So do Chelsea have a plan?

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly (r.) looks on prior to the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Oct. 22, 2022, in London

You have to hand it to Chelsea FC’s new-ish owner Todd Boehly. If you’re replacing Roman Abramovich as owner, and ushering in a new era after the club’s trophy-laden one that the Russian Oligarch oversaw, you can win over the fans by going on a spending binge that would even make Abramovich raise one of his very expressive eyebrows. It at least shows an understanding of what Chelsea fans have become accustomed to.

Why Chelsea spent $400+ million

Chelsea spent over $400 million in just the January transfer window. Chelsea alone spent more this past month than the entire leagues of Spain, Germany, Italy, and France. The headliners are Enzo Fernández, Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoît Badiashile, and João Félix on loan. There were a handful of other squad players brought in, and again it’s worth repeating, for the neighborhood of $400 million. In one month.

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So the question is why? Generally, January spending is restricted to filling one hole, or desperately clawing at some bargains you can find, because clubs are loath to give up anyone useful in the middle of their season. But when Boehly shows up with checks of this size, clubs can clearly come to terms with the loss.

But Chelsea are trying to get ahead of the curve, first and foremost. Thanks to their summer spending, and, more to the point, the way they’ve structured contracts for their new players, UEFA is changing the rules to Financial Fair Play. Currently, transfer fees paid out could be spread over the length of a player’s contract for accounting purposes. That’s why Chelsea have been signing their new players to seven- and eight-year deals, very long for the soccer world. That’s what Enzo Fernandez got, so his $130 million fee over the eight-year deal he just signed works out to just $16.2 million on the books every year. Thanks to that, Chelsea’s road to looking profitable and financially stable is that much easier.

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You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t this what Juventus just got a timeout for?” Kinda sorta. But Juve were using it in player exchanges and inflating those prices to make it appear they’re in the black. Chelsea, as of now, are just charging through a loophole like they’re driving the War Rig. And these players they are buying are worth the prices they’re paying, and they’re not exchanging other players in return. Mudryk was one of the most sought-after wingers in Europe. Fernandez just won the Young Player Of the World Cup.

However, come next season, UEFA is putting a five-year cap on what a transfer fee can be spread out over. So, if Chelsea had waited until the summer to pay the GDP of Alabama for Fernandez, the same fee would suddenly show up as $26 million every year. So you can see why Boehly wanted to get this over the line now.

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What does it mean for Chelsea on the pitch?

What does it mean on the field? It’s been clear that Chelsea have needed a makeover in midfield for a while. Jorginho got old, which didn’t help a player who was already pretty slow when he was young. N’Golo Kante is unlikely to be able to get on the field enough, and his all-action, Tasmanian Devil pinging all over the field is going to be harder to pull off when he is healthy into his 30s. Mateo Kovačić has looked a little sluggish through all of it, though one suspects he could hold on with some younger, more springy teammates around him.

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Does Fernandez do that by himself? It’s not as clear as the fee would suggest. While he looked great in the World Cup, buying players off of performances in an international tournament is usually fraught. Remember when everyone had to have Renato Sanches after Euro 2018? It’s just a weird combination of teammates, tactics, and opponents that doesn’t look much like soldiering through a league season over nine months. Additionally, Fernandez only has 17 appearances in the Portuguese league with Benfica. He’s been part of a team that simply dusted Juventus in the Champions League, as well as held PSG to two draws. There is no ceiling on him, but we also aren’t totally sure of the floor either. Chelsea are betting big, humongous big, on potential only.

Mudryk certainly provides an injection of pace and directness, and Felix has been untapped potential long enough to wonder if it’s still there, but Chelsea were already lousy with wide attackers. Wide attackers who can’t stay healthy (Hi Christian!) or interested (Hi Hakim!). Clearly, Chelsea are going to be reshaping their forward line.

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But none of their purchases is a central striker. Kai Havertz has proven it’s not him, as well as not defining what position he should play either. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has looked every bit like the player that Barcelona didn’t want anymore. Graham Potter’s Brighton sides were famous for all their play up until the pivotal moment and the cavalcade of clowns they had at striker attempting and failing to finish them off. So far, he looks like he’s trying to replicate that at Stamford Bridge.

Badiashile looks like he is making up for the purchase of Kalidou Koulibaly last summer, who hasn’t looked up to the Premier League at 31 (and Napoli haven’t exactly missed him). They got some insurance behind Reece James in Malo Gusto.

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But the question has to be are Chelsea buffeted against missing out on the Champions League? They’re currently 10th in the table, 10 points behind fourth-place Manchester United. That’s a lot to climb over. Can they win this year’s CL to get into next year’s? Ehhhhh. The usual favorites look a little more vulnerable than normal. Munich can’t stop drawing. Real Madrid are behind Barcelona. Man City are a different beast, built around an unholy beast, but just loaned out perhaps their second-best player the past few years. Liverpool are…well, y’know. PSG are PSG.

But is Graham Potter, in his first season in the competition, going to lead a team that’s been thrown together over the past couple of weeks to ol’ Big Ears? Tall timber there, friendo. Does Boehly have the gas to maintain all this without Champions League income? It’s likely we’ll find out. Maybe all the frantic activity was aimed at not finding out.

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You certainly can’t accuse him of lack of effort. 

So do Chelsea have a plan?

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly (r.) looks on prior to the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Oct. 22, 2022, in London

You have to hand it to Chelsea FC’s new-ish owner Todd Boehly. If you’re replacing Roman Abramovich as owner, and ushering in a new era after the club’s trophy-laden one that the Russian Oligarch oversaw, you can win over the fans by going on a spending binge that would even make Abramovich raise one of his very expressive eyebrows. It at least shows an understanding of what Chelsea fans have become accustomed to.

Why Chelsea spent $400+ million

Chelsea spent over $400 million in just the January transfer window. Chelsea alone spent more this past month than the entire leagues of Spain, Germany, Italy, and France. The headliners are Enzo Fernández, Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoît Badiashile, and João Félix on loan. There were a handful of other squad players brought in, and again it’s worth repeating, for the neighborhood of $400 million. In one month.

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So the question is why? Generally, January spending is restricted to filling one hole, or desperately clawing at some bargains you can find, because clubs are loath to give up anyone useful in the middle of their season. But when Boehly shows up with checks of this size, clubs can clearly come to terms with the loss.

But Chelsea are trying to get ahead of the curve, first and foremost. Thanks to their summer spending, and, more to the point, the way they’ve structured contracts for their new players, UEFA is changing the rules to Financial Fair Play. Currently, transfer fees paid out could be spread over the length of a player’s contract for accounting purposes. That’s why Chelsea have been signing their new players to seven- and eight-year deals, very long for the soccer world. That’s what Enzo Fernandez got, so his $130 million fee over the eight-year deal he just signed works out to just $16.2 million on the books every year. Thanks to that, Chelsea’s road to looking profitable and financially stable is that much easier.

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You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t this what Juventus just got a timeout for?” Kinda sorta. But Juve were using it in player exchanges and inflating those prices to make it appear they’re in the black. Chelsea, as of now, are just charging through a loophole like they’re driving the War Rig. And these players they are buying are worth the prices they’re paying, and they’re not exchanging other players in return. Mudryk was one of the most sought-after wingers in Europe. Fernandez just won the Young Player Of the World Cup.

However, come next season, UEFA is putting a five-year cap on what a transfer fee can be spread out over. So, if Chelsea had waited until the summer to pay the GDP of Alabama for Fernandez, the same fee would suddenly show up as $26 million every year. So you can see why Boehly wanted to get this over the line now.

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What does it mean for Chelsea on the pitch?

What does it mean on the field? It’s been clear that Chelsea have needed a makeover in midfield for a while. Jorginho got old, which didn’t help a player who was already pretty slow when he was young. N’Golo Kante is unlikely to be able to get on the field enough, and his all-action, Tasmanian Devil pinging all over the field is going to be harder to pull off when he is healthy into his 30s. Mateo Kovačić has looked a little sluggish through all of it, though one suspects he could hold on with some younger, more springy teammates around him.

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Does Fernandez do that by himself? It’s not as clear as the fee would suggest. While he looked great in the World Cup, buying players off of performances in an international tournament is usually fraught. Remember when everyone had to have Renato Sanches after Euro 2018? It’s just a weird combination of teammates, tactics, and opponents that doesn’t look much like soldiering through a league season over nine months. Additionally, Fernandez only has 17 appearances in the Portuguese league with Benfica. He’s been part of a team that simply dusted Juventus in the Champions League, as well as held PSG to two draws. There is no ceiling on him, but we also aren’t totally sure of the floor either. Chelsea are betting big, humongous big, on potential only.

Mudryk certainly provides an injection of pace and directness, and Felix has been untapped potential long enough to wonder if it’s still there, but Chelsea were already lousy with wide attackers. Wide attackers who can’t stay healthy (Hi Christian!) or interested (Hi Hakim!). Clearly, Chelsea are going to be reshaping their forward line.

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But none of their purchases is a central striker. Kai Havertz has proven it’s not him, as well as not defining what position he should play either. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has looked every bit like the player that Barcelona didn’t want anymore. Graham Potter’s Brighton sides were famous for all their play up until the pivotal moment and the cavalcade of clowns they had at striker attempting and failing to finish them off. So far, he looks like he’s trying to replicate that at Stamford Bridge.

Badiashile looks like he is making up for the purchase of Kalidou Koulibaly last summer, who hasn’t looked up to the Premier League at 31 (and Napoli haven’t exactly missed him). They got some insurance behind Reece James in Malo Gusto.

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But the question has to be are Chelsea buffeted against missing out on the Champions League? They’re currently 10th in the table, 10 points behind fourth-place Manchester United. That’s a lot to climb over. Can they win this year’s CL to get into next year’s? Ehhhhh. The usual favorites look a little more vulnerable than normal. Munich can’t stop drawing. Real Madrid are behind Barcelona. Man City are a different beast, built around an unholy beast, but just loaned out perhaps their second-best player the past few years. Liverpool are…well, y’know. PSG are PSG.

But is Graham Potter, in his first season in the competition, going to lead a team that’s been thrown together over the past couple of weeks to ol’ Big Ears? Tall timber there, friendo. Does Boehly have the gas to maintain all this without Champions League income? It’s likely we’ll find out. Maybe all the frantic activity was aimed at not finding out.

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You certainly can’t accuse him of lack of effort. 

Oh my god, they signed McKennie!

Weston McKennie

It’s transfer deadline day, and with the news that the USMNT will be in the Copa America (unless there’s some sort of qualifying disaster, which has never happened before, right?), what the members of the team do with their club teams takes on greater urgency. It’s not waiting three years anymore. The next big tournament is only a year and a half away now, so USMNT players need to get settled and playing well in a much tighter window than we first thought. So here comes Weston McKennie moving from Juventus to Leeds, perhaps for that reason among others.

On the surface, a player moving from the biggest club in Italy to a relegation battler in the Premier League sounds like a step or two down. But it’s probably more an indication of where Serie A’s standing is on the world stage, what Juve is going to look like in their post-Plusvalenze stage, and where McKennie might be. Juventus clearly need to bring in some money without Champions League, and they’ll need to get some salary off the books.

As for McKennie, as exciting as it was when he arrived at Juventus, it was a bit of a wonky relationship. It’s not that he was bad. He got 70 appearances and 46 starts over two and a half seasons, scoring nine goals. But he arrived during Juve’s descent into being a basketcase, played under two different managers, and Max Allegri this season has thrown just about every formation and system at the wall to try and find an answer. And McKennie was always caught up in that choppy water.

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McKennie rarely got to play in his preferred position, which is the most advanced of a midfield three. He’d been a tucked-in winger in a 4-4-2 for a lot of his Juve stay, and lately he’d been essentially playing fullback as Allegri put him out wide in this mutated 3-6-1 they’ve been rolling out. When Juventus did play a 4-3-3, McKennie found it hard to break into the midfield ahead of Adrien Rabiot, or Manuel Locatelli, or Federico Bernadeschi, or others. Injuries didn’t help, as McKennie was essentially out from February 2022 through the end of last season.

Marching on together… maybe

That doesn’t mean everything will be rosy at Leeds automatically, and that’s due to the high-level of weirdness that McKennie is. It’s hard to know where he fits in for Jesse Marsch either. In recent weeks, Marsch has sent Leeds out in a 4-2-3-1, a formation that doesn’t accommodate McKennie anywhere. He doesn’t defend well enough to be one of the two holding midfielders, and he’s not deft enough with his touch and passing to be the #10 in that formation. It’s not that the change in formation has brought a great reversal in Leeds’s results, but they’ve only lost once in the last seven matches, and that was away to Aston Villa where they were clearly the better team and were unlucky to lose. But then, they’ve only won two of those seven games as well.

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Perhaps Marsch wants to shift back to a 4-3-3, and slot Tyler Adams back into the sole holding role, with Marc Roca being the link between Adams and McKennie. But shifting a whole team around a new signing has its perils. Leeds did sign a new striker in Georginio Rutter, which will put Rodrygo back at his more natural inverted winger on the right. But still, if Marsch doesn’t stick with a 4-3-3 solely, then McKennie becomes the same odd fit he was with Juve. McKennie still only does one thing really well, which is arrive late in the box to score. Lucky for him, that’s a premium skill in a midfielder.

Also, McKennie’s tendency to have his give-o-shit meter drop will not fly in the Premier League or at Leeds. Especially as Leeds are going to need every point they can get to avoid relegation. Marsch’s style is about as high-intensity as it can get, and McKennie can fit into that when he wants to. He just hasn’t always wanted to. Leeds are going to do a fair amount of defending, and they want to attack at a hair-on-fire pace. Does McKennie have the want-to to get up that much of the field that quickly to do what he does best?

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Still, the more USMNT players that we can get into the unquestioned best league in the world, the better for everyone. McKennie wasn’t the only USMNT starter in the transfer news, as there was some buzz yesterday that Antonee Robinson was the subject of inquiries from Manchester City to replace Joao Cancelo at left-back. It appears that may have cooled until the summer, but is still a tantalizing, if perplexing, prospect. Pep Guardiola doesn’t really use his fullbacks like everyone else, scorching up and down the wing to defend and join the attack. Cancelo’s role was to join central midfield when City had the ball, and the other fullback generally forms a back-three with the two centerbacks with City in possession. Rico Lewis has taken on the former role of late with Cancelo’s apparent banishment. Robinson doesn’t seem to really fit in either role, but Pep has reshaped players before.

Things are happening, and they have a whole new perspective now with a big tournament suddenly much closer on the horizon. 

Nketiah rise proves Arsenal don’t need Vlahovic

Repeated rumours suggest that Arsenal are considering a move for Dusan Vlahovic but the increased emergence of Eddie Nketiah proves they don’t need the Juventus striker, Apollo Heyes argues.

The Gunners infamously missed out on the Serbian striker 12 months ago after a bitter race with the Bianconeri, who paid around €80m to secure the Fiorentina man, and had to rely on Nketiah after the January departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Arsenal returned to the striker market in the summer and made a €52m move for Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus, adding an experienced and hungry forward to their squad. His debut season started well and he directly contributed to 11 goals in 14 Premier League appearances before suffering a knee injury at the World Cup.

Many Arsenal fans expected the club to pick up a replacement in this January transfer window as they look to win their first Premier League title in decades, and recent rumours have suggested that a returned assault for Vlahovic could be on the horizon.

The 22-year-old Serbian striker has struggled to replicate his Fiorentina form in Turin and has netted 16 goals in 36 appearances across all competitions under Massimiliano Allegri. The defensive system often leaves Vlahovic isolated up front and whispers suggest that he’s growing tired of things in the Piedmont capital.

Considering the situation, then, it’s hardly a surprise that Arsenal have been linked with Vlahovic, with a deal appearing to be a win for all involved parties. Juventus’ off-pitch issues will force them to change their approach to recruitment and spending, and selling the Serbian could give them important resources to help in a rebuild.

Unfortunately for Vlahovic, Nketiah has other ideas. The 23-year-old South London born striker has been on fire since the World Cup break, scoring four goals across five Premier League matches since the restart, and has risen to the task of replacing Jesus in Mikel Arteta’s squad, allowing the Brazilian to recover in peace. His brace was instrumental in their crucial 3-2 win over Manchester United on Sunday.

Vlahovic has missed Juventus’ last eight Serie A outings with muscle injuries and will have to find a way to make things work under Allegri if he wants to return to the form and promise he showed in Florence.

Cobolli Gigli: ‘History repeats itself with Juventus’

Former Juventus president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli suggested that the club were missing ‘an important person like Beppe Marotta’ following their 15-point deduction.

The Bianconeri have been handed the penalty by the FIGC court for allegedly inflating players’ values to falsify capital gains in their balance sheets. A 15-point deduction was given to Juventus, a punishment that saw them plummet down the Serie A table. They have already announced their intention to appeal.

Speaking to Radio Anch’io Sport, Cobolli Gigli first discussed what he’d say to Andrea Agnelli, who resigned in November amid the investigations into the club.

“I’d thank him for what he did in Juventus’ early years, for the Scudetti he won, also thanks to Marotta’s help. I would tell him that he did wrong to surround himself with a series of people.”

He touched on what to expect from UEFA following the FIGC court’s decision.

“A rigid attitude from UEFA. Evelina Christllin, a member of the FIFA board in the UEFA quota and a Juve fan, has said that it is a heavy blow, that we have to start again with our heads down, but she also pointed out that a series of things were done that led her to distance herself from the Juve management.

“So it is clear that things were done that should not have been done and that an important person like Marotta was missing. I don’t want to deify him, but he was able to manage the sports sector well.”

The former Bianconeri president commented on what further punishments the club could face.

“History repeats itself, in the sense that Juve could be subject to penalties as with Calciopoli, but here the arguments are completely different.

“Calciopoli investigated the unhealthy relationships between teams and referees, here instead it is a discourse that concerns capital gains.

“We are waiting for the FIGC Court of Appeal to publish its appeal to understand the reasons why only Juve were deducted 15 penalty points and the other teams were not.”

Finally, Cobolli Gigli spoke about the next steps and future for Juventus, with the Prisma investigation still rumbling on.

“Juve have appealed to CONI, which may give results, but they will not change the penalty, that is, they can only cancel it or uphold it. Or, as the lawyer Cantamessa says and I trust him, it will be possible to send the judgement back to the Court for a new trial.

“Then there are other things that are not pleasant to hear: the discourse on salaries also touches on penalties, waiting for UEFA to comment.

“Juve’s new board of directors are certainly beset by several very difficult issues. The most worrying thing concerns the salaries manoeuvre, because there could be talk of false accounting.”

Juventus are still at risk of receiving punishment from the ongoing Prisma investigation, headed by the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is focused on alleged secret player salary agreements.

Locatelli: ‘It’s clear off-pitch issues affect us in Juventus squad’

Manuel Locatelli suggested that it was ‘useless to hide’ how the off-pitch issues at Juventus are impacting the squad.

The Bianconeri were handed a 15-point deduction by the FIGC court as a result of a case focused on inflated player values in transfers, with allegations of falsified capital gains. The club have announced their intention to appeal, but for the time being find themselves in the mid-table with 23 points, 14 off the Champions League spots.

Speaking to Sky Sports Italia after Juventus’ 3-3 draw with Atalanta, Locatelli first reacted to the game and spoke about the ongoing off-pitch issues at the club.

“It’s clear that these are situations that affect us, useless to hide it. We just have to respond on the pitch, respect the fans, on the rest we can’t do anything.

“But we’ve united even more as a squad and we have to restart from this.”

He was asked if there was something different in the dressing room following the point deduction.

“Definitely there was, we united more and we have to give everything in every game. We can only do that.”

The Italian midfielder revealed what coach Massimiliano Allegri told his players.

“The coach makes us stay focused only on the pitch and that’s what we have to think about.”

Finally, Locatelli discussed the increased usage of players from the Next Gen squad, Juventus’ second team.

“In this situation it’s nice to have so many young players who give you that extra light-heartedness, tonight we saw some real men and that’s what counts.”

Juventus’ next match is against the Silvio Berlusconi’s Monza on January 29.

Today’s Papers – Juve purgatory, Roma warn Zaniolo

Gazzetta dello Sport

Juve rage

They do battle on the field and in the tribunal

Atalanta twice pegged back: proud response to -15

CEO Scanavino: ‘Summary justice, we are ready for anything’

Gianni Agnelli, 20 years since the death of L’Avvocato

Lippi: ‘He said I was the best thing out of Viareggio since Stefania Sandrelli’

Todt: ‘A fan of such class, he loved Ferrari and Schumi’

Dybala-Abraham, Roma are a show and warn Zaniolo

Inter, captain is running away

Skriniar at San Siro for the last night? PSG want him right away

Milan, anti-crisis advice

Sacchi back on the bench: ‘Pioli must not be afraid, leave out those who are struggling’

Corriere dello Sport

Juve purgatory

From the Champions League dream to the sentence: draw with Gasp leaves them in limbo

Wobble and then reaction against Atalanta: 3-3 comeback thanks to Danilo

Dybala invents and Roma break Spezia: Mou catches Inter

Allegri: ‘We won’t surrender’

Di Maria and Milik on target too

Club: Calvo named Chief Football Officer

El Sha and Abraham seal away victory (0-2)

Special One: ‘Zaniolo will stay’

Inzaghi takes on Empoli

Premier League

Haaland hat-trick and he’s a cyclone: already 25 goals

Record-breaking Norwegian: first at the midway stage

Arsenal, continual break away at the top

CR7 dry, no goal on his debut

Garcia’s Al-Nassr win: Talisca decides, but Ronaldo not effective

Tuttosport

Juve never die

Proud reaction to the damning -15: twice they fight back against a super Atalanta and rediscover their quality

Di Maria: ‘Champions League still possible if we stay united’

Scanavino: ‘We will fight against injustice’

Ilic, Marseille blitz, but Toro won’t let go

Granata fans fear another lost opportunity

French club offer €15.5m plus 3 for Verona’s Serbian midfielder

Now the Hien deal could collapse too

Alternative is Makengo

Inter, bitter Skriniar

Milan on Zaniolo: they challenge Tottenham

Celebration at San Siro with jeers expected

The old Samp honours Vialli: goosebumps

Then Udinese enjoy

Ex-teammates and fans: ‘A life lesson’

Allegri explains Szczesny’s howler and wild goal celebration

Massimiliano Allegri admits Wojciech Szczęsny’s howler that led to Atalanta‘s opener was due to the tension of recent days and explains his wild goal celebration: ‘I am human…’

The Bianconeri were held to a 3-3 draw by Atalanta at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday night in the first match after a 15-point deduction imposed by the FIGC two days earlier.

Allegri had urged his lads to focus on on-the-pitch issues, trying not to think about the penalty and the chaos surrounding the club.

However, during a post-match press conference on Sunday night, attended by Football Italia at the Allianz Stadium, the Italian tactician admitted that his players had felt pressure in the build-up to the game.

“I want to thank the lads, who played a great game. It wasn’t easy. It could have been complicated, but the players proved to be serious and responsible. Two days like these would have killed any other team,” he said.

“It was surreal for everyone, we experienced something similar two months ago after the President [Andrea Agnelli] had resigned,” continued Allegri.

“We had a slow start and the stadium was silent. We have feelings, we are human. Szczesny will no longer make an error like that. The tension caused that mistake.”

The Poland international gifted Ademola Lookman the first goal of the night after four minutes and ended up pushing the shot of the Nigeria international into his own net.

On the other hand, Allegri celebrated wildly when Danilo scored the equaliser in the second half, something we are not quite accustomed to seeing.

“I am human as well. I try to be detached, but I am human. In a situation like this, I celebrated for my lads. They are extraordinary and they proved it. We may win or lose, but they will never lack commitment.”

Napoli lawyer switches tie after Allegri snipe

Juventus coach Max Allegri jokingly pointed out that the lawyer working for Napoli was showing his true colours in a tie choice on television and evidently hit a nerve.

The Bianconeri were docked 15 Serie A points by the FIGC due to inflated transfer fees, which boosted their capital gains and therefore allowed the club to balance the books.

They will lodge an appeal, but more trials are potentially on the way now that the precedent has been set, with Napoli among those who could be in the firing line.

DAZN called on sporting justice expert Mattia Grassani to discuss the situation after Juve’s 3-3 draw with Atalanta, and Allegri immediately pointed out the lawyer’s tie was the same colour as Napoli’s jersey.

“I wish to compliment the lawyer for his tie. A wonderful Azzurri blue,” grinned the coach, much to the amusement of Grassani.

It evidently hit a nerve, because when Grassani appeared as a guest on a different television station a few minutes later, he had changed his tie to a more sombre dark navy.

At least Allegri has not lost his sense of humour, even after losing 15 points in the table.

Allegri: ‘Juventus feel what we achieved was taken away’

Max Allegri praised Juventus for their ability to fight back against Atalanta in a 3-3 thriller, but also ‘remain concentrated’ in the wake of a 15-point Serie A penalty. ‘It feels like having what you achieved taken away.’

This was the first game for the Bianconeri since they were docked 15 Serie A points for inflated transfer fees to boost capital gains and balance the books.

Allegri started out with a joke after seeing the DAZN studio was also linked with lawyer Mattia Grassani, who works for Napoli, explaining the issues around the case.

“I wish to compliment the lawyer for his tie. A wonderful Azzurri blue,” grinned the coach, much to the amusement of Grassani.

“I am from Livorno, so we prefer to laugh and be ironic, but at the same time speak the truth when others don’t quite understand what we mean, so that’s marvellous.”

The mood was not helped when Ademola Lookman scored thanks to a Wojciech Szczesny howler in the opening five minutes, but they turned it around to lead 2-1 by the break with Angel Di Maria’s penalty and Arek Milik.

Atalanta went 3-2 up through Joakim Maehle and a Lookman free header, until Danilo’s free kick routine sealed the 3-3 scoreline.

“Unfortunately, the only thing we got badly wrong this season was in the Champions League. Removing the Salernitana VAR error, we would’ve had 40 points.”

This was referring to a technical error in the draw with Salernitana when Milik’s winner was disallowed for offside because of a blind spot on the VAR cameras that missed Antonio Candreva keeping everyone level.

“The lads played well against a talented, physical Atalanta side, it was not easy to remain concentrated, but they showed professionalism, responsibility and the desire to continue the work we started.

“We have to keep doing our work, which is on the pitch. We must thank the players for what they did this evening, because I realise it is psychologically damaging to see yourself go from second or third place into 10th, it feels like having what you achieved taken away. The players and the staff who worked around them are to be congratulated.”

Allegri continued to hand out both praise and criticism to his players, who won eight in a row with clean sheets only to then lose 5-1 at Napoli and here draw 3-3 with Atalanta.

“I am happy with the reaction on the field, but unfortunately errors were costly. It could’ve ended 5-2 if we lost our mental focus, but we stayed in the game and got it back with Danilo, who is having an extraordinary season and I am glad the goal cancelled out his error at the start of the second half.

“We also had that chance with Miretti, who is very talented, but needs to improve what he does inside the box. He’s had a fair few chances to score now and needs to be calm, because time is on his side. Fagioli did really well, so did Bremer, who basically didn’t turn up the last couple of games.”

Allegri was asked where Juventus dreamed up the Danilo free kick routine, noting it was rather old-fashioned.

“Football is so complicated now, we have to do strange things to get the advantage. Danilo can hit it really hard, that was the secret!”

Juve need an extraordinary comeback in the second half of the season to secure a top four finish after they were docked 15 points, and we still don’t know if there will be more penalties in future.

“I don’t know if we can do it. I think at 71 points, you will probably get into the Champions League. It’s tough, but we have Serie A, the Coppa Italia, the Europa League, so take it one step at a time. It’s impossible to think that far in the future.

“We had 38 points, minus two that were taken away, so we would’ve been up there in front of the others. The fact remains, Napoli are having an extraordinary season.”