Premier League: Would Andrea Pirlo Make Tottenham Instant Title Contenders?
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The source was former Bianconeri man Gianluca Vialli, who revealed on Sky Italia he had heard "rumours" of a potential free transfer next summer—as speculated on further by the Daily Mail's John Edwards.
Vialli linking him with Tottenham might turn out to be nothing more than one of many rumours on what Pirlo's future entails beyond the expiration of his Juve contract next summer.
Even with the player turning 35 next May, the Italian champions will give serious thought before they even contemplate letting the influential playmaker go without a fight. For a man whose signing significantly helped revitalise their fortunes, it is the least they will do.
Pirlo's performances in two successive scudetto-winning campaigns for Juventus have highlighted Milan's shortsightedness in agreeing to let him depart two years ago. Gennaro Gattuso certainly believes his former club and country teammate still has considerable value:
Seeing as he has remained productive, the notion of Spurs considering a move for Pirlo has merit. Things might change by the season's end, but that he continues to be at the heart of both Juventus and Italy's midfields bodes well for his continued effectiveness. You would bet on his class and hard-earned nous translating to England well enough too.
As tempting as it might be to picture Pirlo's arrival turning the already ambitious Spurs into instant title contenders, it is hard to envision a set of circumstances as conducive to this as those he found in Turin.
Firstly, the belief that he could be the key to a push for Premier League glory somewhat assumes Andre Villas-Boas and his team will fall short of it this season. That is not an unfair assumption given how competitive the division is, and the challenges Spurs face in just making it into the top four.
Unlike the Old Lady in 2011 though, Spurs will not be approaching next season at a point of financial superiority to their rivals. Even with the abundance of talented young players anticipated to still be at Villas-Boas' disposal, it is doubtful other clubs will be falling away either—not to the extent the previous year's second- and third-place sides Internazionale and Napoli did so advantageously for Juve two seasons ago in Serie A.
Juventus' achievement in moving up from seventh to winning the scudetto in 2011-'12 should not be underestimated, especially given the tumultuous few years that preceded that success. However, that substantial a change in fortune is not as unimaginable in the current climate of Italian football as in the more closed off top echelon of English football.
Backed by a strong backbone of international-quality players like Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini, the creative spark provided by Pirlo (recording an impressive league-leading 13 assists) helped bring the best out of less-experienced teammates such as Alessandro Matri and Arturo Vidal. That individual quality was sufficient enough to lift Antonio Conte's admirable team ethic even further.
Playing alongside a veteran like Pirlo could certainly be of benefit to Tottenham's players too as both a learning experience and a boost to the team. Football's recent past is peppered with further examples of similar contributions.
Be it Gary McAllister providing a cool older head alongside Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen in Liverpool's treble winning side of 2000-'01. Or Edgar Davids showing Xavi the merits of having a little more grit at Barcelona in 2003-'04, a lesson he retaught to Spurs' young midfielders a couple of years later in their then-best-ever Premier League campaign.
However if Spurs are going to compete for a title under Villas Boas next season, they would be pretty close to doing so even without Pirlo. This is to say, for them to truly mount a title challenge, they will first need to have become genuinely strong at the back and have found a way to see off opponents big and small (i.e., bigger priorities for them improving than changing up central midfield personnel).
If Spurs got to that point, a fit and energised Pirlo could be what is needed to improve them further. But even considering his quality, that is not a given seeing as the introduction of the Italian would also require altering their setup slightly.
For Villas-Boas, his coaching staff and technical director Franco Baldini, they would need to assess whether signing him would be worth making alterations to a style that might not warrant such work.
By this time next summer either Christian Eriksen or Lewis Holtby (or both) could have proven themselves to be what Spurs need in the advanced playmaker role. Mousa Dembele and Paulinho (or perhaps Etienne Capoue or Sandro) might be so indispensable in midfield there is no room for Pirlo anyway.
The transfer link being legitimate would suggest consideration of where Pirlo would fit has been made. If he is brought in you would have to believe Villas-Boas feels he can make it work.
Both parties might well do so. Regardless though, much more than Pirlo's signing will need to occur for Tottenham to be title contenders.
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