Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo has continued to leave the door open to a potential summer move to the Premier League, after admitting that he wants to play on beyond the end of his current contract with Juventus.
Speaking after Italy's friendly draw with Germany on Friday evening, Pirlo acknowledged his intention to continue playing after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil—but remains unsure whether that will be with Juventus or another club.
According to Sky Sports, the 34-year-old said:
"My future? There is the rest of the season to talk about it. We'll see. I am optimistic. I want to keep playing because I'm good and enjoy it. I don't know if it will be at Juventus or another team."
Pirlo has been a key player for the Bianconeri since arriving at the club from AC Milan in 2011—the Turin club almost immediately supplanting the Rossoneri as Italy's premier club, although how significant Pirlo's role in that shift in the balance of power is open to some debate.
What remains certain, however, is that Pirlo's patient, technically precise play at the base of Juventus' midfield has helped define the club's recent style of play. Nevertheless, the club have seemed somewhat reluctant to extend his current contract.
"We have talked together and it's quiet," Juve general director Giuseppe Marotta told Tuttosport at the end of September. "We have decided to continue negotiations in February or March."
Such comments are not necessarily a sign of either party's reluctance to agree an extension, however. Unlike with a younger player—say, Pirlo's team-mate Paul Pogba, who Juventus have been far keener to tie down to a new deal—there is little danger for either side in waiting to make a decision.
Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how keen Juve are to keep Pirlo. While Marotta credited the club with "re-launching" Pirlo's career after he was named on the shortlist for the Ballon d'Or recently, the club may already be looking to a future without him.
To return to Pogba, the France international has proven himself to be one of the most exciting young players in world football, yet he is still rotated in and out of the side by head coach Antonio Conte. Some of that is through a desire to bring along the 20-year-old slowly—but partly it is because senior players including Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal are also contending for first-team spots.
With Pirlo the oldest of the bunch, it makes sense—logically if not necessarily tactically—for him to be the one sacrificed to allow Pogba to continue his progression.
Having said that, Juventus have also been linked with Xabi Alonso—whose own contract at Real Madrid expires next summer. With Los Blancos having played a significant fee this summer for Asier Illarramendi—a player who both looks and plays similarly to Alonso—it is not impossible that the former Liverpool midfielder could move on. Chelsea have also been linked.
Complicating the matter is Pirlo's desire to continue playing regularly. Juventus may understandably be reluctant to offer him the first team assurances he might be requesting.
Assuming Pirlo does depart Juventus, whether that be his decision or theirs, where may he end up? The British press have immediately linked him to a number of Premier League clubs, with the Daily Star suggesting Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United are all interested in the midfielder.
Pirlo does not seem to fit the profile of the usual Arsenal signing—while midfield is the one area the squad is well stocked—while Chelsea and United seem to be looking for a different type of central midfielder in recent times (United handing Michael Carrick a new contract surely minimises any need for Pirlo).
Tottenham have long been linked with Pirlo, however, with former Chelsea and Juventus striker Gianluca Vialli telling Sky Italia last month: “I’ve heard rumours from England that there has been contact between Pirlo and Tottenham for next season."
While that remains possible, it is hard not to suggest that the Premier League is not ideally suited to Pirlo's undeniable skills. With its all-action nature, Pirlo's more cerebral style would seem in danger of being overrun.
Spain, or even France, might seem like more suitable foreign destinations.
What we also know is that it is not money—another advantage Premier League sides may have—that will decide Pirlo's future. He wants to play regularly, and at as high a level as possible.
“I want to feel important and a part of the side’s success, otherwise I’ll leave," Pirlo said last month, according to Eurosport, again talking about Juventus. "But I want to underline that it won’t be a problem about money or choosing between one club and another.
“If I had to change, perhaps I’ll go abroad. I’ll certainly continue playing for a high level team.”
Pirlo's Juventus future seems far from assured, then, but it would be wise not to assume he will move to the Premier League even if he does end up leaving the Old Lady.