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Sunday August 9 2020
Juve risk it all with Pirlo

As Juventus’ appointment of Andrea Pirlo starts to sink in, Livio Caferoglu analyses the risk and reward of backing a great player to become a great coach...

Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, Juventus exceeded all our expectations on Saturday. Maurizio Sarri was sacked in the morning after an unconvincing Scudetto defence and elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais. Then, in the evening, amidst all the speculation of who could possibly replace Sarri, Andrea Pirlo signed a two-year contract to succeed him, barely a week on from being named coach of the Bianconeri’s Under-23 team in his first managerial role.

Make no mistake about it, this may be the riskiest appointment Juve have ever made. Bringing in Sarri last summer was brave enough as it signalled the Old Lady’s intent to scrap the formula that delivered them a succession of Serie A titles, in favour of a more ‘modern’ approach. However, the marriage was doomed from the start. The Bianconeri failed to provide him with players suitable for his system, which didn’t mesh well with the coach’s insistence on playing his way.

Thus, the decision to dismiss the former Napoli and Chelsea boss was made before any more rot could set in. All roads seemed to lead to Mauricio Pochettino, ready-made for Juve on paper, but that would’ve been too much of a sideways step. Instead, they are putting it all on the line, entrusting Pirlo with taking them where his predecessor couldn’t. Whereas sporting director Fabio Paratici poorly tried to pass off Sarri as his ‘first choice’, he had no shortage of superlatives to describe the 41-year-old.

“The decision for Pirlo was very natural, in the Juventus style, because he is someone who as we said just over a week ago played with us, has always been in contact with everyone here and it felt natural,” explained Paratici. “We also believe he is destined for greatness. He was as a player and we think with confidence he can do the same as a coach.

“Andrea has in his mind the same approach to coaching as he does when he played. That’s football of great quality and hard work. He wants to propose a certain type of football, the kind European teams are generally trying to follow, and he was very convincing in his explanation to us.”

The most intriguing aspect of Pirlo’s appointment concerns his complete lack of experience. He becomes the latest legendary figure to manage the team they enjoyed so much success with as a player, following in the footsteps of Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and Frank Lampard at Chelsea. Yet the former Milan midfielder only received his UEFA Pro Licence earlier in the summer and therefore, unlike them, hasn’t served any sort of apprenticeship.

Pirlo worked as a pundit for Sky Sport Italia while taking his coaching badges and prophesised Juve’s problems after Ajax knocked them out of the Champions League two seasons ago, declaring they lacked quality in midfield and that they ‘didn’t know how to get the ball’ to Cristiano Ronaldo. Of course, being a great orator doesn’t necessarily equate to being a great coach (just ask Gary Neville), but his comments would have come as a breath of fresh air to a fan base fed up with the lack of service to Ronaldo.

Not much is known about Pirlo’s managerial philosophy at this stage, but he did recently tell fellow World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro that 4-3-3 was his desired formation, with ‘everyone forward’ and ‘lots of possession’. He then made some revealing remarks at his U23 unveiling, professing his love for passing football but also stressing the need to win. And despite being an admirer of Sarri, the Italy icon suggested he would not be as stubborn, focusing more on getting the best out of the players available to him.

“I have a specific way of playing in my mind, it’s with ball to feet and always going for the victory,” he said. “I hated some things as a player and never want to see them again. Systems aren’t the issue, it’s about occupying the space and working with the characteristics of the players. 

“I would’ve liked to play in today’s Juventus. I like Sarri’s style of football, the playmaker sees so much of the ball and I’d have really enjoyed myself. I need to explain to these lads what Juventus really means. Anyone who plays against us will want to win even more and we must prove ourselves every time.”

A two-year deal suggests Juve will not hesitate in pulling the plug on Pirlo if the job proves too much for him, but he will surely be wrapped in cotton wool with a first-class backroom team behind him. President Andrea Agnelli has high hopes for his high-stakes gamble, allegedly believing he can emulate Zidane by commanding instant respect of the squad, which includes several of his former teammates, among them Gianluigi Buffon, who at 42 is older than his new boss. 

Juve’s grip on Serie A has been a given for the last nine years, but they seem prepared to lose it if it means finally winning the Champions League. It may be that the Old Lady end up with neither as a result of having Pirlo in the hotseat and cause themselves more damage in the long run compared to sticking with Sarri. For them, however, the rewards outweigh the risks. For them, Pirlo holds the best chance of ending 25 years of hurt.

Image: @juventusfc

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Have your say...
He's not even got a coaching license! Should have stuck with Sarri for another year. Pirlo will be sacked before christmas! The team is not good enough and too old now. Will have to rely on Nicchi, Orsato, Irrati and company...again! Out in group stages of CL with no Italian refs. Watch and see.
on the 17th August, 2020 at 4:21pm
@Jay, I think you should marry Pinturicchio. You both identical. A spoiled brat trapped in adult body, so pathetic!
on the 11th August, 2020 at 3:37pm
Guardiola = Very pricey. Wouldn't touch this Juve with a barge pole (even if he was not at MC). Would def want new signings. Needs time to rebuild this mish mash of a team.
Pochettino = Pricey. Would robably want some new signings. Never won a thing in his coaching career. Doubt he will do better than Sarri.
Pirlo = Chreap. Will have no influence whatsoever on the signings. 6 months in and Juve will call a press conf to thank him and his staff for all the hard work and blah blah and off he goes
on the 11th August, 2020 at 8:05am
I'm not saying this would ever have worked, but it does show that Milan didn't actually need to make that many signings in the past 10 years. Also it shows they could've prioritised spending money on a manager. Anyway we'll see how Pirlo does.
on the 11th August, 2020 at 1:19am
Not to take over this thread with Milan stuff (it's just what I know) but here's a starting 11 of active players who were either with Milan before Thiago Silva and Ibra left or subsequently came from our youth team:

Donnarumma

Darmian Thiago Silva Gabbia
Calabria De Sciglio
Cristante Locatelli

Ibrahimovic

Cutrone Aubameyang
on the 11th August, 2020 at 1:17am
see better results. The secret to Juve's success is they've got long term players like Buffon and Chiellini. Milan could've had that if they just hadn't bought or sold anyone in the last 10 years. The money we made from selling Thiago Silva and Ibrahimovic, we blew on endless transfers. Any savings we made by not replacing Allegri with a competent manager, were lost in numerous failed attempts to qualify for the Champions League. It's all quantity over quality. It doesn't work.
on the 11th August, 2020 at 1:05am
@ Vero Rossonero That's useful background but it actually is a classic example of how obsessing over money ends up costing you more. It's like when governments cut expenditure during recessions which just drives the economy further into recession. Most transfer activity seems to be mainly driven by an attempt to make money and usually the only people who benefit are agents and the players' bank accounts (but not careers). If more people just stayed still for more than two seconds we'd probably
on the 11th August, 2020 at 1:02am
Firetruck: Pirlo is going to tell Ronaldo "let me teach you what your free kicks are missing in order for you to be deadlier than me"
on the 10th August, 2020 at 9:02pm
Could you imagine Pirlo with an entry level contract winning the scudetto ? the competition would be saying "Why I pay coach 11 million net year he no can do what new guy do at Juve." The greatest coaches are midfielders, Zidane, Simeone, Allegri, Ancelotti, Lippi, Capello...get my drift ? Under Sarri we did not see one through ball this season yet we still won the scudetto ! Let's see if Juve can play good competitive soccer first, once we do that the results will come
on the 10th August, 2020 at 6:59pm
P.S., Juve's obligation to Sarri is dissolved either by mutual consent or by an agreed severance if Sarri takes another job. So Sarri will either just collect, or if he really wants to go to another club will need to agree with Juve, but it's unlikely a club will want to pay his current rates or that Juve will give him a large severance (assume equal to 1 year). There's a good chance he runs the contract out (2022). This is what is happening with Spalletti, who wants to be paid $$$ to sever.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 6:43pm
(2/2). So for now they're still paying Sarri 20m. Spending even more money on whatever coach is risky, because if they have to dismiss them they're on the hook for that to. Can you imagine 50m disappearing every year? Coaches are like goalkeepers, in that outside the top 5 there is no big difference between the next tier of 6-15. So enter Pirlo. In this case Juve are taking a punt on someone who possibly could be a top 5 manager without paying the 12m per annum for Pocchetino's tier 2.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 6:34pm
@Ben/Maldini. The coaching thing is difficult in Italy given contract law. Unless the contract is dissolved by mutual consent a dismissed coach continues to get his rate. So a large salary is a risk given that coaches are always the fall guy when things go wrong vs. the 11 players on the pitch. Plus, if the club wants to get rid of a "bad" player, or players, they receive transfer money on top of dispensing with the player's salary.

(1/2)
on the 10th August, 2020 at 6:28pm
@Maldini's Heir. It is sad indeed. But that's the late Berlusconi era for you. Also marked by the neglect of the youth system which produced very serviceable players. That continued until recently, as we see Locatelli continuously linked with Juve. Oh well. Let's see if Malini and co. will do differently.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 6:19pm
Pirlo was brought in for 1 reason.... to look CR7 in the eyes and tell him " Hey bro your freekicks are trash... imma let Dybala handle this from now on"
on the 10th August, 2020 at 6:12pm
Pirlo is not risking anything here, if he fails then people will obviously know he was pushed into the deep end. However, one thing Pirlo has that many coaches dont have.... experience in the modern game!! He was just in a UCL final a few years ago and lost.... yeah he knows what happened on the field and in training etc. He knows what worked and did not work. He knows whats needed to boss the midfield!! The last time Zidane or Guardiola played, football was slightly different
on the 10th August, 2020 at 5:38pm
@ Maldini's Heir

You make a very good point, one that I've wondered for years - why are clubs prepared to spend vast amounts on players but not small (in comparison) amounts on a manager, who is potentially capable of building a team greater than the sum of its parts (aka Ferguson). It seems illogical to me.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 4:09pm
Those idiots (Paratici and Nedved) are actually stupid enough to think they have assembled a great team and all they seem to be missing is a coach. Pirlo has been given a massive task and I seriously doubt he is up to it. So what if he WAS a midfield maestro?? That counts for NOTHING in coaching. Its not all about tactics and formations. Remember Ferrara? Had a couple of good results at the start and then it was downhil from there.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 8:38am
‘Juve risk it all with Pirlo’
Pirlo risks it all with Juve - he is taking an enormous gamble. He has a whole professional reputation to lose here and will have to start again (and very much lower than Juve U23 team) if this all goes wrong.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 7:21am
@ Vero Rossonero The saddest thing is Pirlo seems to identify more with Juve than Milan, which is no surprise since it was his last club and he won titles. The fault lies with Milan and Galliani who allowed him to go for free to a rival. It's because other Serie A clubs are so willing to allow their best players to go to Juve that is part of the reason for their success!
on the 10th August, 2020 at 7:01am
@Sagman
Don`t forget Shevchenko. He has successful career with Ukraine national team so far.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 5:44am
Juve hasn't won UCL in 25 years? How about another Italian Champions in a decade?
P.S. It's not a joke
on the 10th August, 2020 at 3:53am
It's nice and interesting to see the Ancelotti coaching tree growing. Gattuso, F. Inzaghi, Nesta, and now Pirlo. Of course Ancelotti wasn't the only manager they played for, but they did all play together at Milan...
on the 10th August, 2020 at 1:11am
It's a damn shame that Pirlo is being thrown into this position without ANY coaching experience. I hope I'm wrong, but I see a repeat of what happened to Seedorf as the coach at Milan. This is too damn soon, literally putting the proverbial cart before the horse. I wanted Sarri out, but this doesn't seem a move in the right direction....
on the 10th August, 2020 at 1:10am
Or are they going to spend $100m on players and nothing on a manager? That would mean they have similar priorties to Milan!
on the 10th August, 2020 at 12:54am
Most of the time clubs prefer to spend big on some mediocre transfer than to trust in a youth player. Cutrone at Milan outperformed Silva, Kalinic and Higuain but they just kept throwing more and more obstacles in the way until finally they achieved their goal of ruining his career. It shows how completely illogical football (and the world generally) is. If Juve really can't afford Pochettino then I'm assuming they won't be signing any players this summer???
on the 10th August, 2020 at 12:53am
One thing that does strike me about Pirlo is it's another example of clubs willing to take risks with rookie managers when those same clubs (and rookie managers) won't take risks with youth players. The manager is the single most important person at the club. He is usually the difference between success and failure. There's a good chance most of those Man Utd teams would not have won anything without Ferguson. Look at Nicky Butt.
on the 10th August, 2020 at 12:48am
I wish Pirlo well. I think it could work out. After all he can rely on the other teams in Serie A to implode or put in 150% whenever they play Juve's immediate rivals. At the end of the day this will be the ultimate test. Could anyone win a title with Juve? We'll see. Otherwise Juve will be joining the rest of Serie A in the land of mediocrity (Atalanta excepted).
on the 10th August, 2020 at 12:45am
I am a little 50/50 on this appointment, however, as with Zizou, he is one of those few players that is respected globally. Even if you have Juve, you simply cannot hate Pirlo. I think that will have some weight in the dressing room. And like he said himself, he won't be as stubborn but try to get the best out of the players available to him. So I wish him all the best. But one thing is for certain, next year Serie A will be amazing!
on the 10th August, 2020 at 12:27am
this is clearly a finances decision. they had pay Sarri 20m. so a to get pocchettino with his 12mil salary would be too much. but pirlo played with some of the best coaches in his career. lippi, allegri, conte, ancelotti. you telling me he wouldnt know how to motivate players. i think he will try to play like ancelotti.u can never know how things will go but to me it is more important to have a good mercato. if you can have good players they can sometimes cover any rookie coach mistake he make
on the 10th August, 2020 at 12:01am
To all the people that think this is a great choice I admire your optimism but wake up! Sources continue to grow that this is a financial choice cause sarri is owed millions plus ronaldo. This isn't the best coach they could have picked and this is a huge risk. If they don't win the Champions League, the season is a failure. If they lose serie a? It's a crisis. They've set up pirlo to fail, how will he win champions League his first year as manager
on the 9th August, 2020 at 10:04pm

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