Gigi Buffon hit back at Juventus fans calling Antonio Conte a traitor for joining Inter, while he sees Maurizio Sarri as the Bianconeri “breaking away towards pastures new. He’s not a revolution or a gamble.”
The goalkeeper sat down for a lengthy interview with the Corriere dello Sport newspaper and discussed the changing landscape of Serie A tacticians.
“What really did upset and hurt me was seeing some Juve fans calling for Conte’s star in the hall of fame to be removed after he joined Inter.
“I feel that I am within the Juve world, I know the directors, players and fans well, so I know what Antonio gave to the club and what he represented.
“He squeezed out every last drop of sweat for Juve, giving all of himself. As a player, he never held back for the good of the team. As a Coach, he carried the squad on his back and dragged them to success with total clarity and never stopping for breath. In three packed seasons, he never once let his focus slip.
“I have a rapport of great respect and closeness with Antonio, as when we get together, we immediately sense confidence, intimacy and reciprocal respect. He tends to be a diffident man, so that is unusual.
“Professional choices, even when surprising, cannot blemish such an intense past as his. He never betrayed Juventus, he isn’t the type to kiss the shirt, publicly back the project only to then behind the scenes stoke conflict.
“I consider his return to Serie A important for the whole Italian football scene, the same way I do Paolo Maldini, Zvonimir Boban and Maurizio Sarri.
“Last year, Carlo Ancelotti did the same at Napoli. Carlo has international stature, has a packed trophy cabinet, he raised the level of Napoli’s appeal and prestige. The club gained from his presence immediately.”
Just as some Juventini are raging at Conte for taking the Inter job, there are Napoli fans – and some players like Lorenzo Insigne – calling Sarri a traitor for accepting the call from Juve.
“You can’t compare 15 years of Conte at Juve with Sarri’s three at Napoli,” argued Buffon.
It wasn’t just the Chelsea tactician’s choice that seemed unexpected, but also the Old Lady calling someone so very different in style to Max Allegri.
“I have experienced how competent President Andrea Agnelli, directors Fabio Paratici and Pavel Nedved are. Those who follow the same path will always achieve the same results, so Juve are seeking the Champions League and wanted to try breaking away towards pastures new.
“It’s because the squad is frankly difficult to improve any more. Sarri is not a revolution, nor a gamble. He simply represents an untested path, a whole other story.”
Allegri won five consecutive Serie A titles and reached the Champions League Final twice, yet was pushed out the door with a year left on his contract.
“The class with which he dealt with that goodbye was exceptional. I thought it was the right moment to call it a day, both for him and the club, as Juve needed something new.
“Nobody could’ve done better than Max over the last five years. Nobody.”
The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo probably put more pressure on Allegri to deliver in the Champions League, so going out in the quarter-finals to Ajax was considered unacceptable.
“I don’t think Ronaldo chose to come to Italy so much as he chose Juve. If you’ll allow me to say, it’s a different reality to the others.
“We met up in Turin and I don’t think Ronaldo is pretending to be the perfect champion. He is simply someone who set himself personal and professional goals and spent all his life trying to achieve them. He sets the example.”
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