Milan boss Allegri proves he's up to title task
Many eyebrows may have been raised when AC Milan plucked Massimiliano Allegri from relative obscurity to be their new coach at the start of this season, but their faith has been vindicated following an 18th Serie A title.Updated: May 08, 2011 07:50 IST
Many eyebrows may have been raised when AC Milan plucked Massimiliano Allegri from relative obscurity to be their new coach at the start of this season, but their faith has been vindicated following an 18th Serie A title.
While Allegri had certainly built up a good reputation in the previous two years as a promising coach with Cagliari, outside of Italy he was a virtual unknown.
His playing career had been unspectacular, spending just four full seasons in Serie A during a 19-year career as a midfielder.
His biggest break came when he joined Napoli in the second half of the 1997-98 season. He also played in Serie A for Pescara, Cagliari (three seasons) and Perugia but the majority of his career, which took him to 11 different clubs, was spent in the lower divisions.
And that was too where he started his coaching career, with Aglianese in Serie C2 in 2003.
He soon moved up a division, first to SPAL, then Grosseto where he was fired twice, in 2005/06 and again in 2006/07 after having been reinstated.
But the very next season at the helm of Sassuolo he guided the club to an historic first ever promotion to Serie B.
He was also named the division's coach of the year and earnt his big break in Serie A with a move to Cagliari.
Despite his side losing their first five games of the season, the club stuck with Allegri and he dragged them up to an impressive ninth-placed finish.
That too was enough to earn him his second coach of the year award, this time in the top flight.
His second season with Cagliari again started in difficult fashion with one point from their first five games before another positive run had them again challenging for a European finish by the halfway stage.
But a run of nine games without a win plus speculation linking him to bigger clubs saw him fired by president Massimo Cellino a few games before the end of the season.
And when Milan decided to part company with Brazilian Leonardo after a largely disappointing season - finishing third in the league and being knocked out in the last 16 of the Champions League - they turned to Allegri.
What was most surprising about that move was that it came in an era when the big-money star coach is as much a part of the game as high-profile players.
But Allegri from day one has shown himself capable of handling the pressure in the hotbed that is Milan.
Club president Silvio Berlusconi bought him Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho despite already having Brazilians Pato and Ronaldinho on the books.
And although Berlusconi had claimed he envisioned a team with all four playing, Allegri expertly stuck to his own ideas and formations, juggling his playing resources.
When Berlusconi then signed Antonio Cassano in January, Allegri let Ronaldinho leave and again has kept some sizeable egos in check.
He has proved astute in turning Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng into an effective playmaker, even leaving Robinho on the bench to do so, and he has used veterans Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso intelligently.
He has also made do without principal playmaker Andrea Pirlo for much of the season.
It has not been all plain sailing, though, as Milan once again came up short in the Champions League.
They proved inferior to Real Madrid in the group stages and were dismissed by Tottenham in the second round - they have not gone beyond the last 16 since lifting the title in 2007.
Allegri may be on his way to becomming a star but there may be greater pitfalls to come.
Now that he has won with Milan, he will be expected to continue doing so, and not just at home.
His second season may yet prove an even bigger test.