Juventus legend Andrea Pirlo has a massive managerial job on his hands at a club demanding progress in the Champions League.
Juve stuttered to their ninth consecutive Serie A title in 2019-20 but that wasn't enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job. Now club legend Pirlo, still only 41 years old, takes the reins after a stint with the U23 team.
It's a huge step up for Pirlo who will be fulfilling his first full managerial role, but he has a talented squad of players to work with and commands immediate respect because of his stature within the club.
🇸🇪 Kulusevski primed for Turin
Swedish winger Dejan Kulusevski enjoyed a breakout loan spell with Parma last season and it's expected that he will compete with Federico Bernardeschi for a starting role on Juve's right-hand side. 10 goals & eight assists is a wonderful return for a man who turned 20 in April and was playing in a Parma side struggling for consistency. Bernardeschi, for all of his talent, is a frustratingly inconsistent player and Kulusevski might have a real shot at a starting role.
🔮 Arthur to assume the "Pirlo role"
Whatever you think about the circumstances leading to Juve's acquisition of Brazilian midfielder Arthur from a troubled Barcelona team, the Bianconeri is gaining a top-quality midfield player. And it's the midfield area where Juventus has an embarrassment of riches with the likes of Aaron Ramsey & Emre Can likely to have a fight on their hands for playing time. But if anybody in world football knows the midfield position, it's Andrea Pirlo, and the new boss will surely get the best out of his personnel in the heart of the pitch. Losing Bosnian schemer Miralem Pjanić will be a blow, but 24-year-old Arthur is exactly the man to set the tempo for Juve just as Pirlo did in the black & white stripes.
🌱 Out with the old, in with the new?
36-year-old Giorgio Chiellini and 33-year-old Leonardo Bonucci have served the club with distinction over the years but there's a growing feeling that the respective club captain and vice-captain stalwarts will have to settle for minimized playing time in 2020-21.
After initially struggling to adapt to life in Italy, 21-year-old Matthijs De Ligt flourished after lockdown and showed the world why Juve parted ways with €70m to acquire his services just over a year ago. There's no doubt about the Dutchman's pedigree and now he's showing more authority in games at the highest level, too.
De Ligt is primed for a starting role in Juve's defence and it's up to the others to compete for a spot alongside him. 22-year-old Turkish star Merih Demiral has been desperately unlucky with serious injuries but he's back fit and raring to go and is a man who possesses serious talent. Don't count Bonucci and Chiellini out though, the legendary pair started and kept a clean sheet for Italy in their win over De Ligt's Netherland just two days ago and their experience will be vital in the Juve dressing room.
For so long renowned as a defensive powerhouse team, Juventus has an array of top-shelf centre-backs who can form the bedrock of a genuine Champions League challenge. It's not out of the question that De Ligt and Demiral can blossom into a formidable defensive duo that's spoken of in the same breath as the Italian combination they're learning the trade from right now.
Juan Cuadrado has performed admirably in an unfamiliar right-back role but Pirlo might well be looking to upgrade in that position. Portuguese full-back Nelson Semedo could be a target, considering the current unrest at Barcelona, but Cuadrado would be retained for his versatility and experience.
There have been rumours linking Lyon playmaker Houssem Aouar with a switch to Turin but that is not an area of weakness for Juve, although it's a story worth watching as Aouar is a young player with a big future.
They say that form is temporary and class is permanent, and Juventus will be determined to shrug off their lacklustre finish to 2019-20 and start with purpose in the new campaign. With 35-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo still going strong, anything is possible. The Portuguese icon was 11 years old when Juventus last won the Champions League, he's as desperate as ever to add a sixth crown to his personal collection.
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