Christian Vieri was asked on Tuesday to name the best player of the Serie A season in every part of the field: goal, defense, midfield and attack.
He chose Juventus striker Dušan Vlahović forward.
But Vieri added that he chose the version of Vlahovic that flourished in Fiorentina – and not the expensive imitation that is currently working in Turin.
Let us remind you that Vlahović has scored 20 times in 24 appearances for Fiorentina joined Juventus in January for € 75 million (£ 63 million / $ 85 million).
He has since scored just seven goals in 18 appearances, and for the first time this season has failed to find his back in three consecutive league games.
As for Vieri, the reason for the dramatic drop in Vlahovic’s strike rate is quite simple.
“If you play on a team that plays badly, you play badly.” said the former Juve striker Sports Gazette.
But is it really that simple?
Certainly, Vieri is not the only one who thinks that Massimiliano Allegri is to blame for Vlahović’s fights.
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After a difficult start to the season, the coach adopted a rather outdated and pragmatic tactical approach to raise Juve to Serie A.
Undoubtedly it is done, because although the performances were regularly bad, the results speak for themselves.
Indeed, it is worth remembering that the Bianconeri were in the relegation zone after four rounds, and on Christmas they are still only seventh.
With two games to go, they are already guaranteed fourth place – and the entry into the Champions League that comes with it.
However, Vlahovic’s announced arrival was not a key factor in reversing Juve’s form.
He scored only 13 minutes in his debut and it took him only 32 seconds to open his account in the Champions League, but the Serbian national team player often reduced the poor figure ahead.
His frustration was certainly evident after Friday’s shocking defeat to Genoa 2-1.
Vlahović was replaced for 16 minutes until the end and he looked visibly upset as he sat down on the bench.
Some mischievous media inevitably suggested that he was angry at Allegri for taking him down, but, true, he may have been equally annoyed with himself for the gloomy display.
Despite attempts to convey the impression of a quarrel between the coach and the players, Allegri and Vlahović have a healthy working relationship.
Just last week, the couple participated in friendly shooting during training, which Allegri subsequently jokingly claimed won because he was the ‘winner of the next goal’.
“I threw in the last shot, and he scored when it didn’t count,” he told reporters, laughing.
Allegria was alarmed by the suggestion that he was “ruining” one of the world’s best young strikers, spreading rumors of any personal or tactical problems with Vlahovic, he even went so far as to insist he was surprised at how well Vlahovic had done since joining in January.
It is certainly convincing that Vlahović is simply too strict with himself. Like many attackers, he is a perfectionist and gets annoyed when things don’t go his way.
Allegri has alluded to this alleged temperamental series several times, arguing that the 22-year-old must learn how to control his emotions, as well as understand that if he didn’t score, it doesn’t mean he played badly.
However, it is also worth questioning Allegri’s approach.
When Vlahovic arrived, he himself said that Partizan’s product has “qualities” that Juventus lacks. Yet, more than three months later, it seems Allegri is no closer to integrating these special attributes into his game plan.
As Fabio Licari wrote on Monday Gazette, “The top 9 in the league is still a foreign body in this Juve.”
Of course, playing in Juve brings with it a completely different kind of pressure.
“Dusan needs time” said former Bianconera center-half Medhi Benati Gazette. “When you arrive in Turin, you have to cope with the weight of the jersey you are wearing, regardless of salary or price.
“Occasionally, watching TV, I saw him grumbling. That’s not right. He’s a guaranteed starter. Allegri will give him confidence. He just has to be patient.”
Getty / GOAL
Still, his frustration is somewhat understandable, given that the former Fiorentina is far more adventurous and creative than Juve.
In Florence, he averaged a goal every 102 minutes. In Juve, it’s one every 206 minutes.
It could be argued that the decline was due to Vlahovic, whose conversion rate fell from 22.99 percent to 12.5 percent.
But that could be due to the quality and weight of the opportunities provided to him by a less offensive and creative team.
Indeed, it seems significant that Vlahovic gets what Opta he describes it as a ‘Great Chance’ every 160 minutes in Juve, where in Florence he was presented with one every 107 minutes.
Vlahović also recorded fewer shots per game on average (3.6 versus 3.1), and fewer shots on goal (6.1 to 5.9).
Not surprisingly, then, there was widespread ridicule when he was replaced by defender Giorgio Chiellini in a recent game against Venezia, as this was considered a farcical illustration of how inconsistent he is with Allegri’s football philosophy.
Again, the counter-argument is that the Tuscan did what he needed to do to save Juve’s season.
He was undoubtedly under a lot of pressure to finish fourth, as a failure to qualify for the Champions League would create all sorts of financial problems for his employers.
Some, therefore, claim that Juve will adopt an attacking style next season, which is far more likely to get the best out of Vlahovic.
It would certainly help him to acquire a new attacking midfielder, a regular player in front and the return of Federico Chiese from injury.
“Juve are in a period of change, also in a generational sense, and they are facing difficulties, especially in the midfield.” said former Fiorentina striker Luca Toni Gazette.
“Allegri is very good, but he is struggling to find a midfielder capable of supplying the attack, and when Vlahović plays low, he is forced to play far from the goal.
“Chiesa’s injury was a real disaster for Dušan as well, but if he stays calm, and doesn’t ask for goals at all costs and continues to help the team, he will soon be back again to score.”
It would certainly be surprising if Allegri did not have a player plan in which Juve invested a lot, believing that a generational talent is worth building his new project.
And despite the irresistible nature of the campaign so far, there have been no suggestions that club president Andrea Agnelli intends to fire the man he now believes was a mistake to part with since 2019.
Clearly, Juve believe that both Allegri and Vlahović are an integral part of their future success.
Their current goal, in turn, is fame at Coppa Italia. A victory in the eagerly awaited clash with Inter on Wednesday at the Stadio Olimpico would give Juve a huge boost for next season.
Allegri also needs a win in order not to become the first Juve coach since Luigi Delneri 2010-11. who failed to lift at least one trophy during one campaign.
It won’t be easy, of course. Inter is undoubtedly the favorite to win.
Juve played surprisingly well in the eliminator in the Serie A title race against Scudetto fighter Simone Inzaghi in April, but was eventually penalized for lack of a blade.
So while Allegri could be happy with Vlahovic he has seen in Turin so far, he could really figure out how to make the Fiorentina version appear in Rome.