Can a single player transform a team that finished seventh in its two previous Serie A campaigns into one capable of winning the Scudetto undefeated? According to most of the Juventus players celebrating the club's 28th title on Sunday, Andrea Pirlo did precisely that.
"Alongside Xavi [Hernández], Pirlo is the best midfielder in the world," said Simone Pepe after the 2-0 win against Cagliari Calcio which – combined with AC Milan's 4-2 loss to FC Internazionale Milano – secured the Bianconeri their crown with a game to spare. "He's completely changed our team; he actually transformed a group of several good players into a top side."
That opinion was shared by forward Alessandro Matri, who has needed just ten goals to top Juve's scoring charts this term. "Pirlo was our point of reference on the pitch," the former Cagliari player explained. "The whole squad made a great contribution to this success, but Pirlo was the player who really made the difference for us."
The 32-year-old midfield orchestrator joined Juventus on a free transfer last summer after not renewing his contract with Milan, and has missed just one Serie A game all season. In that time, he has weighed in with three goals and a league-leading 13 assists, and remarkably he has not lost a top-flight match since 18 December 2010. "I came here to win trophies and I'm very pleased to have done that already," he said.
"I was just looking for different motivations; I liked the project here and was convinced it could be successful," continued the midfielder, who won the FIFA World Cup with Italy in 2006 and the UEFA Champions League twice with Milan. "
Last season I suffered a few injuries but I was convinced I was still the number one and I think I proved it this season. I think I can play for many more years because I still enjoy it."
If Pirlo was key to Juve's success, coach Antonio Conte was just as important, wasting no time in transmitting his well-known grit and commitment to his players after being appointed in the summer. "When I first came, I immediately told the players that if we had to lose, we'd do it while attacking," said the former Juventus midfielder.
This Scudetto is 100 times better for me than those I won as a player," he added. "I feel like this team is something I created and helped to grow along the way, but obviously I have to thank the players who've always followed me with this project and the fans who believed in us from the very beginning."
Leader of a defensive line which has conceded only 19 goals in 37 games, meanwhile, Giorgio Chiellini emphasised that the Bianconeri still face two important games in which to make their season complete – their final league outing against Atalanta BC on Sunday and the Coppa Italia showpiece against SSC Napoli on 20 May.
"We will celebrate, but just tonight," the Italy defender said. "
We'll have maybe a couple of days to relax, but then we'll resume working hard because we want to finish the season unbeaten and we want to win the Coppa Italia as well. This team deserves success after all the hard work we've put in."
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