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Juventus success reliant on the liberation of Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo has been entrusted to deliver UEFA Champions League success at Juventus
Andrea Pirlo has been entrusted to deliver UEFA Champions League success at Juventus
Mark Pitman
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Modified 18 Aug 2020
Feature

Andrea Pirlo was labelled as l'architetto during his international career with the Italian national team, and while his influence was unquestionable in the colours of the Azzurri, he has been granted full autonomy in his latest project as he takes charge of Juventus in his first managerial post.

During his time as a player at Juventus between 2011 and 2015 he was known as il professore and maestro. The nicknames were inherited through his ability to read the game ahead of anyone else on the field, and his talent to exploit the space left by those who were not on the same page. Pirlo was a silent genius who spoke through his actions rather than words.


A brave new world

But now Andrea Pirlo will not have the ball at his feet, and the space that opens up in his mind as he watches on will be for others to take advantage of. Management could prove hugely frustrating for one of the most talented and decorated players in the history of the Italian game, and his success will depend on his ability to deliver his knowledge when his game was based on producing defining moments on instinct.

Lifting the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Andrea Pirlo later confessed to feeling no nerves or pressure on the afternoon of the match against France. His preparation centred around his games console and the occasional nap. He dismissed any notion of pressure, with his mind seemingly in total harmonic balance with his style of play as he effortlessly became a world champion.

Andrea Pirlo played over 100 games of Italy during his career
Andrea Pirlo played over 100 games of Italy during his career

As a player, Andrea Pirlo also lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy twice and claimed six Serie A titles during a glittering career that began at Brescia. Defined by a decade at AC Milan, Andrea Pirlo became the central figure in setting the tone and balance of each and every team he represented, playing with a sophistication that set him culturally above his peers.

Like the wine produced at his vineyard, Andrea Pirlo evolved into a fine vintage, enjoyed by all but only fully-appreciated by the calcio connoisseurs who were able to understand the mental and physical mechanics that made the moments of genius that set him apart from the rest possible. History will be kind to his legend when he is discussed by future generations.


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The chase for UEFA Champions League glory

Andrea Pirlo is one of the most decorated players in the Italian game
Andrea Pirlo is one of the most decorated players in the Italian game

But this is a new challenge for Andrea Pirlo, even though the domestic domination of Juventus lends itself to likely success. However, the scudetto is no longer enough to excite those in corridors of power at I Bianconeri, and it is the UEFA Champions League trophy that predecessor Maurizio Sarri paid the price for failing to deliver.

While Andrea Pirlo emerged from the 2006 FIFA World Cup final as a champion, the match is best remembered for the actions of Zinedine Zidane. Playing the last match of his career, his infamous red card remains one of the most memorable moments in the history of the modern game. However, while his actions cannot be condoned, as a manager he has set a new standard.

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Zinedine Zidane pushes the ball past Andrea Pirlo during the 2006 FIFA World Cup final
Zinedine Zidane pushes the ball past Andrea Pirlo during the 2006 FIFA World Cup final

In his first managerial post at Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane won three consecutive UEFA Champions League trophies. An incredible achievement that has prompted other leading teams to turn to recent club legends. Figures that remain relevant to the high-profile players that they will coach, the immediate respect is a factor Juventus will hope inspires the current squad under Andrea Pirlo.


Why Andrea Pirlo will command respect

Like Andrea Pirlo, Zinedine Zidane is considered to be a man of few words, but when such respected figures speak, they are inevitably and intently listened to. Their successful playing careers demand attention in the changing room regardless of the status of the individuals present, but it is a luxury that has an expiration date.

While Andrea Pirlo will be given the opportunity to show his managerial credentials, he will also need to deliver a plan that his players will buy into. He will need to be strong to make changes, and he will need to stay committed to whatever playing philosophy and style he chooses to base his game upon. He will need to confident and clear in what will be a leap into the unknown.

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But to reflect Andrea Pirlo the player as Andrea Pirlo the manager will require the liberation of his genius upon others. No longer can his natural talent remain unwritten, and he must communicate what made his game beautiful into a transferable format. If his team cannot play like Andrea Pirlo, which is the natural expectancy, then what makes him different to any other?

Andrea Pirlo is a true great of the Italian game
Andrea Pirlo is a true great of the Italian game

During his playing career, Andrea Pirlo worked under some of the best managers in the business for club and country, and he will have an appreciation of what was good and bad. His experiences will shape his managerial approach, but it will be his ability to successfully convey his own philosophy that will prove the most genuine aspect of this bold new chapter.


The tactical expectancy of Andrea Pirlo

There is no pre-conceived idea of the tactical approach Andrea Pirlo will bring to Juventus. He will have an appreciation for players that can produce moments of brilliance; the creative geniuses that he can relate with. Aaron Ramsey was used sparingly under Maurizio Sarri, but the Welshman has more similarities in his game to Andrea Pirlo than the former manager ever utilised.

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Aaron Ramsey is a similar player to Andrea Pirlo
Aaron Ramsey is a similar player to Andrea Pirlo

But the future of Aaron Ramsey at the club remains in the balance, and the immediate focus will be on ensuring that talisman Cristiano Ronaldo remains part of the project for this new era. If Andrea Pirlo can instil a creative and attacking ideology, it may be enough to charm the Portuguese into accepting the appointment could be to his benefit.

However, with the exception of his spell at New York City at the end of his career, Andrea Pirlo has been entrenched in the Italian game. Representing Brescia, Reggina, Juventus and both Milan clubs as well as the Italian national team on 116 occasions, the play-maker has also been educated and exposed to the defensive catenaccio elements that traditionally define the culture of the Italian game.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be key to Andrea Pirlo achieving success at Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo will be key to Andrea Pirlo achieving success at Juventus
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The strength of personnel and the level of expectancy at Juventus demands an attacking approach, and for that reason alone the immediate intention of Andrea Pirlo will be to take the game to the opposition. Nothing less than a positive system will be tolerated, but their defensive frailties will need to be addressed if Champions League success is to follow.


Delivering under pressure

Andrea Pirlo must transfer his knowledge to his Juventus team
Andrea Pirlo must transfer his knowledge to his Juventus team

Having previously confessed to not feeling the effects of pressure during his playing career, it will be intriguing to see how Andrea Pirlo copes when he stands alone on the sidelines, unable to magic the previous moments of brilliance that were so often the difference between success and failure for his teams as a player.

And he will need to deliver quickly. His status at the club and the European game has presented Andrea Pirlo with this opportunity, but it will not guarantee him any extra time. It is a brave appointment by Juventus and a huge challenge for his first managerial position. Either way, this next chapter in the story of one of the true greats of the Italian game is set to be an intriguing one.


Published 18 Aug 2020, 01:14 IST
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