“The Barcelona King is dead and Juventus can slip on to the throne,” mused Arrigo Sacchi of the Champions League race.
The first leg ties in the Round of 16 provided many talking points for former Milan and Italy tactician Sacchi, above all Barcelona’s 4-0 mauling by Paris Saint-Germain.
“The Barcelona King is dead,” declared Sacchi in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “There is another sovereign who continues to impose his rule, Real Madrid, but also space for a newcomer to slip on to the throne.
“I see Juventus perfectly suited for that role. They are improving and, at the moment, are the favourites along with Real Madrid to take the trophy.
“For some time, Barcelona have not been the old Barcelona. In La Liga they also beat the weak clubs with ease, but struggle with stronger sides. You no longer see that aggressive, organised and hungry team we so admired.
“The Catalans dominated for 10 years, imposing a style of play that was at times truly marvellous. They gave a football lesson to the whole world.
“Now they’ve hit a brick wall and even Leo Messi can’t skip past his many anymore, because the whole machinery of the team is broken down.
“I always say that to succeed you require, in order of importance, a club, good football and the players. Without an idea of what football to play, the individuals will get you nowhere.
“Juventus have a strong club with clear ideas. Their Coach Max Allegri is capable, intelligent and efficient, with players who interpret the instructions well.
“It’s true I criticised Allegri, because I knew he could give more. He wasn’t very generous in terms of entertainment before and was too prudent. He did the bare minimum, a goal and then clam up.
“Now his team seeks more goals and is aggressive. You can also tell there has been a step up in quality. For example, Gonzalo Higuain is an exceptional centre-forward, but has never been a leader. At Juve, thanks also to the work done by Allegri and the directors, has become a reference point for his teammates.
“This Juve squad has all it takes to go all the way in the Champions League. The important thing is that they play with joy and the sheer desire to get out there with a football.”
Bayern Munich are also contenders after crushing Arsenal 5-1 and their tactician is Carlo Ancelotti.
“I spoke a lot with Carletto recently,” continued Sacchi. “I told him this is a strange season where anything could happen. When a King falls, it opens up a seat.
“I won’t put Bayern on the same level as Juventus and Real Madrid because they lack that ferocious motivation. At Juve, for example, there are players who know it’s their last chance to win silverware and will give heart and soul to get there.
“Bayern players seem to be not all that passionate. Mind you, if there’s any Coach that can spark them into life, it’s Carletto. He has a truly phenomenal way of talking to and communicating with his players.”