Dynamo Kiev coach Mircea Lucescu revealed he was fighting to introduce Andrea Pirlo to the world of football during his time at Brescia.
In October 1995, Lucescu brought off Claudio Lunini and replaced him with a young Pirlo. Tonight, the former Brescia coach faces his former pupil.
Lucescu recalls the time at Brescia, as Pirlo makes his Champions League debut in the dugout with Juventus 25 years later.
“I always went to the training ground at San Filippo to look at the youth team at Brescia,” Lucescu told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “And as soon as I noticed how the boy moved and touched the ball, I realised he had a champion inside him.
“Then there was Viareggio. Andrea went there underage but didn’t play and I, who had arrived to watch him, noticed how disappointed he was.
“I brought him back by car. A three-hour trip, I tried to talk to him and give him faith. I started calling him up to the first team, I always wanted him with us.
“I protected him, I wanted to grow that talent. In the end, the champion came out. Thanks to him, obviously.”
Lucescu said Pirlo was exemplary and never had to yell to get the best out of the current Juventus coach.
“I never had to tell him off. There were some discussions, but never arguments,” Lucescu recalls. “I haven’t heard from him recently, I wanted to leave him alone.
“But I’m very happy for him. I told him before. He had balance on the pitch, as well as a great sense of play. He had qualities that will help him on the bench too.
“Coaching is not just tactics, but instinct as well. He had it, he felt the game. A coach must feel it too…”
Lucescu admitted captain Luzardi, who had returned from Napoli, was not happy with him, when the coach decided to give Pirlo his debut for Brescia during a 2-2 draw with Ipswich Town in the Anglo-Italian Cup.
“I argued with [Luca] Luzardi, who was angry because I had put the boy on the pitch,” Lucescu said.
“I yelled: ‘This boy has a great future ahead, you don’t know’.”