The Serie A title is merely an expectation rather than a celebration these days for Juventus, given how they have won 36 league titles, which is 17 more than Inter and Milan's 19 each. As a result, all attention for a manager to succeed in Turin falls on the Champions League, as Maurizio Sarri brutally found out last year when he was sacked after failing to beat Lyon over two legs, despite winning the league and finishing as runners-up in the Coppa Italia.
Now, with Pirlo at the helm, things might be different. He may not have brought European success back to Turin during his four years at Juventus, but Pirlo played a key role in winning the Champions League twice with Carlo Ancelotti’s famous AC Milan sides. Even though that does not guarantee he will be capable of replicating it as a manager, the former midfield master should be given time to show what he can do in what is set to be yet another wide-open Champions League competition.
Even so, Juventus cannot afford another transition spell like they had with Sarri, especially in mid-season, but even he was able to win the Serie A title, so if Pirlo ends the season with just the Italian Super Cup to show for, Andrea Agnelli and the rest of the Juventus board may not have much patience, meaning the Champions League may be his only bailout.
They have been drawn against Porto for the last 16, a very similar level of opposition to the Lyon side which knocked them out in last season’s turbulent campaign as the two legs were played over five months apart. Now, anything but qualification for the quarter-finals will be disastrous, so Pirlo may opt to put all his eggs in the European basket to ensure the side are not humiliated again like they were by their French opponents in August.
Juventus have by far the biggest squad in Italy and Pirlo needs to utilise it, Serie A is still very much a possibility for a side that has fought off everybody for nine consecutive years, but if that become unattainable, Pirlo needs to rally his troops in order to reach the latter stage of Europe’s most illustrious tournament, otherwise, he may become yet another member of the 2006 Italian golden generation who has failed in management.
By Andrew Delaney