history | 2016-09-03
The Barça Transfers That Almost Happened – Andrea Pirlo & Lorenzo Amoruso
When Pep almost brought the Italian star and how luck separated the club from player from Rangers
It’s that time of the year when we are bombarded with gossip that this player or that player is rumored to be pursued by Barça. Summer transfer window gives us, the Blaugrana faithful, something to discuss and ponder as we wait to see what moves our club will do. The number of players rumored to be joining Barça every summer could be enough to field three additional lineups. In the end, only a few of the rumors became reality while most dissipate into the wind. This series though will look back on the possible Barça transfers that almost happened. This chapter deals with the pursuit of the Italian players Andrea Pirlo and Lorenzo Amoruso.
The 2010 Joan Gamper Trophy match saw the return of Ronaldinho to the Camp Nou, as a member of the Milan team that played Barça that night. Obviously, it was special for the Camp Nou faithful to pay tribute to one of the biggest stars to ever play for the club. However, it was also a difficult night for the club as they were finalizing a deal to offload Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Milan. David Villa had been signed by Barça and they were in need to offload the Swede after he was deemed surplus to requirements by then manager Pep Guardiola.
While the media and the fans were wondering if Ibrahimovic had made his final appearance in the Blaugrana kit that night, another development was taking place elsewhere at the Camp Nou involving Guardiola and a certain Milan player. Rossoneri legend Andrea Pirlo had just finished changing, after witnessing his “Panenka” penalty effort thwarted by Barça keeper Pinto during the penalty shootout, when he was requested to meet with Guardiola. The meeting in in Guardiola’s office was a private recruiting pitch.
This ocurrence was so private that the rest of the world did not learn of this encounter till four years had passed, after Pirlo published his autobiography “I Think Therefore I Play.” This meeting lasted half an hour with Pirlo being greeted with red wine and Pep uttering “We need you here, Andrea.” Pep explained that he considered Pirlo the proper world class midfielder to rotate with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. Pep also indicated that the club wanted to buy him now and had spoken to Milan but Barça’s offer was declined. Pep was also shrewd suggesting to Pirlo to apply some pressure on Milan by “forcing their hand as well."
Pep’s interest in Pirlo was not unexpected since they are midfielders that shared similar traits. Pep admired Pirlo and Pirlo idolized Pep. Both also played for Italian side Brescia, albeit not at the same time, along with Roberto Baggio, and when Carlo Mazzone was the manager. Pirlo could have been a superb choice to rotate with the likes of Xavi. Pirlo even admitted in his book that he would have crawled on all fours to join Barça. However, the deal failed to materialize and the club signed Javier Mascherano instead. Not a bad outcome in the slightest considering the Argentine's success at the club.
Barça were not his only suitors as Pirlo almost joined Chelsea in 2009, but Milan demanded too much in return, and there was also interest from Real Madrid. Yet, Milan were not interested in selling Pirlo to Barça and kept him for the 2010/2011 season while Barça would go on to win another Champions League. Ironically, that would be Pirlo’s final season with Milan as he only made 25 appearances for the club, the fewest since his first season with Milan in 2001/2002. The Italians decided not to renew his contract and he joined Juventus on a free transfer. One wonders why Barça also did not make a move for him back then.
Perhaps signing Cesc Fàbregas the following summer eliminated the need to sign Pirlo. Looking back at that move now, many would have preferred if Barça had signed Pirlo and not Cesc. Nonetheless, one has to wonder if signing Pirlo would have been a good move for Barça. Franco Colomba, Pirlo’s manager at Reggina, expressed his doubts to FourFourTwo that Pirlo would not have enjoyed sitting on the bench at Juventus if he could play elsewhere and that it would have created tension. Maybe Pep’s influence would have smoothed that issue.
Nevertheless, Pirlo still got to be admired by Barça fans, even though he was donning another team’s shirt. Following Barça’s Champions League final win over Juventus in 2015, the Barça fans in Berlin showed their appreciation towards the legendary player by chanting Pirlo’s name as he was in tears following his side’s loss. Perhaps he took some solace from that nice gesture that maybe also took some of the sting out of that defeat.
Coincidentally, Barça does not have a rich history of signing Italian players as the club only had three Italian players representing the club. All those players arrived in this century: Gianluca Zambrotta, who lasted two years, was signed in 2006; Francesco Coco, who joined the club on loan for the 2001/2002 season; and Demetrio Albertini, who joined the club on loan for the second half of the 2004/2005 season. All three would have forgettable spells with the club. Although Thiago Motta played for Barcelona’s first team from 2001 till 2007, he was a member of Brazil’s U-23 side before he got his first cap for Italy in 2011.
One Italian player that Barça allegedly were interested was Glasgow Rangers defender, Lorenzo Amoruso as he would captain his team to a domestic treble during the 1999/2000 season. At the time, there were reports that he was being pursued by Barça, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Amoruso even talked in an April 2000 interview with the Daily Record of Barça’s interest but was only willing to join if Rangers agreed to sell him. "It's true that these teams are behind me. Barcelona and Bayern Munich were looking for me, but I will only speak to them if Rangers say that Lorenzo is for sale.”
Back then, Josep Lluís Núñez was president of the club and the Blaugrana had just eliminated Chelsea in the Champions League quarterfinals. It was possible that the club, then managed by Louis van Gaal, were interested in signing the 29 year old Italian defender who likes to refer to himself in the third person. A month later, Barça were embarrassed by Valencia in the semifinals of the Champions League as both Josep Lluís Núñez and van Gaal left the club in the summer. A new president would have to be elected, and any rumors linked to the Italian disappeared. Amoruso would then claim that he turned down Barça to remain with Rangers.
Ultimately, one could say Pirlo would have been a superb addition that could have complemented this magnificent Barça midfield. He also could have been the first Italian signing that was not deemed a flop. Yet, the failed attempt in signing him did not hinder Barça as the club did go on to win two more Champions League titles since that Joan Gamper Trophy match. As for Amoruso, it’s probably for the best that he never joined just to be remembered as another member of the bad signings from the awful Gaspart era.
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WRITTEN BY: Ibrahim
Ibrahim has been an FC Barcelona fan since the final years of the "Dream Team" era. He is an official fan club member of the FC Barcelona Miami Penya since 2008 where he also blogs on their website. Besides occasionally writing for Grup 14, he has also has written for FC Barcelona Miami Penya website and for Forza Football about Barça and Spanish football-related topics and occasionally about the Oranje, Netherland’s National Football team, his first football love dating to 1988, for Football-Oranje.
Besides sports, his other passion is the law. He is currently an attorney in the state of Florida specializing in Immigration Law.