Pirlo hired to replace fired Sarri at Juventus

National Sports

FILE – In this Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020 filer, Juventus’ head coach Maurizio Sarri smokes during a Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Roma, at the Allianz stadium in Turin, Italy. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice but could not prevent Juventus from going out of the Champions League despite a 2-1 victory over Lyon in its rearranged second-leg match Friday. The French team progressed to the quarterfinals on away goals after a 2-2 draw on aggregate. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

TURIN, Italy (AP) — World Cup winner Andrea Pirlo was named Juventus’ new coach on Saturday, hours after Maurizio Sarri was fired.

Pirlo was given a two-year contract, Juventus announced.

Sarri was fired after his first season in charge ended with the team’s Champions League exit.

Despite winning the Italian title, Sarri paid the price for the round-of-16 elimination by Lyon on Friday.

Ten days ago, Pirlo had been appointed coach of Juventus’ under-23 team, which plays in Serie C. But he had not led a game yet in his first coaching job.

Nicknamed “the maestro” for his passing skills, Pirlo as a player helped Italy win the 2006 World Cup and also won Serie A six times — twice with AC Milan and four times with Juventus. He also won the Champions League twice with Milan.

“Today begins a new chapter of his career in the world of football, as it was said almost a week ago: from Maestro to Mister,” Juventus said of Pirlo. “From today he will be THE coach for people of Juventus. … Today’s choice is based on the belief that Pirlo has what it takes to lead from his debut on the bench an expert and talented squad to pursue new successes.”

The announcement comes three years after the 41-year-old Pirlo ended his playing career and five years after he left Juventus for New York City FC.

Sarri left Chelsea last year after only one season in charge — despite winning the Europa League with the London club.

“The club would like to thank the coach for having written a new page in Juventus’ history with the victory of the ninth consecutive championship, the culmination of a personal journey that led him to climb all the divisions of Italian football,” the team said of Sarri.

While he led Juventus to a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title, the Bianconeri never really adapted to Sarri’s quick-passing style and lost four of 12 matches during the restart.

Amid so much dominance domestically, the true test for any Juventus coach comes in the Champions League — a competition the Turin club has not won since 1996.

Juventus was eliminated on away goals despite securing a 2-1 victory in the rearranged second-leg home match against Lyon.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo made no mention of Sarri in a message posted on Instagram after the Juventus announcement.

“The 2019/20 season is over for us, much later than usual but yet sooner than we expected,” Ronaldo said. “Now it’s time for reflection, time to analyse the ups and downs because critical thinking is the only way to improve.

“A huge club such as Juventus must always think like the best in the world, work like the best in the world, so that we can call ourselves one of the best and biggest clubs in the world.

“Winning the Serie A once again in such a difficult year is something that we are very proud of. … But the fans demand more from us,” added Ronaldo, who scored both of Juve’s goals against Lyon. “May this short vacation break allow us all to make the best decisions for the future and come back stronger and more committed than ever.”

Next season’s Serie A is scheduled to start Sept. 19.

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