TURIN: Serie A champions Juventus stunned Italian football on Saturday by naming World Cup-winning midfielder Andrea Pirlo as manager on a two-year contract even though their former player has no previous experience in the role.

Pirlo, 41, was promoted to the senior job one week after being named coach of Juve’s under-23 side, who play in the Italian third tier, and without having taken charge of a match.

The decision came hours after the Turin club sacked coach Maurizio Sarri following their Champions League last-16 exit to Olympique Lyonnais on away goals on Friday.

Former Chelsea manager Sarri had been in charge for one season and led Juve to a ninth successive Serie A title but still fell well short of the enormous expectations at the club, who have set their hearts on winning the Champions League.

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 Juve. 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 Pirlo ended his playing career and five years after he left Juve for New York City FC.

At Juve, Pirlo will now find himself coaching some of his former team-mates such as Juventus goalkeeper Giangluigi Buffon, a year older at 42.

“So now I have to call you Mister!?!?! Good luck for this new challenge Andrea!,” wrote Buffon on Twitter.

He will also have to manage five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, the club’s 100-million-euro ($115 million) signing two years ago.

The 35-year-old scored a double on Friday night but could not lift his ailing side into the Champions League quarter-finals in his native Portugal.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2020