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Pirlo, Paratici, Agnelli... Nobody's job is safe at Juventus as Allegri nears sensational return

13:00 BST 30/04/2021
Andrea Pirlo Max Allegri Fabio Paratici Juventus GFX
The coach is under intense pressure, with the Bianconeri locked in a tight battle for a top-four finish, but his employers are also feeling the heat

Fabio Paratici was asked before last weekend's Serie A meeting with Fiorentina if Andrea Pirlo would be sacked as coach if Juventus failed to finish in the top four.

The sporting director told Sky Sport Italia, "We are not even considering the option of failing to qualify for the Champions League."

They are now, though. After a dismal 1-1 draw at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, every option is being considered. And every position under review. 

At Juve, nobody's job is safe anymore: not Pirlo's, not Paratici's – and not even the president's. 

Indeed, Andrea Agnelli is facing the biggest crisis of his 11-year tenure, one all of his own making.

As the public face of the European Super League, the 45-year-old has been left utterly humiliated by its rapid collapse.  He has been labelled a "snake" by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and "Judas-like" by Torino president Urbano Cairo.

Agnelli's role in the Luis Suarez-passport scandal is also generating negative headlines, with the latest reports centering on how much he knew about the club's involvement in the Uruguayan's attempts to pass an Italian exam.

In short, the past few weeks have made Agnelli look ridiculous, and a man in his position can't afford to be made to look ridiculous.

He was appointed chairman of the board of directors at Juventus by  John Elkann, CEO of Exor, which holds a controlling stake in the club, but now there is a the distinct possibility that he could be removed from office by his cousin, who is said to have been left deeply unimpressed by recent events.

Elkann made one of his rare appearances at Continassa, the club's training ground, on Thursday and met with Agnelli.

It was an attempted show of support for the under-fire presidency, who will remain at the helm for the time being at least, but Alessandro Nasi, Elkann's No.2 at Exor, has emerged as a legitimate potential successor to Agnelli.

According to the latest reports, a decision on Agnelli's long-term future is likely to be made at the Exor annual shareholders' meeting on May 27. 

Pirlo, though, may not even make it past Sunday. If Juve do not beat Udinese at the Dacia Arena, he could well be dismissed and replaced on an interim basis until the end of the season by his assistant Igor Tudor.

There are a lot of variables to consider but make no mistake about it: we are approaching the point of no return for the rookie coach.

The Bianconeri literally cannot afford to miss out on Champions League football next season, given the perilous state of their pandemic-affected finances, and they have slipped to fourth in the Serie A table, level on points with third-placed Napoli and fifth-placed AC Milan, after winning just one of their past three games.

The one saving grace has been the collapse of the Rossoneri, who have gone from challenging for the Scudetto to struggling to qualify for the Champions League, primarily because of a lack of squad depth.

While Milan find themselves in the midst of a sporting crisis, though, Juve are facing an institutional crisis.

On the field, their form is poor and their remaining fixtures are a cause for concern. 

They still have to face both Milan and Inter, and while both games are home, nothing can be taken for granted right now when analysing a team that were recently beaten in their own backyard by relegation-threatened Benevento.

It was after that defeat that former Bianconeri boss Massimiliano Allegri made a scheduled – and purely coincidental – return to the public eye with an appearance as a guest on Sky Sport Italia's Sunday evening broadcast.

The timing was terrible for Pirlo. 

After he had spent his afternoon trying explain to disbelieving pundits how the nine-time defending Italian champions had lost to team with roughly same wage bill as Cristiano Ronaldo's annual salary, Allegri enjoyed an evening with old friends in front of the cameras reminding everyone watching at home why he is one of the best and most sensible tacticians in world football.

It was at that point that talk of Allegri returning to Juventus really began to intensify. Now, it is dominating the debate raging over Pirlo's future.

Of course, it's easy to understand why the current coach is under such pressure.

As Pirlo admitted himself, the first-half showing at Fiorentina was "horrible", yet typical of a team and a coach that have undeniably underperformed this season.

“You learn with every game that goes by," the Bianconeri boss told Sky, "but I am not happy considering the initial expectations and I don’t think the club is either."

That's undoubtedly true, but many fans are asking themselves who is really at fault here.

As ex-Formula 1 team owner Flavio Briatore told Tuttosport, appointing Pirlo, a man without any previous coaching experience, was "a gamble" on the part of the Bianconeri.

"You don't give a Ferrari as a first car to someone who only has a learner's permit," the Juve supporter reasoned.

It's also telling that even some of Pirlo's former team-mates feel that Juve are paying the price for poor decisions.

“I wish Andrea Pirlo well," former Bianconeri full-back Patrice Evra said on Instagram. "He is a great friend, and I hope he can stay at Juventus for as long as possible.

"But I must also say that the biggest mistake was firing Allegri: he is a smart coach."

The support of Allegri's return is growing by the day but it is by no means a given. Firstly, the Tuscan stated during his TV appearance that his time in Turin had come to its natural end and he has no regrets over his departure. 

Secondly, if he were to go back, he would most likely demand the squad overhaul he first demanded before his 2019 exit, which would mean massive changes. Remember, Allegri allegedly told Agnelli to "get rid" of Cristiano Ronaldo because the Portuguese had allegedly unbalanced the team. 

Ronaldo is still there, of course, and would be hard to shift given few clubs would be willing to pay the colossal wages that are proving such a strain on Juve's finances, but there is no denying that Agnelli still holds Allegri in the highest esteem.

They remain friends, too, and recently took in a match together. However, by the end of his reign, Allegri was no longer on good terms with either Paratici or vice-president Pavel Nedved, who reportedly forced him out a year before the end of his contract.

If Agnelli were to bring Allegri back, then, it's likely that Paratici – at the very least – would be shown the door, given his contract expires at the end of the season anyway. Few fans would be sorry to see him leave, either.

Paratici has been involved in some major deals, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Matthijs de Ligt, and made some shrewd signings, most notably Federico Chiesa, who is arguably Juve's player of the season alongside Juan Cuadrado.

However, he has enjoyed nothing like the same success in the transfer market as his former mentor in Turin, Beppe Marotta, who subsequently teamed up with another former Bianconero, Antonio Conte, to propel Inter back to the summer of Serie A.

Indeed, as it stands, Pirlo could lose his job on the same weekend that Marotta and Conte clinch the Scudetto.

And that really would be the perfect illustration of the startling contrast in these two club's fortunes over the past couple of seasons; a damning indictment of just how badly the Bianconeri have botched the current campaign.

In that context, even finishing in the top four might not be enough to save Pirlo from the sack. Or some of those above him.