The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.
Juventus delivered the perfect response to those who claimed that the champions have been vanquished after a flat performance against Inter Milan over the weekend, putting together a solid performance to beat a competitive Napoli side to lift the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday night.
Speaking after the triumph, coach Andrea Pirlo was jubilant.
“I feel great joy, lifting my first trophy as a coach is different, I think even better than as a player, because I am leading such a great squad and at an historic club. It’s wonderful.
“It’s rare that two teams play well in a Final, the important thing is to win. When you play with this determination, then luck can go on your side.
“We wanted to prove that we are not the team seen against Inter, so when you play with this grit, determination and attitude, you draw luck your way.”
In his book Pirlo spoke often of the pranks he would play on Gennaro Gattuso, seeking to bring out the red mist in their simple teammate, often successfully. Rino since then has grown his wings in a managerial role, and has led Napoli above Juve too in the league table.
“We are two coaches on two important benches, it’s a different type of work now. I am disappointed for Rino, but happy for me. We were too concentrated for joking around on the touchline tonight!”
Juan Cuadrado was a surprise inclusion in the starting XI after finally testing negative for COVID the morning of the game and then passing a hurried medical. The Colombian fullback was excellent on the night, giving the Juve attack a much-needed boost.
“Fortunately, he was asymptomatic for these 15 days. He was therefore able to train at home, he did it very well, we didn’t think he’d last the full 90 minutes, but evidently he did a great job.
“Arthur played when he was in good shape, but he arrived without playing for a few months at Barcelona, so he needed a while to get into gear. He then picked up a nasty injury.
“He proved himself tonight, he played in a slightly less centralised role today so that he could give Rodrigo Bentancur more space when building from midfield. He brings great quality on the ball, so we’re holding on tight.”
His thoughts on league leaders AC Milan signing former Juventus fan-favorite Mario Mandzukic?
“Milan have found a player with very precise characteristics who can fit their style of football, so it’s a very good signing for them.”
Pirlo has received plenty of criticism in his first fulltime job as coach, with many claiming that he is unprepared for the role.
“Since the start of the season we’ve been trying to play this fluid style of football, but unfortunately every week someone is missing, so it’s difficult for us to keep the same line-up with any regularity.
“After the game the other night, we didn’t deserve that much criticism considering all we’ve done this season, so I am glad they got this trophy tonight.”
How does he handle the media pressure, which vilifies him after every poor performance and then deifies him after every corresponding victory.
“It’s part of the game, it’s easy to build people up and knock them down. I’m used to it, though, as I had ups and downs in a very long playing career. I know there’s a solid club behind me, so I can focus and continue doing my work.
“It’s natural there is going to be criticism when you come from nowhere to lead Juventus, but the results will speak for me and the team.”