When Juventus signed Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018, they had won seven consecutive Serie A titles. They did not spend over €100 million on a man in his 30s to help win another league title – they spent it to win the Champions League.
In some ways, it made a lot of sense. After all, Ronaldo is a Champions League specialist. He has won the tournament five times. However, four of those wins were with Real Madrid, arguably the kings of that competition. Juventus, on the other hand, are not quite so adept on the European scene and have not captured Europe’s biggest club prize since 1996.
Fast forward to 2021, and what has Ronaldo achieved with Juventus? In his first season, a league title and a Supercoppa, but not the Champions League. The issue, Juventus decide, is the manager. So Massimiliano Allegri is gone.
Next year, under Maurizio Sarri, it’s more of the same. Another domestic double but no European trophy. Plus, Sarri and Ronaldo don’t seem to click, so out goes the Italian – Ciao, Maurizio.
In a panic, a new manager is needed. Somebody with the club’s DNA. Andrea Pirlo is the man. Sure, he only took charge of the U23 team nine days ago, but he was won everything as a player – including the Champions League, twice!
At the end of this first season in charge, Pirlo will not be a Champions League winner, not even a Serie A winner. It turns out, he wasn’t quite as ready as everyone at the Bianconeri had hoped. And there is nothing to suggest, with any realism, that by the start of next season Juventus, with Ronaldo and Pirlo, will be good enough to win the Champions League.
Ronaldo’s current contract runs out in the summer of 2022. If he stays with Juventus, he will have one year to win the Champions League, or else he would have failed as a signing. Sure, he has scored goals and won titles, but Juve were doing that just fine without him. Aside from the commercial revenue gained by having one of the game’s biggest stars, there has been little else to prove this was a deal worth doing for Juventus.
As mentioned, if both Ronaldo and Pirlo are at Juventus next season, it is highly unlikely they will win the Champions League. So, the Italian giants must make their call. Do they fire Pirlo, find a new manager and hope to get the best out of Ronaldo for one last season? Or do they sell Ronaldo, put faith in young talent such as Federico Chiesa and Dejan Kulusevski, and allow Pirlo the time to fulfil his potential as a manager of the next few years?
As we approach the summer, rumors are already beginning to stir. AS English have reported that Juve would be willing to listen to offers around €25 million for the Portuguese star. While former Real Madrid forward Antonio Cassano was warned Pirlo that Ronaldo is a “big problem”.
The ex-Italy international said: “Juve already got burned last year, because Sarri was unable to find the right chemistry with him, and some other players, and what do you do? You take another coach who would like to play football and you still have Cristiano Ronaldo as a blocker for that.
“If you have chosen the path of [playing a certain type of] football, Ronaldo is not good. He is someone you have to give the ball to and he scores, thinking about his records. Ronaldo is not what he was four years ago.”
Finances could also be a problem if Juventus wanted to replace Pirlo. As reported, the club announced losses of more than €113 million ($155 million) for the first six months of the 2020-21 season. That makes any moves for top managerial targets such as Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola rather unlikely.
Still, Juventus will have to cut their losses on either Pirlo or Ronaldo at some point. The sad truth is, they likely cannot succeed with both. To delay a year would just be a waste of time and money. So, who will it be? Ronaldo or Pirlo?
By Hal Fish