Just when Juventus fans thought things couldn’t get any worse, or perhaps their season was over after their 4-0 win over Empoli on Friday, they did.
Another Champions League defeat, this time a 4-3 loss to Benfica, ensured Juventus exited the competition at the group stage for the first time in nine years.
It was their fourth defeat in five Champions League games, one of which was a 2-0 loss to fellow Europeans Maccabi Haifa, in a lackluster campaign, and it will only get worse.
Juve host Paris Saint-Germain in their final group game next week and must at least match Benfica’s result at home to Haifa to secure Europa League qualification and avoid being eliminated from European competition altogether.
Sitting eighth in Serie A, already 10 points behind leaders Napoli, and now out of the Champions League, in any other year manager Massimiliano Allegri would likely have lost his job after a series of poor performances.
However, old lady – The Old Lady – in dire financial straits, last month posted losses of 254.3 million euros ($256.95 million) for 2021/22, the biggest loss recorded in Serie A history.
In short, Juve cannot fire Allegri. In May 2021, the Italian signed a new contract at the club worth 9 million euros ($9.06 million) per year, including bonuses, which will expire in 2025.
The question Juventus fans are asking, however, is whether it has become too costly in the long run to keep Allegri and miss out on the Champions League play-offs – and potentially next season’s tournament altogether – with all the revenue that comes with it, or the sacking. now
After the 2-0 defeat against Haifa, president Andrea Agnelli insisted that the club’s finances played no part in the decision to stay with Allegri.
“No, no, you’re completely out here,” he told Sky Italia, according to Football Italia. “It can’t be the coach’s fault if we don’t win a single innings on the field.
“Juventus has always valued the situations at the end of the year. I’ve always had a hard time considering a layoff in one season and I still believe that.
“Allegri is the coach of Juventus and will remain as the coach of Juventus.”
Given the club’s finances, it is perhaps unsurprising that Agnelli is still determined to keep the “European Super League” project going.
Benfica fans, a club that Agnelli and the ESL leadership team do not consider glamorous enough for a place in the competition, will no doubt enjoy the irony of Juve being knocked out of this season’s Champions League.
Of course, this season’s failure can’t all be put on Allegri’s shoulders, as players across the team are underperforming each week.
There’s no denying that the current squad is considerably weaker than Juve’s of recent years, but a miserable eighth in Serie A and the Champions League are still far below expectations this season.
However, it will surely be worrying for Juventus fans to hear that Allegri does not consider this early exit from the Champions League a ‘failure’.
“We are disappointed and angry that we are out of the Champions League,” Allegri told reporters after Tuesday’s defeat, according to Reuters.
“Now we have to focus on the league and we have to stay focused against Paris because we have to book at least a place in the Europa League.
“Tonight we made too many mistakes, but it’s not useful to talk about it now. I don’t consider this a failure. There are also failures in football.”
Allegri may be right on that last point, but if there’s one thing Juventus can’t afford much more this season, both competitively and financially, it’s failure.
Even after losing to Benfica, there can be reason for optimism on the pitch.
The introduction of 19-year-old Samuel Iling-Junior in the 70th minute helped bring Juve back into the game, as the youngster’s two crosses led to goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Weston McKennie.
The England youth international joined Juventus from Chelsea in 2020 and made his first-team debut against Empoli.
Reviving Juve’s season is too much pressure to put on Iling-Junior’s young shoulders, with Federico Chiesa and Angel Di Maria still out with injuries, the teenager is likely to earn more playing time in the coming weeks as the squad are desperate. quality injection
Juventus’ season is far from over, but three huge games against Lecce, PSG and Inter Milan next week could go a long way in determining its outcome.