Friday, September 29, 2023

I won the World Cup and Champions League and then almost joined Chelsea – but they said I was too old

With huge-spending Chelsea still in the mire, they could do worse than look to a player they snubbed for advice on how to get out of their rut.

The Blues have started the Premier League with two defeats and just a single win in four matches, coming off of a disastrous 12th-place finish last season.

Pirlo is one of the greatest midfielders to ever play football and he could have been a Chelsea playerGetty Images – Getty

That’s all in spite of co-owner Todd Boehly spending a staggering £1billion on transfer fees in the past three windows, so far with little repayment.

Stripping apart a side that won the Champions League shortly before his and Clearlake Capital’s arrival, Boehly’s identity-less and ever changing squad is looking lost under Mauricio Pochettino, his fourth coach in just over a year.

However, managerial and squad turnover is nothing new at Stamford Bridge, with previous owner turned heavily-sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich using the same playbook, but with drastically more effect.

In 2009, Abramovich went Italian, bringing in Carlo Ancelotti from Milan, with excellent results.

The legendary coach won a Premier League with exquisite style in 2010, added an FA Cup, and then almost got his trusted player, Andrea Pirlo.

However, he was denied that opportunity as the all-time great midfielder later revealed.

“I had the chance to come with Ancelotti to Chelsea and with Manchester City when I went to Juventus,” he told The Daily Mail in 2019.

“Chelsea said that I was very old – 30 years old! And the other time I preferred to come to Juventus.

Carlo Ancelotti was a huge fan of Andrea PirloAFP – Getty

“For sure it would have been a fantastic experience but I’m happy that I decided to stay in Italy.”

That strategy may ring true for Chelsea fans, with reports their club are currently only looking to sign players younger than 25, which has resulted in an alarming lack of leadership on-pitch.

But nothing can quite compare to snubbing the master of Italian football, Pirlo, who oozed style during his World Cup win and two Champions League titles with Milan.

Since retiring the 44-year-old is trying his hand at management, currently with Serie B side Sampdoria.

Pirlo is finding his way as a managerGetty

But he had some further advice for Abramovich at the time, which Boehly may well do with listening to.

Discussing the recently sacked Blues boss Antonio Conte, Pirlo said: “For me he’s the best manager I had in my career.

“At Chelsea he did good work – he won the Premier League and the FA Cup. Maybe he had a problem with the owner and now he’s free.

“If you see the history of the club over the last 10 years, they changed too many coaches. The problem is not the coach, maybe it’s the club.”

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