Juventus rolled back the years in announcing a one-year contract extension for veteran players Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini this week, while they also look set to bring back a club legend to oversee their U23 side.
Andrea Pirlo retired from the game in 2017, at the end of a stint in MLS with New York City FC, his sense of style on and off the pitch earning him the reputation as the sport’s “King of Cool”. The former midfielder is one of a select group of Italian players who have featured for all of the three biggest sides in Serie A, with spells at AC Milan, Inter and Juventus.
The arrival of Pirlo in Turin in 2011 coincided with the opening of Juve’s new stadium, and marked the start of the longest period of success ever seen in Italian football. The club have won the title in each and every season since then, and are in pole position to do so again by the time this season concludes in August.
It was not only the opening of a brand-new, club-owned stadium that sparked their unwavering domination back in 2011. Sporting director Beppe Marotta had appointed Antonio Conte as Coach, and after the club had struggled for so long with midfielders such as Christian Poulsen Felipe Melo and Momo Sissoko proving nowhere near good enough to wear the Bianconeri shirt.
To replace them came Arturo Vidal—signed that same summer from Bayer Leverkusen—and, of course, Pirlo himself. Joining as a free agent after his contract with Milan had expired, it didn’t take him long to show that his ability to play killer passes from the middle of the field remained as deadly as ever.
Indeed, just 15 minutes into the new stadium’s first official game, it was a clipped pass from Pirlo that sent Stephan Lichtsteiner clear through on goal, the full-back slotting home the first official goal of this brand new era.
Having dominated the game from start to finish, Pirlo would cap the day with an even more delightful pass, this time picking out a clever run from Claudio Marchisio to seal Juve’s 4-1 victory. An undefeated season would follow, and that piece of business from Marotta in snapping up Pirlo on a Bosman transfer was seen as one of the best pieces of business in the history of the game.
After winning four consecutive league titles with the Old Lady, Pirlo made that aforementioned move to MLS, and in typical style he has taken his time to carefully consider his post-retirement options since hanging up his boots in 2017.
Interviews have revealed his openness to working abroad and with different age groups after he earned his coaching badges at Italy’s famous school at Coverciano in Florence. Yet the call of his former club seems to have been too strong to resist, as multiple reports suggest Pirlo has accepted a role to replace Fabio Pecchia as U23 boss for next season, a side that currently competes in Serie C.
“Conte is the best coach I ever worked with,” Pirlo revealed to La Gazzetta dello Sport in February regarding his former boss at Juventus. “Every day he showed us 40-50 minute video sessions. It’s because of him that I started considering the idea of becoming a coach myself.”
Considering that the iconic former player must’ve considered any number of options at his disposal before making his final decision, it seems fitting that Andrea Pirlo will return to a club that is still benefiting from a run of success that he helped to set in motion at the very beginning.