Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio: Midfield Duo Behind Italy’s and Juventus’s Surge?

Former Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo made the move to Juventus this summer on a free transfer in what should be his last contract with an elite club. Pirlo now joins an exclusive list of players who have represented Italy’s three most prestigious clubs, Inter, Juve and Milan. In fact, Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only other active player who has worn the shirt of the three clubs. Pirlo is unique not because of some flashy moves or scoring goals but rather his ability to find teammates with incredible passes and his habit of creating danger out of nothing.

Pirlo has been able to add to Juve’s midfield what has been missing in the last few years with his leadership, ability to keep the ball and his calm demeanor. His presence has helped the Bianconeri jump to the top of the table and, more importantly, has freed the likes of Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio to assume roles they are more comfortable completing. Pirlo’s presence has already benefited Marchisio in a very positive way with Claudio having more energy and time to attack the opposition’s penalty area as opposed to worrying about how he is going to receive the ball in dangerous positions.

In simple terms, Pirlo allows Marchisio to shine and Claudio can finally achieve his potential after years of promise plagued by some inconsistency. Marchisio has indeed scored in big matches for Juve in the previous seasons but his statistics this year have already matched those of last season. Claudio scored 4 goals in 2010-11 yet has already managed to find the back of the net 4 times in the opening 9 matches of the current season.

Three of those four goals might turn out to be a deciding factor when the Scudetto is awarded at the end of the 2011-12 season since his double against Milan meant the Bianconeri were able to register a late 2-0 win while his last goal came against Inter to help Juve edge their bitter rivals 2-1. Marchisio has shown a tendency to drift out of games but what has become his trademark move this season is attacking the penalty box and linking well with his teammates to create scoring opportunities. The fine goal against Inter perhaps serves as the best example after an exquisite one-two with striker Alessandro Matri allowed Claudio to expertly place the ball into the back of the net beyond the goalkeeper’s reach.

Marchisio’s ability has also been noted with the Italian national team and he has shown his potential by scoring against Serbia, a team considered by some as the most talented one after Italy in the Euro 2012 qualifying group (despite the failure of the Serbs to make the playoffs, they still boasted players such as Krasic, Vidic and Stankovic with the latter two retiring from the international game after the failure in the qualifiers).

Thus, Marchisio has scored in the three most important matches for his teams this season against Serbia, Milan and Inter. While Marchisio’s contribution shows up on the scoresheet, his club and Italy partner Pirlo has been as influential if not more in certain matches. Pirlo has helped resurrect the Azzurri after a disastrous campaign in World Cup 2010 and his return to form might lead some to ponder what if he and fellow Bianconeri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon were fit for Italy last summer. While it is hard to project how far the Italians would have gone, it might not be far fetched to state the Azzurri would have at least made the 2nd Round in South Africa 2010 as opposed to the acriminous exit from the group stages. Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli has been delighted with the duo’s impact and he will be confident in their ability to carry Italy into the latter stages of Euro 2012.

With Pirlo healthy and playing at a steady level, Marchisio has been able to benefit from his presence and from the advice of coach Antonio Conte who was also a midfielder when he captained the Old Lady for a long stretch during his successful stint lasting over a decade in Turin. Could it be that the return of Conte as a coach and the priceless acquisition of Pirlo along with the rise of Marchisio are going to serve as the main catalyst behind Juve’s return to glory?

It is too soon to make a stand but with each passing round the Bianconeri are making their supporters believe in success; however, the next round will serve as another stern test with the scheduled trip to Napoli. In the meantime, Bianconeri fans will be talking about the passing of Pirlo and the rise of Marchisio while reminiscing of the days when Conte led the Old Lady against the giants of Italian and European football.

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