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The club skipper was asked to step back into the holding midfield role in a recent friendly, suggesting he could be the answer should the former AC Milan man miss any action

COMMENT
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

While Andrea Pirlo was busy playing a part in the culmination of Italy’s unbeaten Euro 2012 qualifying campaign over the past 10 days, Juventus coach Antonio Conte will have been leaning back in his chair at Vinovo. But as he rolled his pen back and forth on the desk, he will have been searching the walls of his office for inspiration as he wondered exactly how to make the most of life without the midfielder. And for 45 minutes last week, he revealed one of the possible answers to his great imponderable, as Alessandro Del Piero was trialled as a regista.

It was only a run-out against Chieri, but Juve’s friendly match in the international break gave Conte the opportunity to see what his options are behind a first XI which has hit the ground running this season. With six of his starters wearing the azzurro, and the likes of Stephan Lichtsteiner, Arturo Vidal, Milos Krasic and Mirko Vucinic also representing their countries, the trainer gave 17 squad players the chance to shine.

With Del Piero having barely registered on the appearance charts in Serie A this season, and the likes of Fabio Quagliarella, Alessandro Matri and Luca Toni to test out, the 36-year-old club captain was asked to drop back into the anchor role in midfield for the second half of the 9-1 win.

To some, it may have seen like a throwaway gesture – a chance to give Del Piero minutes while also testing out the other striking reserves – but when you consider the club’s need to find a Plan B behind Pirlo, there could well have been more on Conte’s mind than a simple 45-minute quick fix.

PIRLO v DEL PIERO



May 19, 1979
DATE OF BIRTH
November 9, 1974
614 SENIOR APPEARANCES 786
62
SENIOR GOALS
313
5
JUVENTUS APPEARANCES
681
0 JUVENTUS GOALS
285
79 ITALY CAPS
91
9 ITALY GOALS
27

Though Claudio Marchisio and Vidal have impressed many so far this season, there is little doubt in anybody’s mind about Pirlo’s status as the driving force behind the Bianconeri’s magnificent start, but with few genuine replacements who could deliver the high passing percentage, clever brain, great vision and killer pass of which the former AC Milan stalwart is capable, some Juve fans have already been left wondering what might befall the side if Pirlo is missing for any length of time through injury.

There would be pros and cons to the use of Del Piero in the regista slot in league football. He may be increasingly immobile as he approaches his 37th birthday, but his vision and passing accuracy arguably trump anything that Marchisio, Vidal, Michele Pazienza or Luca Marrone could offer.

He may well be left lacking in a 4-2-4, where the ability to get around and make tackles would be greater than anything the former Padova man has ever had to get used to. But in a 4-1-4-1, where he would get the protection of two midfielders working hard ahead of him, as Pirlo has had with Marchisio and Vidal, Juve could do worse than try out Del Piero.

Of course, the skipper is just one option, and there is always the January window to come for transfer chiefs Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici to add a Pirlo proxy to the squad, but if the midfielder picks up an injury between now and the new year, don’t be surprised to see Del Piero stepping in to show a versatility even die-hard Juventus fans might have doubted he was capable of.

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