A ninth successive Serie A title followed by defeat in the Champions League round of 16 has convinced Juventus bosses that serious changes are needed at the club.
Maurizio Sarri was sacked following the defeat to Lyon in Turin and immediately replaced by club legend Andrea Pirlo, who was appointed manager of the U23 team just two weeks prior in his first official coaching role since retiring.
Despite his inexperience though, Pirlo has reportedly not shown any weakness by making decisions on three big-name players in the squad already. French World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi had his contract rescinded by mutual consent and was allowed to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF in the MLS and now Pirlo has asked for two other stars to be released.
According to Sky Italy, both Gonzalo Higuain and Sami Khedira have been told by Pirlo that they have no future at the club and the hierarchy at the club are now in talks with the players about cancelling their contracts a year early.
Sami Khedira had a season plagued with injuries last year, including a heart scare that saw him miss several months. The introduction of Aaron Ramsey and Adrian Rabiot alongside Matuiti, Pjanic and Bentancur meant he was way out of favour anyway and was likely to leave this summer regardless. With Pjanic leaving for Barcelona and Arthur Melo coming in a swap deal, Juventus reportedly want to add Houssam Aouar from Lyon to make up for losing Matuidi and Khedira although a deal isn’t close to materialising yet.
As for Higuain, Juventus paid a club-record fee at the time of €90million to trigger his release clause and bring him over from Napoli back in 2016. He was their top goalscorer in his first year and did okay in his second year before the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo saw them let him go. Loan moves to AC Milan and Chelsea didn’t work out but he returned under Sarri, his manager at Napoli, and was a solid back-up option behind Ronaldo and Dybala. But with Sarri gone, Higuain will follow him now.
The former Real Madrid striker has previously spoken about his ambition to play in the MLS at some point in his career and now at 32 years of age having exhausted his physical peak, it may be time for that move. LA Galaxy are reportedly interested in him, while I’m sure once he’s a free agent other clubs will come to the fore. He is still a lethal finisher, but physically he struggles with the pace of the elite level in Europe now so a move to a slightly less intense league will do him the world of good.
Andrea Pirlo will now look to build a squad with a younger core that can still compete with the elite in Europe for titles. A tenth consecutive Serie A title will be the minimum expectation, although Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan will prove to be stern competition. But as Maurizio Sarri found out, just winning the league is no longer enough for Juventus. They need to compete in Europe and a regeneration of the squad is exactly what they need in order to get back to that level.
The next question is whether or not Pirlo is the right man for the job.