall'Ara next season. One thing’s for sure, with Motta catching the eyes of Juventus executives for months now, the mood is changing at Juventus. A new era is dawning, and Monday’s draw shows that Juventus’ box office status isn’t going away any time soon.