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Juve enter uncharted waters with Pirlo at helm

Rome (AFP) – As a player, Andrea Pirlo was a genius on the ball. But as a coach the former Italy and Juventus star remains an unknown quantity. 

The ‘Maestro turned Mister’ starts his reign on the Juve bench against Sampdoria on Sunday, in a debut season expected to reap a 10th consecutive Italian league title and a first Champions League in 25 years.

He is expected to do all this while establishing a more attractive, fluid style of football deemed to be lacking under predecessors Massimiliano Allegri and Maurizio Sarri.

High expectations for a 41-year-old novice who only received his professional coaching licence on Wednesday, days before the 2020-2021 season gets under way.

“It’s Juve, it’s normal to have to win. It was the case as a player, it will also be as a coach,” warned Pirlo.

His arrival at Juventus has sparked hopes in Italy that he can follow footballing greats Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola’s managerial success.

The former Italy and Juventus star stepped in after Sarri was ejected after just one season following the team’s Champions League last 16 exit to Lyon. 

Juve hope Pirlo, who won a World Cup, two Champions Leagues and six Italian league titles, can transmit his winning mentality as well as his vison of the game.

“They say of him that he is predestined, but Guardiola or Zidane, when they started, they already had a little experience as a coach,” said former Italy teammate Fabio Cannavaro. 

“The idea of the game, he has it, clearly. But now he will have to be able to transmit it to a group,” added the coach of Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.

His first weeks as a coach were devoted to dialogue with senior players, reported to have been lacking under 61-year-old Sarri.

“He’s really relaxed. He understands the mentality of the players on the pitch since he has recently stopped playing. He knows Juventus very well,” said defender Danilo.

“He has even participated in a couple of training sessions in the last few days and is still incredible.”

“If we have any injuries, who knows? Skill-wise, he can still do it,” the Brazilian joked.

“He knows how to get his message across, talk to players one on one, to get the best out of them.

“He has applied some really good tactical ideas and is clear on how he wants his team to play, which I really like. The first few days with Andrea were really positive.”

– ‘Burden of expectation’ –

After the opening against Sampdoria on Sunday, Juve face potentially tricky ties at Roma before hosting Napoli.

Roma legend Francesco Totti believes that his former World Cup winning teammate may have bitten off more than he can chew.

“It is a trend born from the success of Zidane. When a coach who has been a champion speaks, the locker room listens because it respects him. 

“It is not normal for a novice to receive an assignment burdened with such expectations.

“Of course there must be a technical ability, if the champion is a bluff he is discovered and it all ends. 

“Pirlo is a golden person, I sincerely hope he will make it.

“Andrea will have to be Pirlo, that is to say a champion, even on the bench. And immediately ”

Pirlo began his playing career at his hometown team Brescia in 1995 and went on to play for Inter, AC Milan and Juve before moving in 2015 for two seasons with New York City FC in the MLS.

Capped 116 times for Italy, the midfielder was a key figure in the team that won the 2006 World Cup.

Since the end of his playing career in 2017 Pirlo has been discreet in the world of football, mainly working as a television pundit.

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