Ronald Koeman’s future as Barcelona coach is looking bleak. Andrea Pirlo has been linked with the job, but Oli Coates thinks it would be a bad move for the Italy legend.
In essence, there should be no better fit for Barcelona than Andrea Pirlo. As near to the perfect Regista as European football has ever produced, the former Italy midfielder was a silky passer who played the brand of football so loved at the Nou Camp. Pirlo moving to Catalonia as coach, right now, however, would likely be a disaster.
The 42-year-old only has one year of managerial experience under his belt, and although that was in charge of another member of the European elite in Juventus, it was far from a ringing endorsement of his talents in the dugout. Pirlo did some good things as the Bianconeri boss, but he ultimately paid for a dreadful season with his job.
Just as some are suggesting, Pirlo is a perfect fit for Barcelona right now, the same was said of the 2006 World Cup winner when he took over at the Allianz Stadium. Last season was awful for Juve, though, as they failed to secure an unprecedented 10th successive Scudetto in losing the title to Inter.
Not only that, the Old Lady finished down in fourth place, some 13 points behind the Nerazzurri. They only secured their spot in the top four and this season’s Champions League due to Napoli conceding a late equaliser to draw 1-1 at home to mid-table Hellas Verona on the final day of the campaign.
Pirlo did lead Juventus to a record 14th Coppa Italia, but there was a disappointing exit in the Round of 16 in the Champions League, courtesy of an away goals defeat to Porto. The coach could’ve survived that, but the writing was on the wall in light of Juve’s dreadful showing in Serie A, with Max Allegri brought back to the club following a two-year hiatus.
Given Pirlo was supposed to take over the Juventus U23 side and cut his teeth in Serie C, the former Juve, Milan and Inter player was always going to be up against it with the first team. He had zero managerial experience under his belt, and inherited a team in turmoil following the ill-fated one-year spell under Maurizio Sarri.
Barcelona are in a far worse state right now than the Juve side that Pirlo took over. And although his year in Turin will have taught him many things, he’s still way down on experience compared to current Barca boss Ronald Koeman.
The 58-year-old Dutchman has a wealth of experience following spells in charge of clubs including Ajax, Valencia, Southampton and Everton, as well as the Dutch national side. He also has credit in the bank as a former Barcelona player who enjoyed a trophy-laden six-year stint in Catalonia. That included scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria, as the Blaugrana were crowned kings of Europe for the first time in their history.
Despite that, Koeman has been up against it and looked completely lost this season amid widespread criticism from supporters and pundits alike. He may prefer a more attractive style of football, but it’s tough to see what Pirlo could bring to the party in order to improve the situation at the Nou Camp. Barça are still reeling from losing their greatest ever player this summer, following Lionel Messi’s move to Paris Saint-Germain, while their poorly-managed finances have proven a crippling hindrance.
Antoine Griezmann also left on the back of the financial mismanagement, joining another ex-Barcelona player back at Atletico Madrid, Luis Suarez. Meanwhile, despite their midweek humiliation in the Champions League, Real Madrid have made a strong start to their La Liga campaign and are top of the table after going through their first seven games unbeaten.
In Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone, Pirlo would be coming up against two vastly experienced and decorated managers if he were to head to Spain. Ancelotti is one of only two men alongside Zinedine Zidane to have won the Champions League on three occasions (twice with Pirlo in his team), while Simeone has led Atletico to two La Liga titles in the last seven years.
Whereas the Madrid duo are looking powerful and seem set to battle it out for the title despite having plenty of room for improvement, Barcelona’s football has been turgid. Long balls and crosses have been the antithesis to the tiki-taka of old, with Koeman imploring fans to recognise this is not the Barca of yesteryear.
Important players have left, stalwarts such as Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are ageing and not at their previous level, and injuries continue to plague the team. None of the conditions are suitable for Pirlo to take charge of Barcelona in the immediate future, and there’s a genuine chance he could do severe damage to what is already a tarnished reputation following just a single season as a coach.
Any big club taking a punt on Pirlo right now would see it as a risk. That would only be magnified to a far greater extent if he went to the Nou Camp and plunged Barcelona even deeper into the mire. For it’s well worth pointing out, that despite all their problems, Barca are still only five points behind La Liga leaders Real Madrid, with a game in hand.
Whether Pirlo wants to wait for an opportunity to manage another elite superclub or take a job with a lesser team to better learn the ropes, it would be tough to turn Barcelona down should the Catalan giants come knocking. They may be unlikely to do so, though, given their ongoing interest in bringing club legend Xavi back to Spain from his spell as a player and manager in Qatar.
Yet even if they do go for Pirlo, the Italian may well prove wise to turn down the opportunity with the bigger picture of his future career in mind. Més que un club? Barcelona could hardly be more of a mess right now.