By Kris Voakes
If one man has embodied the rejuvenation of Juventus Football Club over the past two years, that man is Andrea Pirlo. Since his arrival in Turin from AC Milan in the summer of 2011, the Italy international has completely changed the make-up of the Bianconeri’s play, helping them to consecutive Scudetti and a Champions League quarter-final in their first year back in European competition.
But June 2014 is set to bring a key moment in the continued development of the club, with Pirlo’s current contract due to terminate at this season’s end. And, while it would appear to the naked eye that the offering of a new deal would seem like a no-brainer, there are grumblings of discontent around Turin at the moment.
Pirlo remains one of the highest-paid first-teamers at Vinovo but will turn 35 before his current deal elapses, prompting Juve to consider offering lowered terms for any new contract. Add in the need for coach Antonio Conte to prepare his squad for the longer term without Pirlo and this brings with it a greater uncertainty than might be obvious to the layman.
As Goal’s Juventus correspondent, Romeo Agresti, explains, there are many facets to the current stand-off, which has seen the club postpone any new talks until February of next year.
"In many ways, the situation is very simple. Juve would like to evaluate with a clear head the possibility of a new one-year deal with an option for the following year - but keeping Pirlo means keeping a player who wants to play every game," says Romeo.
"However, it is not a simple situation to manage. Juve are also considering fitting Paul Pogba into Pirlo’s role as the midfield pivot in the long term. Conte believes that the Frenchman is the right man for the job and is working very much with that in mind. Consider, for example, the recent Juventus-Verona game, where Pirlo was replaced and Pogba moved into the central role just in front of the defence."
|Pirlo is a key man both on and off the field, winning two Champions League titles during his career. If you want to progress in Europe, you need men who are not afraid of Europe
- Romeo Agresti, Juventus correspondent
That fixture was also notable for Pirlo heading immediately for the tunnel when his substitution occurred, sparking rumours of disquiet between the playmaker and his coach, but Agresti assures there are no deeper issues in that regard.
"As regards the relationship between Pirlo and Conte, that remains solid. Pirlo’s decision to head straight for the tunnel angered Juve but everything is now back to normal. Against Chievo in midweek, the two men exchanged a hug after the match and the controversy has been permanently quietened."
Beyond short-term worries over relationships, there is a greater question mark in mind over the ability to transform a team which currently plays to Pirlo’s tune if the Italy midfielder were to leave. Still, the fear over his loss must also be tempered with financial realism concerning a player in his mid-30s.
"To put it into real terms, Juve’s idea is to propose a one-year rolling deal but certainly not at a rate of €4 million per year," explains Romeo. "However, the Bresciano is an important man both on and off the field, having won two Champions League titles during his career. And if you want to grow in Europe, you have to have men who are not afraid in Europe.
"But the club are making a comprehensive assessment, especially in terms of tactics. If they want to cast Pogba in that role, then they have to study the proposal well. Also to be taken into consideration is Juve’s desire to add Radja Nainggolan to their ranks at some point; the Belgian is not a player who would want to spend a lot of time on the bench."
So given the fact that Pogba only left Manchester United for the Bianconeri in the first place due to a lack of first-team football, Claudio Marchisio’s position as a crowd favourite, Arturo Vidal’s undroppable status and the continued desire to add Cagliari’s Nainggolan at some point soon, there are many factors to consider as Conte and the club board sit down to talk over Pirlo’s position.
And in the meantime, they are happy to let the Italian’s contract run low enough that he could speak to other clubs before they next intend to discuss an extension. So while the 100-cap star is unlikely to go looking elsewhere immediately, Juventus’ multitude of questions may lead to Pirlo signing his next contract with someone other than the Old Lady.Follow Kris Voakes on