Juventus' appointment of Pirlo proves meritocracy in management is a myth 5 months ago

Juventus' appointment of Pirlo proves meritocracy in management is a myth

It's not what you know, it's who you know

Juventus' appointment of Andrea Pirlo is the latest in a string of big European clubs hiring club legends as managers, despite them not having the CV to justify it.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard have just about done what was asked of them when they were hired by Manchester United and Chelsea respectively, but neither boasted the credentials you would associate with managers at clubs of such stature.

Mikel Arteta at Arsenal is another who has started well and turned the club in the right direction, winning an FA Cup after taking over halfway through a season. But his appointment is still representative of a trend of club legends being fast-tracked to the top jobs thanks to their connections rather than their achievements.

What does this trend, and Juventus hiring Pirlo in particular, tell us about the state of the current crop of managers at the top of the game?

Firstly, it suggests that there is a changing of the guard, as the old batch of elite managers - Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, etc. - take a step down to a lower bracket of clubs, as the game evolves beyond them and they run out of top clubs to manage.

But it also confirms that the idea of meritocracy is a myth within the world of management. You no longer need to prove yourself further down the footballing pyramid, or even further down the league, to get a top job.

You just need to have played for a big club and leave as a popular figure and you can walk into the Champions League while more talented coaches toil in the lower leagues for little reward.

There are more examples: when Barcelona sacked Ernesto Valverde earlier this season, before hiring Quique Setien, they approached Xavi Hernandez, currently cutting his teeth in Qatar. Setien has underwhelmed at Barcelona and will likely depart once they are knocked out of the Champions League, when Xavi may well replace him. But will he deserve the job? Will he fuck.

Even when Real Madrid hired Zinedine Zidane the first time, and similarly when Barcelona hired Pep Guardiola, they had both earned their stripes with the club's B team.

To be fair to Pirlo, he has been coaching Juve's under-23 side for... checks notes a week.

Pirlo is likely to go on to win the league in his first year of senior management, because, well, it's Juventus. But you suspect the Juventus hierarchy will afford him a bit more time even if he doesn't immediately bring home the Champions League. Because as is the case in many walks of life, it's not what you know, it's who you know.