Neven Raffaele Palladino’s own boss can give an idea of his management style at the beginning of the weekend. “I don’t know him well enough to compare,” said Silvio Berlusconi, Monza’s president. “He worked in our youth system for a while. With our tireless support and technical advice, I believe he will succeed, just as we have offered coaches at Milan for 30 years.”
The sentiment was echoed by Berlusconi’s right-hand man, Adriano Galliani, who recalled Arrigo Sacchi as proof of how well things can go when they make “bold choices” together. Even this was comparing apples to oranges. Sacchi was already a manager before hiring Rimini and Parma. Rossoneri Palladino spent a year with Monza’s under-15s and under-19s each.
This was not an easy moment to hand over the reins to the senior team. Playing his best football season for the first time, Monza could only score one point out of six matches under Giovanni Stroppa. The goal difference between them was minus-11. Oh, and the next game was home to Juventus.
Maybe Palladino liked that last detail. As a player, for several years bianconeriThey score buckets of goals at their academy, go on loan for two seasons, and then come back to help them get promoted from Serie B after being relegated as a result of the Calciopoli scandal. Although it was sold a year later, a mutual love remained.
More than anything, though, he seemed excited to have the chance to actually direct. “I lost my mind for this job,” he said after his appointment was confirmed. “I love her.” By the end of Sunday, Monza’s supporters would fall in love with him.
For the game against Juventus, Palladino adapted Stroppa’s 3-5-2 to 3-4-2-1. The changes in Monza’s shape were mostly subtle – Matteo Pessina poked from midfield and encouraged to switch flanks freely, while center forward Dany Mota fell to the bottom of the middle.
Palladino’s biggest innovation was to enable Patrick Ciurria, who played mostly in the forward position in his career, to start the season at the right-back position for the first time. The manager wanted his team to play on a high line and saw an opportunity to achieve this by acting aggressively on the flanks.
In another year, that might have seemed like reckless audacity. Less against this season’s tame Juventus team. Massimiliano Allegri’s side are technically undefeated in Serie A, but they have drawn four out of six and lost both Champions League fixtures. They were humiliated by Benfica in the last house.
Monza showed no respect for them, set the terms of engagement and determined where and how the game would be played. The same restraints they showed in their first six games of this season continued and their chances to score were rare, but they occupied the parts of the field they wanted and refused to be impressed by the opportunity.
Instead, Ángel Di María, one of Juventus’ most experienced players who lost his head, was ejected in the 40th minute for elbowing Armando Izzo. Halftime gave Juventus a chance to regroup, to rediscover that spirit of challenge that led them to victory despite the difficulties.
They couldn’t. Instead, Monza was emboldened for the second half and pushed the court even higher. In the 55th minute, Palladino sent Christian Gytkjær to replace Mota. With a quarter of an hour left, the substitute got behind the lead-footed Federico Gatti to face a cross from Ciurria and slide him into the close post.
Gytkjær was the hero of last season’s promotion playoffs, scoring three goals against Brescia twice in the away half and Pisa in the two-leg final. Sunday’s goal scored his first best win in his history. Eight minutes of injury time in the second half was still not enough for Juventus to find a response.
It was a stunning result for the hosts, enough to bring Galliani to tears. He missed the goal, continuing the tradition of leaving the stadium to pray at the Monza Cathedral, which he started last season. This is his hometown and the team he supported as a kid. As he reminded reporters before starting: “President Berlusconi and I were in Serie C when we arrived and were losing to Giana and Albinoleffe.”
There is a less romantic way to tell the same story. It was thanks to the former prime minister’s fortune that Monza has climbed two divisions in the four years since Berlusconi took over. They signed players like Turin’s Izzo, Atalanta’s Pessina, Shakhtar’s Marlon Santos and Inter’s Stefano Sensi.
Money talks, but as their bleak start to this season shows, it’s not enough on its own. Time will tell if Palladino can consistently push them to a higher level than his predecessor, Giovanni Stroppa, but the results have been spectacular, from Udinese’s 3-1 defeat of Inter to Atalanta’s widening of their undefeated start with a 1-0 win over Rome. in one day. , then Napoli knocked out Milan at the San Siro – it was he who suffered the most surprising sadness.
The defeat is not expected to cost Allegri his job at Juventus, but many supporters wanted him gone even before this result. Andrea Agnelli has yet to fire a manager mid-season during his 12-year club presidency, and Juventus CEO Maurizio Arrivabene said before starting Dazn: “It would be stupid to change manager. Trying to find someone to blame doesn’t help anything.”
Watching from a box on Sunday while he was suspended, Allegri escaped from positions worse than this. In 2015-16, Juventus team scored eight points after seven games but finished the season as champions with 91 points. This team could have looked very different when Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa returned from injury.
So how much damage will be done by then? Allegri has previously said that this season will play out like two separate campaigns, one before the World Cup and one after. In his view, the purpose of this first chapter should be simply to stay in contention. From that perspective, it’s the European results that look most damaging with the very real expectation that Juventus could make it out of the Champions League in the group stage.
For Juventus’ board, any competitive assessment gets complicated as the four-year contract they awarded Allegri last summer places him alongside José Mourinho as the league’s highest-paid managers. The club is expected to suffer losses of more than 240 million Euros in 2022 accounts. As Arrivabene joked to a fan who urged him to sack Allegri ahead of the Benfica game: “Are you paying for later?”
When Juventus rehired Allegri, they believed they had made the safe choice when they returned to the man they knew best: the one who was there and won it all at home. On Sunday, they were beaten by a gambling club with a man who had never coached a top professional team before.