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Is a storm brewing between Sarri and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Tuesday 12th November 2019
Maurizio Sarri may need to keep Cristiano Ronaldo happy to succeed at Juventus
Maurizio Sarri may need to keep Cristiano Ronaldo happy to succeed at Juventus

A 2-1 victory over Inter last month was what it took for Juventus to climb to the top of the Serie A table. The club's loyal supporters heaved a sigh of relief after contemplating the prospect of losing their crown to Antonio Conte's resurgent side. Although the Nerazzurri are still hot on their heels, the Zebras know all the have to do is keep winning and there will be no cause for alarm. But achieving that will require key players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain firing on all cylinders, while the whole club will have to be at its best.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case so far this season. At a time when Lazio's Ciro Immobile is running away with the Golden Boot, Ronaldo and his cohorts are playing catch-up as far as goal scoring is concerned. The Lazio forward is on fire and has netted 14 times in 12 league games to take his side to third in the standings. Although the reigning champions lead the way in the race for the Scudetto, they have struggled several times to put games to bed. Winning has not come as naturally as it has been in campaigns gone by.

That has led Maurizio Sarri to seek solutions.

Realising that his star man has not been in top form, the manager has elected to make some radical decisions. Substituting a player during a match, any player for that matter, is usually at a gaffer's discretion. Except that as Zinedine Zidane found out seasons ago Ronaldo is not just any player... Barcelona's Ernesto Valverde does struggle with the decision to do the same concerning the other guy and that's certainly not surprising...

When was the last time the world saw monsters in the game like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? Both Sarri and Valverde must be super-fortunate to have the honour of managing such players. However, it comes with a huge burden. A manager must go out of his way to please them. "If Leo is happy, Barcelona is fine," some have said. The same applies to Ronaldo wherever he's at.

One of the reasons the Portuguese gave for leaving Real Madrid was as a result of not being appreciated enough. At Juve, he was given a rousing welcome and is the king. But it appears Sarri hasn't read the memo. Ronaldo is not feeling special and he's letting his manager know by throwing tantrums. Yet, the former Chelsea gaffer isn't paying attention, which could be a recipe for disaster.

Juventus brought in the 60-year-old to continue league dominance. That's the first item on the to-do list. Winning the Champions League is another even more important item on the agenda. Sarri will need Ronaldo more than any other player in the squad to carry out that duty. Therefore keeping him happy must, obviously, be a priority.

However, Sarri's decision to pull off the 34-year-old in two recent games was justified. Dybala has come in to change the games and help secure wins. Yet, that will not be enough to placate the five-time Ballon d'Or winner. The former Napoli boss will need to do better than playing down the tantrums. He needs to have a meeting with the player where both parties will come to an agreement on the best way forward.

Although Eden Hazard is not Ronaldo, the Italian gaffer was able to manage the superstar Belgian pretty well at Chelsea. It's time for the Italian to take his man-management to the next level and only then can he keep Ronaldo and the rest of the squad happy and firing once again.  If the opposite happens, Sarri and Juventus could face severe consequences. Failure to win the Scudetto and progress in the Champions League could well come back to bite both the Italian manager and the Old Lady...

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Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.


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