Juve call time on Sarri experiment after Champions League flop

Emmeline MOORE
·3-min read

Maurizio Sarri's reign as Juventus coach ended Saturday after just one season, the veteran manager paying for the Italian team's premature Champions League exit.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a 2-1 home win on Friday night, but Juve crashed out on away goals to Lyon, who finished seventh in Ligue 1 this season.

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli said the club would "take a few days to make assessments", but the axe fell swiftly.

Sarri, 61, took over on a three-year deal last season promising a revolution on the pitch after leading Chelsea to the Europa League trophy.

The Italian champions were looking for a new direction to transfer their domestic league dominance into a first European title since 1996.

The stakes were high for Juventus who spent big to bolster their supporting cast around five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo.

Ronaldo was poached in 2018 from Real Madrid, while former Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt signed last summer -- the pair joining from teams that knocked the Italians out of Europe the previous two seasons.

But the former Napoli boss in the end never managed to impose his style and paid the price as Juve failed to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2016.

"Sarri Out!" headlined Turin sports daily Tuttosport on Saturday morning, with Corriere Dello Sport writing: "Adieu Maurizio."

The chain-smoking Sarri, who worked his way up through the lower leagues in Italy to win his first league title with Juventus, was an odd fit.

His predecessor Massimiliano Allegri won five league titles in as many seasons and reached the Champions League final twice.

Allegri is being touted as one of the possible successors along with Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi, Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane and former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.

- Ronaldo a club 'pillar' -

Although Sarri gave the team orders, he adapted to Juve and Ronaldo, who scored 37 goals in total this season, a club record for a player in a single campaign.

Juve were rarely brilliant and often disappointing, losing in two finals, the Italian Cup and the Italian Super Cup.

They won just two of their final eight league games, finishing the season just one point ahead of Inter Milan, to seal a ninth 'Scudetto' in a row.

Financially the Champions League exit is not good news for Juventus, who paid 100 million euros ($115 million) to bring Ronaldo to Italy, on a reported salary of 30 million euros a year.

Ronaldo's contract expires in 2022, but Agnelli insisted the Portuguese forward was "a pillar of Juventus" and would stay despite the bitter disappointment at missing out on the last eight in his native Portugal.

The top scorer in the history of the Champions League with 130 goals and a winner of five titles across spells at Manchester United and Real Madrid, Ronaldo carried the team in Europe.

In the last two years, the only Bianconeri goals in the knockout rounds have been Ronaldo's seven.

He single-handedly lifted Juventus into the quarter-finals last season with a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid.

But time is running out for 35-year-old Ronaldo to turn Juventus's domination at home into the European success they crave.

"Not to take away from the ninth consecutive Scudetto but this club can aspire to much more," said 30-year-old Bosnian teammate Miralem Pjanic.

"We must not belittle what we have done because winning is never easy and this club must continue to do these extraordinary things. 

"In Europe we have to do much more."