How often does a player move from one giant club to another in the same country and be a darling of the fans for both? Especially in a country like Italy, where fans are notoriously passionate.
That’s Andrea Pirlo for you. Not many can move from AC Milan to Juventus and not face even the slightest amount of venom from fans. The fact that it was the club who chose to let him go, rather than Pirlo choosing to leave, softened the blow, not to mention that the move came after ten years at Milan in which he had become one of the world’s best, a status he’d maintain at Juventus.
He retires as a legend.
Pirlo was the glue of a Milan side that should go down as among the best in the club’s, if not Europe’s, history, then mentor and difference-maker for a historically dominant Juventus team. He was the best player for two brilliant Italy sides, the World Cup-winning team in 2006 and the squad that reached the Euro 2012 final. And his honours board speaks for itself.
Six Serie A titles, two Champions League triumphs, and a World Cup trophy that came down to his genius shining through in two tournament-defining moments. First, the unbelievably cool no-look pass that set up Fabio Grossio’s extra-time goal against Germany in the semi-final; then, the clipped penalty against France that set Italy on their way in the shootout in the final.
Even the fact that he delivered in high-pressure moments doesn’t do justice to Pirlo’s greatness. His combination of vision and range meant that he pulled off passes that most players wouldn’t even have seen, let alone tried. His free-kicks were works of art. But what really added to his legend was how beautifully quotable the man was.
His autobiography, I Think Before I Play, has thrown up some of football fans’ favourite quotes. There was his love for the PlayStation – the best invention since the wheel, he says – and his FIFA duels with Alessandro Nesta. The dismay that set in after Milan’s shock loss to Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League final. And of course, his description of the 2006 World Cup triumph: “I spent the afternoon of Sunday, 9 July, 2006 in Berlin sleeping and playing the PlayStation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.”
Andrea Pirlo: unique, glorious, brilliant.
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