Pirlo to replace Sarri as Juventus coach after Champions League exit

Former star playmaker Andrea Pirlo will replace Maurizio Sarri as Juventus coach after he was sacked when the Turin side exited the Champions League last 16, the Serie A club said on Saturday evening.

Pirlo, a 2006 world champion with Italy, signed a two-year contract until 30 June 2022, the club said in a statement.

In his four seasons in Turin as a player he won as many domestic titles, as well as one Italian Cup and two Super Cups.

“Today, begins a new chapter of his career in the world of football, as it was said almost a week ago: from Maestro to Mister,” Juventus said.

Sarri, 61, departs after just one campaign in Turin despite leading Juventus to a record-extending ninth successive domestic title having joined from Chelsea last summer.

His firing came hours after Friday’s 2-1 win over Olympique Lyon in the Champions League which saw the French side advance on away goals 2-2 on aggregate. It proved the final straw for the club’s board.

The former bank employee with a passion for coaching gained notoriety from the spectacular game produced in three years at Napoli and moved on to Chelsea for one season to lift the Europa League in 2019.

Juve chose him to liven up the squad’s form after five domestic titles and two lost Champions League finals under the more conventional Massimiliano Allegri.

He retained the Scudetto in a gruelling campaign where 12 rounds were played in six weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic, but lost both the Super Cup and Italian Cup earlier in the season as the squad produced far from sparkling football.

Star Cristiano Ronaldo, who struck twice against Lyon after 31 domestic league goals, the inspired Paulo Dybala and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny were often the best on the pitch as the Bianconeri struggled in defence and closed the season as fifth best scorers.

The combination of Ronaldo and Sarri was supposed to deliver a first Champions League title since 1996 but the coach rarely succeeded in implementing his high-tempo philosophy.

An online poll by the Gazzetta dello Sport paper showed that two-thirds of fans wanted Sarri to go.

As a player, Pirlo helped the Bianconeri with the first four of the record nine Scudetti before leaving in 2015. He played three more seasons at New York City in America’s Major League Soccer and retired in 2017.

In late July he had signed as coach of the Juventus Under-23 team.