TURIN (Reuters) – Serie A champions Juventus stunned Italian football on Saturday by naming World Cup-winning midfielder Andrea Pirlo as their manager even though he has no previous experience in the role.
Pirlo, 41, was promoted to the senior job one week after being named coach of Juve’s under-23 side, who play in the Italian third tier, and without having taken charge of a match.
The decision came hours after the Turin club sacked coach Maurizio Sarri following their Champions League last-16 exit to Olympique Lyonnais on away goals on Friday..
Former Chelsea manager Sarri had been in charge for one season and led Juve to a ninth successive Serie A title but still fell well short of the enormous expectations at the club.
“Today’s choice is based on the belief that Pirlo has what it takes to lead from his debut on the bench an expert and talented squad to pursue new successes,” Juve said in a statement here
“Today begins a new chapter of his career in the world of football, as it was said almost a week ago: from Maestro to Mister,” it added.
Juventus may be hoping Pirlo can replicate the achievements of Zinedine Zidane, another former world class player who has enjoyed success at Real Madrid despite having no previous coaching experience.
Ex-Juve player Zidane has won two La Liga and three Champions League titles in two stints with the Spanish side since he was first handed the reins.
As a player, Pirlo, a somewhat enigmatic figure, became famous in his role as a deep-lying playmaker, spraying pinpoint passes all over the pitch from his slot just in front of the defence.
He won just about every possible honour, reaching a peak by lifting the World Cup with Italy in 2006.
Pirlo won the Champions League twice with AC Milan, Serie A twice with Milan and four times with Juventus, the Club World Cup with Milan, the Coppa Italia with Milan and Juve plus Serie B as a youngster with Brescia.
Having been developed at Brescia, he spent the bulk of his career at Milan and then Juventus but also had a short stint at Inter Milan, played on loan at Reggina and finished his playing career at New York City in Major League Soccer.
Pirlo will have to deal with huge expectations at Juve where winning Serie A is now seen almost as an obligation.
The Turin club have clearly set their hearts on winning the Champions League but it has proved elusive with Juve having lost in the 2015 and 2017 finals.