On Friday night, despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s valiant efforts, Serie A giants, Juventus, surrendered their Champions League quarter-final spot to Ligue 1 side, Lyon.
Memphis Depay’s spot-kick in the 12th minute put Juventus in an impossible situation, forcing them to score three goals in the next 80 minutes to keep their Champions League dream alive.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace secured a 2-1 win on the night, but the 2-2 aggregate scoreline put Lyon through to the last-eight.
Maurizio Sarri, who had left Chelsea to serve the most successful club in his country, was held responsible for Juventus’ hapless displays in Europe.
And as a consequence, he was let go only hours after the shocking result. A replacement has been brought in — a club favourite in the form of Andrea Pirlo.
Yet, for the time being, not many are hopeful about his upcoming stint in the Juventus dugout.
Newly-appointed Juventus coach, Andrea Pirlo, is widely revered as one of the most celebrated midfielders of his generation. Of course, he took his sweet time to make a name for himself, but once he did, there was no turning back.
At his peak, the Italian midfielder used to sit deep, scope the entire field of play, and put in pin-point passes for team-mates to exploit. He redefined the ‘Regista’ role in Italian football, and for that, Juventus, AC Milan, and the entire footballing fraternity will always be grateful.
However, despite the technical acumen and vision, it’s hard not to take a long hard look at Juventus’s decision of hiring the Italian.
The Serie A holders clearly want to follow Real Madrid’s footsteps — want to give Andrea Pirlo the platform to replicate Zinedine Zidane’s achievements.
As we’ve seen in recent years, it is indeed possible for a great player to be a great manager. So, technically, Pirlo does have the opportunity to extend his legacy in Turin.
Still, all things considered, giving the reigns of one of the greatest clubs to an Under-23 manager — a role he was handed only a week ago — seems rash, especially considering the gargantuan task he has at hand.
The new Juventus coach won’t just be judged on his domestic performances. He will be judged on the Old Lady’s performances in the Champions League.
After monopolising Serie A, Juventus are desperate to nick their first Champions League trophy in 25 years, and it’d be on Andrea Pirlo to get the job done — something the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Didier Deschamps, Max Allegri, Claudio Ranieri, Fabio Capello, Antonio Conte, and Maurizio Sarri couldn’t manage.
The potential outcome
Given the recent track record, it would be foolish to judge Andrea Pirlo only a couple of days after his appointment. However, that shouldn’t keep us from calculating the odds of success.
Battered by the coronavirus, Juventus, like most of the other top clubs, do not have the firepower to revamp their squad in the summer. So, barring a miracle, Andrea Pirlo would have to work with the same, ageing squad Maurizio Sarri left.
He’s unlikely to have a proper number 9 to exploit the space behind the opposition back-line. He’d still have to manage a 35-year-old star, knowing that he’s Juventus’ strongest asset on any day of the week.
He’d still have to find a way to take the fight to the best teams in Europe, knowing that none of his recent predecessors managed to do so. To top it off, he’d need to prove his authority in the dressing room, show some of the biggest names in the world that he was the right man for the job.
Juventus’ disappointing title defence could also add to Andrea Pirlo’s worries. Every Serie A team would look to make a statement, especially after seeing Lyon’s exploits. The Bianconeri lost three of their last four Serie A games, which, in many ways, is a perfect reflection of their current mentality.
Andrea Pirlo, who never managed a senior team in his career, is up for a humongous challenge. Juventus and their fans have sky-high, albeit impractical, expectations from the new recruit, thinking he’s the man to deliver the Champions League.
A year from now, Juventus faithful could look back and consider it to be the starting point of something beautiful. They could thank their lucky stars that Andrea Pirlo didn’t let the club down, agreed to take on a challenge.
However, for the time being, all of it is only a distant dream, infested by uncertainties and turmoil. For now, Pirlo has to devise a plan, find a way to prove his mettle, and remind the players what the Juventus crest truly stands for.