Is il Maestro set to become il Professore? According to former Chelsea midfielder and assistant coach Ray Wilkins, such an ascent is in the offing.
Following a report in the Times that Chelsea manager Antonio Conte wants to replace deputy Steve Holland with an Italian, Wilkins suggested on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast radio program that the gaffer favors New York City archangel Andrea Pirlo.
"I know for a fact he has been around Stamford Bridge on a number of occasions this year.”
When Conte brought Pirlo to Juventus in 2011 on a free transfer, the conventional wisdom said that the longtime AC Milan star was on his last legs. Not so—Bianconeri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon went on to call it “the signing of the century.” Pirlo made multiple Serie A and UEFA Teams of the Year under Conte, winning the league title in all four times of asking.
In so many ways, the pairing makes sense. In fact, it may make more sense in the big picture than Pirlo’s current role at NYCFC, where his tranquil, wizardly playing style simply doesn’t mesh with Patrick Vieira’s philosophy, particularly in a three-man midfield.
The word is that Steve Holland could be out at Stamford Bridge when the European season ends in three months. The question becomes, then, whether Andrea Pirlo will remain a New York City player through the end of his contract this December.
It won’t be easy to bid farewell to a titanic figure like Pirlo, whenever the day comes. But if the stars align and NYCFC has a chance to replace him with a more dynamic midfield presence before 2018 comes around, they really ought to consider it, no matter how strange this sentence feels to type.