Flashscore Exclusive: A lesson from 'Maestro' Pirlo: 'In Qatar I say Brazil'

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Flashscore Exclusive: A lesson from 'Maestro' Pirlo: 'In Qatar I say Brazil'
Updated
Flashscore Exclusive: A lesson from 'Maestro' Pirlo: 'In Qatar I say Brazil'
Flashscore Exclusive: A lesson from 'Maestro' Pirlo: 'In Qatar I say Brazil'
Profimedia
It has been 16 years since Italy won the biggest competition of them all in Germany - translated into World Cups, that is four editions. Two of these have been without the Azzurri. A shock for everyone, even for those who lifted that cup in victory like Andrea Pirlo.

Flashscore went to face to face with the Maestro - in an exclusive interview, he spoke from his holiday in the US about the current World Cup in Qatar, but also about the Champions League, a competition where he sees Luciano Spalletti's team as one of the candidates for the final victory.

The 'Maestro', after having given lessons on pitches all over the world with one World Cup win, and a plethora of titles in club football, has been given more lectures off it through management.

After a year's experience as coach at Juventus, which ended prematurely with perhaps a little too much criticism given the Bianconeri's current results. He then flew to the western shore of the Bosphorus to lead Karagumruk, a Turkish Super Lig team.

The championship is currently at a standstill, like most around Europe, to allow the World Cup to take place in Qatar. And Pirlo took the opportunity for a short holiday in the United States, the country where he ended his career as a footballer. It included trips between Miami and New York to take a break from football, whilst keeping a close eye on events in Qatar.

FS: A second World Cup without Italy. Did you expect that?

AP: Incredible. It was unthinkable to imagine two World Cups in a row without Italy. Yet this is how it is, even if, to tell the truth, the biggest disappointment was the one against Sweden four years ago.

Why is that?

Because before eight years ago Italy had always qualified and it had never happened not to go to the World Cup.

And this time?

If you don't qualify in the group and you get Portugal in the play-offs, it becomes tough. If you then go out against Macedonia, there is little to add. A lot of points were thrown away in the qualifying round: we drew in Ireland, then the missed penalties against Switzerland.

How do you explain this year's failure to qualify?

We had all the right cards to qualify, but maybe the European Championship unconsciously conditioned us. After winning a trophy like the European Championship you think qualification is easy, but the reality was different.

What did you think of this World Cup, taking place in the winter?

It is a bit strange to see it at this time of year, but what I am most curious about is the post-World Cup. We will have to see how the players will finish.

Physically or mentally?

Mentally, how they will want to continue the season, both for those who will win but also for those who will come out of this tournament empty-handed. 

Facing the backlash

So will motivation make the difference?

I think so. You finish the World Cup in December. If you have won, you have touched the sky and consequently you might give up, let go. In short, be mentally drained. 

If you lose, it can be the same: you feel bad and risk a backlash. Same story for those who had to miss it because of injury, like Mane and Benzema for example. Playing in the World Cup is everyone's dream. When you get so close and then you have to miss it, you risk a psychological backlash.

You mentioned Mane and Benzema. They are just two of many players who had to miss the World Cup due to injury. An abnormal World Cup in this respect too. Why do you think that could be?

I think there was too little time to recover. They only had a week to prepare. With the World Cup in the summer you usually have 15 days, a month. If you play a week after the championship has stopped, it's more complicated.

Andrea Pirlo playing against Brazil's Neymar
Profimedia

It will be a championship of lasts for many: Messi, Ronaldo, maybe even Neymar. Who will come out on top?

I see Brazil as the favourite.

Why?

It is the most all-round team, in all departments. They also have experience and are used to winning. They are ready for these games. In recent years they have made a path playing more or less always with the same players.

What about the other contenders?

Argentina is strong, but as I said Brazil seems more complete. Spain also plays well, but they are young. Portugal is a good team, while Germany is an unknown.

Then we have to see France, if they will be affected by the many injuries. However, they have so many good players in their squad that they could really be the surprise package of the tournament.

Who will be the four teams into the semi-finals?

Argentina, Brazil, Spain and one between England and Portugal, but maybe there will be a few surprises.

Lionel Messi and Andrea Pirlo faced each other on a number of occasions
Profimedia

Many are tipping Serbia as the surprise of this World Cup, what do you think?

I don't know if they will make it to the end. They have a team with young, but already experienced players. The United States can also have a good World Cup. They are not bad, but I expected something more. I would exclude a new exploit by Croatia. It has reached the end of its cycle, as it has for Belgium.

You started your coaching career a few years ago, but you have already had the opportunity to coach great champions at Juventus: Dybala, Danilo and Ronaldo to name a few. How do you manage a dressing room with so many stars?

I think it is important to find the right balance. You have to be empathetic.

And how did you get on with Ronaldo?

Very well. He's a special character, a true professional. 

Pirlo managed Ronaldo at Juventus
Profimedia

Ronaldo is ready

What about the interview Ronaldo gave a few weeks ago criticising Manchester United and their coach? What do you think about that?

In my opinion he had wanted to do this interview for a long time. I think it was already prepared. 

Do you think that doing it before the World Cup increased the pressure on Portugal?

Ronaldo has always had pressure on him and will always have it. He can handle it. I don't think his statements changed the Portuguese dressing room.

If he had not done that interview he would still have been asked questions about Manchester United during the World Cup. He decided to get ahead of everyone and 'get it out of the way'. I think he will now be even more charged up than before.

In 2026 the World Cup will be hosted by Mexico, Canada and the USA. Would you like to be there coaching a national team?

First I want to do well with my club. Maybe the chance to coach a national team will come later. That would be a good thing.

The Italian national team?

Any national team. It would be nice to go to the World Cup as a coach.

And how does Ancelotti see him in the national team?

I see him doing that, he can coach any national team - it could be the end of his career.

Is he your 'role model'?

Yes, without a doubt he is a reference point, as a coach I am inspired by him. He's a very good person and a very good coach. He has won everything there was to win.

'Fearsome' Napoli

Last season he did something unique in the Champions League. What is special about him?

He can create empathy with the players, and they play for him. What he did in the Champions League was incredible. 

And this year? Who will win the Champions League?

I would say Manchester City, but also Napoli.

Can Napoli really go all the way in such a difficult competition like the Champions League?

Napoli are playing very well and have potential for it. If they are playing well and if in a few months they are still at the same level they have shown so far, it will be tough for the others.

Who do you compare Luciano Spalletti's Napoli to?

To our AC Milan side, the one with many offensive players who played while having fun. Sarri's Napoli was also enjoyable to watch, but this one is meaner.

They play 'fearsome' football. Gone are 'heavy' players for the club and young players have arrived. They are all at the same level and those who deserve to play are playing. Everything works and it's all thanks to the coach. Spalletti has done a great job.

The lesson has been learned from the words of the 'Maestro'.