Pirlo has been criticised for showing naivety in the high leverage moments during this season
Cristiano Ronaldo’s future in Turin beyond the next three games is now a real discussion
The Andrea Pirlo experiment is close to being shut down after the rookie coach suffered another damaging defeat in Juventus‘ pursuit of Champions League football.
Having won the previous nine Serie A titles prior to this season, missing out on the top four – and the Champions League next season – would be as reputationally damaging as it is financially.
Andrea Pirlo is on the thinnest of tightropes after Juventus were humbled 3-0 by AC Milan
Not since 2011-12, Antonio Conte’s first year in charge, have Juventus been without Champions League football but with a tricky run-in of Sassuolo, Inter Milan and Bologna remaining, it is a distinct possibility.
Pirlo and his players have been heavily criticised and labelled an ’embarrassment’ given the wealth of success that came before them.
Sportsmail breaks down what missing out on the Champions League would mean for Pirlo, the club accounts and the future of star man Cristiano Ronaldo.
Is this the final straw for Pirlo?
There have been times this season where Pirlo has given the impression of a man with seven lives.
Plenty felt he should have been axed after Champions League elimination to Porto but as Andrea Agnelli stood by him it was hoped that faith would be rewarded.
Pirlo has reportedly already sealed his destiny and he will not be in charge of Juventus come the end of the season.
According to Tuttosport, Juventus has already made a decision on the future of the head coach but it is not yet clear if he will be axed immediately or at the conclusion of the campaign.
Speaking after defeat to AC Milan, Pirlo promised to continue giving maximum effort until he is shown the door by his superiors.
‘My desire to be a coach does not change not even after this defeat. I will continue to do so,’ he told Sky Sport Italia.
‘I don’t expect anything. I spoke with the club before and after the match and I am willing to accept any decision. I am the Juventus manager at the moment and in the end the club will make decisions.
‘If I didn’t succeed it means that I did something wrong. I am convinced of the choice I made in saying “yes” to Juventus. I had to adapt to certain situations, with the players I had available, with certain players it is difficult to play a certain type of football.’
POTENTIAL SUB IN TURIN: Zinedine Zidane
Even with this disastrous season to digest, the job would be highly coveted and Massimiliano Allegri, Zinedine Zidane and Gian Piero Gasperini would all be in the frame. If Pirlo has taught Juventus anything it is that experience is priceless.
One of his biggest problems has been his lack of a tactical philosophy; a lack of ideas and a lack of ability to manage the team in decisive moments of the season.
Pirlo’s preferred 4-4-2 formation has proven ineffective with the players at his disposal. The team inherited from Allegri and Sarri was built on 4-3-3 but Pirlo has distorted the tactical DNA and created a short circuit which has suffocated this side of creativity.
Juventus managed just one shot on target against AC Milan from 16 attempts and while the midfield has badly let Pirlo down, he has shown an inability to problem solve on the fly during high-leverage moments this season.
So, they finish fifth… what happens?
Fifth would be a disaster – that’s the first thing. There’s a reason Agnelli has pushed so hard for the formation of a closed-shop European Super League.
But, if they do miss out on next season’s Champions League, decisive action is needed off the pitch, beyond just disposing of Pirlo.
Juventus need to save millions and without the Champions League they will be forced to cut at least one top player from the team.
The club hierarchy of sporting director Fabio Paratici (left), vice president Pavel Nedved (second left) and chairman Andrea Agnelli (second from right) face major financial woes
The Bianconeri were recently ranked by Forbes magazine as the 11th most valuable football team in the world, with an estimated value of $1.95billion (£1.38bn), and a revenue of $441m (£313m) in 2020.
But cause for concern arrives in the knowledge that Juventus appear to be operating at a loss of $14million (£9.9m) in the last financial year, while club debts have reached 16 per cent.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on finances has been devastating but missing the top four – and therefore missing the Champions League – would see Juventus miss out on £78m.
With Paulo Dybala and Ronaldo the two high-profile stars out of contract in 2022, as much as sporting director Fabio Paratici has argued to the contrary, keeping the pair outside of Europe’s top competition seems fanciful.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo stick around?
For Europa League? I wouldn’t bet on it.
As outlined above, Juventus need to make some big savings if they remain outside the top four and few savings would be greater than moving Ronaldo on 12 months early.
Ronaldo is said to feel blameless in Juventus’ domestic collapse given his 27 league goals look set to secure him the top scorer in Italy award this season.
The 36-year-old does not want to give up the Champions League after so many years at the top level and it is believed his future will not be in Turin because his desire to play in Europe is stronger than any love for the club.
Ronaldo (right) is out of contract in 2022 but no Champions League could speed up his exit
Without the Champions League, Ronaldo is expected to ask to be sold even if his agent, Jorge Mendes, is unable to identify a rival team ready to match Juventus’ salary of around €31m (£26.8m) a year.
The issue Juventus face is they cannot simply write off Ronaldo’s contract to let him walk out of the door for nothing.
If Agnelli and Paratici elected to move on from Ronaldo they would have their work cut out trying to find a suitor that is willing to stump up around £25m to buy him in a climate when clubs are arranging squad-wide salary cuts, even with their biggest stars, just to stay afloat.
Many players would be affected by tightening of purse strings outside top four but few have suitors after such a dismal season.
If Ronaldo, who was awarded the title of ‘GOAT (Greatest Of All Time)’ by the club this year after he passed Pele’s career competitive goals tally, does depart his time will be viewed as lots of money and no European success.
Juventus found real joy with the Portuguese star on the pitch in Italy, winning the Scudetto twice and the Italian Super Cup twice. But in three campaigns of the Champions League with Ronaldo he has only played roles in disaster movies: elimination in the quarter-finals against Ajax, out in the last-16 against Lyon and out again in the last-16 against Porto.
Agnelli’s major economic gamble in 2018 has ultimately been a failure worth around €340m (£293m) and the reason he arrived, to win in Europe, was never met.
What has been the reaction in Italy?
Damning, to say the least.
Former England manager Fabio Capello described defeat to Milan at home as embarrassing and he pointed the finger at Pirlo for setting up without a clear identity.
‘What we saw tonight was embarrassing,’ Capello, working as a pundit, said.
‘It looked like Juve from Udine, without ideas, against a Milan that did its part. We saw a team without aggression, which woke up after the penalty missed by (Franck) Kessie, but it is too little.
‘I have lived many nights like this and I tell Pirlo not to be disheartened but sometimes it seems that a leader is missing.’
Milan’s win was huge for their top-four hopes but Juventus were labelled an ’embarrassment’
The team is flat and appears badly constructed and badly trained. The worst nightmare seems to have come true: there is no identity and the club does not seem to have the strength to reverse this negative trend in the run-in to snatch a Champions League spot.
Alessandro Del Piero, a legend of Juventus, savaged Pirlo and his players on Sky after the Milan loss.
‘Today the team was empty,’ Del Piero said. ‘Milan were brilliant despite the injuries. Juve remained without grit even after the 0-1. Today’s team is full of foreign players, the club’s DNA has been lost.’
Former Juventus midfielder Angelo Di Livio told TMW Radio that ‘if he loves the club, Andrea Pirlo must take a step back’, given how disastrous this season has been.
As much as Pirlo is loved, this chastening spell in charge has seen sympathy wane with no tactical identity after a full season in charge.
Fabio Capello was particularly critical of Juventus and Pirlo while a pundit for Sky Sport Italia
EDITED FROM: dailymail.co.uk