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Pirlo: Football doesn’t change, the way you play does

Juventus’ former coach speaks to James Horncastle in his first interview since leaving the job

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Bologna FC v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/Getty Images

With the new season just a couple of days away it’s been easier to forget what transpired last season as Juventus finally relinquished their stranglehold on the Scudetto, finally letting someone else win the Serie A title after ten consecutive successes.

Former player and footballing legend in waiting Andrea Pirlo was relieved of his duties at the end of the season after just one year in the job, with the club deciding to go back to the sage and venerable experience of Massimiliano Allegri for this upcoming campaign.

Since then, Pirlo has mostly maintained a low profile but finally emerged this week with an interview with venerable Italian football journalist James Horncastle in The Athletic. While the original article is behind a paywall, here are a couple of excerpts from the piece which have particular relevance to us as Juventus fans.

Like most Italians, Pirlo basked in the glow of a wonderful summer in many fronts with the country not only finally getting a grip on the rampant COVID pandemic, but then excelling on a number of sporting and cultural fronts - winning the Eurovision song contest, lifting the European Championship title as the unanimous best side in the tournament, and then capped off with a brilliant showing at the just-ended Tokyo Olympics where the won medals in flagship events like the 100 metres men’s sprint and the men’s high jump as well.

The coach was particularly thrilled by the job Roberto Mancini has done with the Azzurri -

“There’s no greater joy than winning with the national team. Mancini did a great job. The team has a clear identity and plays almost like a club side. They knew what to do from the start.”

A particular strength of the side has been the strong backbone of veterans like his former teammates Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci playing prominent roles and melding well with a young and exciting core of upcoming players.

“Football doesn’t change. There are still a couple of goals you have to defend and score in. That will never change. But the way you play does; the way of interpreting games, how players move, that’s what has changed. Today you need quick players who are technically excellent when playing at pace, excellent in one-v-ones. In the past, it was a bit different. Something can happen every year that can change how football is played.”

Despite how the season ended for Juve with the club needing results elsewhere to go in their favour to secure Champions League football and then his dismissal from his job, Pirlo insists that he wouldn’t change a thing and it’s all been a teaching moment for him.

“I’m not going to change it because some of the results weren’t good. That’s still how I think about the game — playing out from the back, looking to keep the ball, regaining possession as quickly as possible. A lot depends on the players you have available to you and what they enable you to do. Players are much more important than coaches. It’s the coaches who must adapt.

“I learned a lot. It was my first experience as a coach but it was very intense because we started the season with only one friendly game. It all went very quickly. We played every three days, without fans, without being able to recover and without being able to train and prepare for the next game. It was difficult to try something new. Recovery was more important.

“It was a year in which I had a lot of personal growth,”

Pirlo showed that penchant for adaptation with the hybrid formation he lined the Bianconeri up in, starting with a 4-4-2 without the ball and then got the players changing to a 3-2-5 when attacking. It’s not hard to believe that some point in the future when he has made his mark on the world game that he could return to Juve with a lot more experience to lead his former club to greater glories once again, but for now he is continuing to expand his coaching repertoire as he readies himself for another job.

“I’m looking at lots of different coaches. You can learn from anyone. I’m watching games and training sessions online. Once it’s easier to travel, I’ll go watch some in person. I bumped into Mauricio Pochettino on holiday in Ibiza and he asked me to swing by Paris and say hello. If I can, I’d like to go to Manchester to see Guardiola.

“I am ready to embark on a new adventure.”

Click here to read the full article, it’s definitely worth your time.