Dybala stays, Higuain out as Pirlo vows to bring joy back to tired Juventus

TURIN, ITALY (AFP) – Paulo Dybala will remain at Juventus but fellow Argentinian Gonzalo Higuain will not, new coach Andrea Pirlo revealed on Tuesday, as he vowed to bring joy back to the Italian champions’ game.

Former Italy and Juventus star Pirlo took over this month after Maurizio Sarri was sacked after just one season following the club’s Champions League last 16 exit to Lyon.

Despite his lack of coaching experience 41-year-old Pirlo warned, “I think I’m in the right place at the right time.

“I want to bring back to Juventus some of that enthusiasm that has been lacking recently.”

Dybala, 26, will remain at the heart of the Juventus attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, but 32-year-old Higuain’s time in Turin is over.

“He was a great champion, a great player but the cycle is over,” Pirlo told his first press conference in Turin.

“We looked each other in the eyes, we talked and we made this decision. I admire him a lot, but we have decided that the paths will separate.”

Higuain joined Juventus in 2016 from Napoli and had two loan spells at AC Milan and Chelsea before returning to Turin last season.

Pirlo continued, “Dybala has never been on the market. For me he is an important player. As soon as he returns, he will be part of the project.

“We have already chatted with Ronaldo. And we will have time to talk about tactics and roles.”

Sarri, 61, took over on a three-year contract last summer, but was often criticised for his difficulty communicating his vision to the team.

Juventus won a ninth consecutive Serie A title, but with just a one-point margin on Inter Milan, and they lost the Italian Cup and Italian SuperCup finals.

Pirlo was promoted to the top job in Turin just a week after having being appointed coach of their under-23 side, in the wake of their Champions League exit.

“I didn’t have time to think,” admitted Pirlo. “It was all very fast, I threw myself into it, but if I made this choice it is because I am convinced that I am in the right place at the right time.”

The former Italian midfielder knows Juventus and its players well after an impressive four-year spell from 2011 to 2015.

He also won two Champions Leagues and two league titles with AC Milan.

“If I was destined for the job, it will depend on the results,” he continued.

“I was told as a footballer and it came true, I hope it can also happen as a coach. I am very convinced of my potential.”

Pirlo said that the tactical model was not fixed – “we can play both four and three at the back” – but the main objective was to play “with joy”.

“To bring enthusiasm you have to work, talk to the players, make them participate and make them understand our new way of playing.”