Juventus has been beset by questions regarding the future of their star midfielders but amid the recent speculation over the fates of Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo has slipped through the cracks.
Coming into the season, Pirlo's future was the team's biggest question. Having signed him on a free transfer two seasons ago, Juventus is faced with the possibility of losing him the same way if an extension is not signed.
That nervousness may be ready to be allayed. Two weeks ago Football-Italia.net relayed a report from Corriere dello Sport that Juve was ready to announce an extension with the midfield maestro. The contract would reportedly be for two years, keeping the player with the club until he is 37.
If and when the official announcement is made, it will be a boon to both Pirlo and his club.
On Pirlo's end, staying at Juventus is absolutely his best option. His place at Juve and in Antonio Conte's tactical setup are solidly defined—and currently quite vital to the team's success. Whether Conte continues using the 3-5-2 as his primary formation or moves to a 4-3-3 as Beppe Marotta revamps his roster, Pirlo's place as a deep-lying playmaker will not change.
Rather than having to dispel another player in another team that doesn't run a system made for him, remaining in Turin makes Pirlo more sure of his playing time and puts him in position to continue to be successful.
For Juve, keeping Pirlo has its benefits on and off the field. His vision and passing ability are still only matched by a precious few in the world. With the impressive team being built around him, his passing abilities will continue to make Juve dangerous.
Pirlo's presence on the field has a calming effect on Juve's attack. Without him, the pace tends to quicken and the sweeping offensive moves that are so often initiated by one of his pinpoint passes are fewer and farther between.
There are times, like Juve's 4-1 victory over Cagliari in January, that a quicker pace can help Juve. Other times, however, players like Pogba become tempted to go for glory balls rather than cycle the ball and look for a better opportunity to make a killer pass.
His continued presence will also allow Juve to build the midfield in the long term. Much as Juventus fans are loath to admit it, one of their excellent young midfielders is likely to be on the way out this summer. No one wants them sold, but if a team makes an indecent offer—as Real Madrid did in 2001 when they came calling for Zinedine Zidane—Marotta will really have no choice.
The likeliest to go is Pogba. Vidal has become ingrained in the club and has a close relationship with Antonio Conte. The fact that Pogba is French could also tempt Paris Saint-Germain to move for a home town hero.
If a sale is made, Pirlo's presence will allow the club to reinvest the money made at a more pressing position—a left-back and a good winger or two. Alongside Vidal and Claudio Marchisio, the original MVP midfield would still be a special unit.
Kwadwo Asamoah can provide cover in the center—it's his natural position—while Juve waits a year or two to either buy another regista like Marco Verratti or develop a homegrown talent like Fausto Rossi.
Beyond that, the off-field influence of a player like Pirlo is huge. This is a man who has won absolutely everything there is to win. At the club level he has been party to four scudetti, three Champions League finals (with two wins), a Coppa Italia, three Supercoppas, two UEFA Supercups and a Club World Cup. Internationally, Pirlo captained the U21 side to the 2000 European Championship and a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Oh, and there's that other feather in his cap—triumph in the World Cup in Germany in 2006.
The experience that Pirlo brings to this club in big-game situations is, and will continue to be, invaluable. The lack of that experience without him was painfully evident in Istanbul this December. Had Pirlo not missed the match with an injury, the Bianconeri could still be playing Champions League soccer rather than languishing in the Europa League.
The sooner Juventus announces an extension with Pirlo, the better it will be. The player can be sent off to his final international tournament without the cloud of speculation swirling about him. The club can be secure in the knowledge that one of the best players of his generation will continue to anchor their midfield for the next two years as they look to the future.
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