As he greeted journalists outside Milan’s headquarters there was an eager sense of anticipation around Andrea Pirlo. He was widely believed to have decided on leaving Milan and his calm “I am here to say goodbye,” was not as much of a surprise. Juventus is very high on the list of likely destinations for Andrea, so how will his presence affect the Bianconeri?
There are three things to note here – firstly, Milan have played a major chunk of the second-half of the season without him and, when available, Pirlo wasn’t used as regularly as under Ancelotti. Secondly, the man still retains his fantastic vision and pinpoint passing, however, he has lost pace and his defensive contributions have decreased notably. Finally, although Juventus have to rebuild their squad again, their midfield concerns have been greatly addressed in the past season or two.
The move will raise quite a few eyebrows. One of the major reasons for Pirlo deciding to move on from Milan was the lack of playing time he received under Max Allegri. But even at the Bianconeri, it would be surprising to see Pirlo slot straight into Del Neri’s 4-4-2. However, the fate of the Coach is as yet unknown, so it is best to analyse the most suited formation to get the best out of Pirlo.
For Pirlo to make the greatest impact, a role very similar to the one played by Xavi at Barcelona is ideal, where Sergio Busquets or Javier Mascherano take care of defensive duties. Pirlo needs something similar, where he can wander around, waiting for the ball and, once it comes to him, spray it around. Any form of defending expected of him will only blunt his potency. We have seen this over the years especially when Milan has played against teams with a creative attacking midfielder, Pirlo has often been stuck marking his opponent than creating opportunities for his team-mates.
Juventus already have Felipe Melo to fulfil that defensive role provided the Brazilian curbs his urge to get forward time-to-time, while Alberto Aquilani does not look like returning. Aquilani has been good in spurts for the Old Lady, but to pay even another €12-15 million for him, would be a waste. Claudio Marchisio’s contract extension means he will be the ideal foil for Pirlo in the middle of the park. Marchisio has the instincts to get forward and pass the ball quickly which should help in taking some of the opposition pressure off Pirlo.
As for Milan, Adriano Galliani has already talked about the club’s intentions to sign a left-sided midfielder. There will likely be more additions than that as Clarence Seedorf has also been non-commital about his future with the Rossoneri. Allegri showed that Milan can function well without Pirlo and, if they secure the signature of Kevin Prince-Boateng, they will not miss the Italian World Cup winner too much. A year ago, even the thought of Pirlo leaving would not have occurred to Milanisti, now they seem quite content to see him go and give him the send-off he deserves.