Ronaldo is a growing problem at Juventus
Andrea Pirlo rarely looks very happy at the world, although his former comrades swear that he has a lot of jokes in him and sometimes entertains everyone with his apparently very fine humor, the "Maestro" is also supposed to have thigh knockers. Nothing of it penetrates to the outside. The 41-year-old northern Italian is constantly surrounded by an aura of melancholy, during his glorious active days it gave him the poker face, the remoteness of the gifted. On Wednesday evening, in his first major test as coach of Juventus Turin, in the Champions League against FC Barcelona, a suffering note was added as the playing time increased. Coat collar turned up in the gray Turin autumn, hair more wild than flowing - you might have thought he wanted to hide behind it.
Juve are defeated by Barça at home, something that has never happened in the history of this duel. Turin has welcomed the Catalans seven times since 1970, and in the past guests were always allowed to feel the power of the place, the genius loci, this spirit of insurmountability. Not this time, this time you were glad you weren't going down colossally. 0: 2, the result was perhaps the best. It could have ended up 0: 5 if Barça had not succumbed to the old, long-lost and also a bit snooty tendency to want to carry the ball into the goal: still a pass, another tick, another present for the dear fellow player.
But that was probably also due to the fact that the other protagonist of the evening, with a face that was also absolutely worth analyzing, had dumped all the burden of the past months, the whole spasm in the power struggle with the club management, and suddenly looked really light and happy again: Lionel Messi can do his It is well known that you can only hide your mood to some extent. If he's not doing so well, he shuffles across the square, hunching his shoulders. The resignation of his rival at the club, President Josep Maria Bartomeu, has apparently freed Messi.
"Imperial", the Catalan newspaper "Sport" finds this liberated Barça, and, of course: "histórico". It took just such a win for the restart after the chaos, after the disgrace against FC Bayern in the Lisbon Final 8, after the recently lost Clásico against Real Madrid - everything should be new now. And good. Even Antoine Griezmann played happier, that's saying something. Ousmane Dembélé actually scored one goal. And the great promises Pedri and Ansu Fati, both born in 2002, prove just that: That they have a lot of future and spectacle in their legs.
It doesn't get any rounder. "If I absolutely had to name a deficiency," said Ronald Koeman later, "it would be this: We should have decided the game much earlier." Not exactly a consolation for the enemy.
Pirlo's suffering on the sidelines has easily recognizable, more or less objective reasons. There is no game concept, a game identity, or as it is now called everywhere: a personality. This is how Pirlo describes it himself: "You could see the difference in personality."
And that's because of him too. After five game days in Serie A and two rounds of the Champions League, you still don't know what Pirlo, who was unexpectedly appointed head coach in the summer, will do with the younger team. When he took office, he said that he had no specific scheme in mind, that he wanted to be tactically dynamic, modern and undogmatic, and that everyone should always be able to do everything. Well, at first everyone seems mostly confused.
Ronaldo has to delete a post
In the midfield, he lacks a character "alla Pirlo", someone who holds the store together, the rhythm with timing and vista, as he has mastered it so inimitably. It was hoped in Turin that the Brazilian Arthur, who was brought in from Barcelona and exchanged for Miralem Pjanic, could fill the role. "But Arthur has an effective radius of five meters," writes Mario Sconcerti, an influential commentator on the Calcio. Pjanic started against Juve, Arthur was only brought on in the 83rd minute.
The newspaper "La Repubblica" sums up its judgment in a rather non-negotiable headline: "This Juve is very, very small." Your level of play? "Modest provincialism." In the end, that wasn't even enough to win against really provincial opponents, for example against Crotone and Hellas Verona, how should it be humanly possible against Barça? For the "Corriere dello Sport", Juventus is in an "identity crisis". And the "Gazzetta dello Sport" already counts Pirlo. He was still granted a few failures, but then even Pirlo's sympathetic capital was used up. "Juve has always followed the myth of the result. Playing beautifully is just a plus: what counts is victory." No matter how. And in this game you can only win if you score one goal more than your opponent.
Against Barça, the statistics were at the end: zero shots on goal. That's a little unfair, because Juve's center forward Alvaro Morata threw the ball three times into the opposing net. Only he was always on the sidelines, twice so close that the video evidence had to be used. The Spaniard has already been denied five goals because of offsides this season, probably a record. You can interpret this as bad luck - or as a problem of orientation and position. The Italian newspapers are already calling him "AlVARo" Morata.
Juve can cite some mitigating circumstances for their manifest inferiority, one in advance: It was missing Cristiano Ronaldo, her best and best paid man, her husband just in case and especially for such evenings. He has been in quarantine at home for two weeks, with Corona - asymptomatic, but blocked. He cycles on the exercise bike in his villa, hangs out in the pool, he shaved off his hair, he looks a bit like a marine. If you could see everything on Instagram, Ronaldo was followed by 241 million people, you have to imagine that.
When he found out the day before the game against Barça that the last test had also been positive and that he definitely had to pass for the showdown with his eternal nemesis Messi, he wrote on Instagram: "PCR is bullshit." PCR stands for "Polymerase Chain Reaction", that is the technical term for the corona tests.
Bullshit? In these times of growing infections and fears in the population? The post didn't go down that well, Ronaldo had to delete it. This is also a maxim from this sport: Own goals never lead to victory, they also rarely earn the shooter sympathy.
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