In an age where individuality in football is on the decline, a footballer like Andrea Pirlo has to be recognised. Elegant, classy and so unique, the midfielder’s contract at Juventus is up next summer, and a move to newly-formed New York City has been largely speculated this week. He may well have already played in his last ever European game, and he needs the send off fit for a legend.
We need to celebrate players like Pirlo, and remember them. He is a one of a kind, a figurehead of football in Europe. Having had one of the most decorated careers in the world, he needs to be celebrated, treasured, and used to shape the future generation of superstars.
When you actually think about it, Pirlo hasn’t been playing anywhere near his best over the last few years. Just 20 appearances in Serie A this term, his part in the Old Lady’s double winning season has largely been from behind the scenes. It could well have been a treble winning season if they had manage to overcome Barcelona in the Champions League final, but the Italians fell just short, defeated by one of the greatest sporting teams of all time.
His career has been glittered with success, he’s deservedly achieved a trophy cabinet fit for a champion and having achieved as much as he has, Andrea Pirlo has to go down as an Italian great.
He looked destined for great things when he captained the Italian U21’s to success in 2000, winning the Championship in Slovakia. He won player of the tournament and the golden boot award, prompting a 17 Million Euro transfer to AC Milan from the Blue and Black side of Milan, Inter, the year after. It was here where he hit the prime of his career, making over 300 appearances for the Diavolo and winning an astronomical amount of trophies with the Black and Red’s.
His biggest ever achievement, though, came in 2006 with Italy, as he lifted the World Cup, for the first and last time. He was midway through his career at Milan and followed with a Champions League the next year, Pirlo was starting to become a hero in Italian culture. A Serie A title in what proved to be his swansong season in 2010/11 came and Pirlo moved to fellow Italian’s Juventus on a free transfer at the end of the season.
Four consecutive titles followed with Juve, meaning that Andrea Pirlo has been on the winning side of the title for the last five years, including what was an astonishing unbeaten season in 2011/12. This season with the Turin side, Pirlo enjoyed a fourth consecutive Serie A, another Coppa Italia, and a European campaign to be proud of.
Coupled with his six Serie A’s, he has obtained two Coppa Italia’s, 3 Supercoppa Italia’s, two Champions Leagues, 2 Super Cups and a FIFA Club World Cup. Not too shabby.
If there was ever a player to typify the Italian game, it would be him. A tactical genius, sitting in midfield and breaking up and distributing play, Pirlo isn’t the fastest or most powerful of players. In fact, that is what is so admirable about him. What he lacks in physical attributes, he makes up for with his vision, and his passing ability. To have that spectacle of the bearded midfield maestro, spreading play from left to right, in the famous Black and White of Juventus, is just so beautiful, so romantic.
Pirlo has built his career so high out of his leadership, pride in performance, and his individuality. There is no one like Pirlo in the world, he is a true one off. His autobiography details of this individuality, no more so than when he talks of the day of the World Cup Final. ‘I Spent the afternoon of July 6th 2006 sleeping and playing Playstation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.’ He is coolness personified, you get that feeling that he looks no different when drinking wine and eating pizza back in Italy than when he is sitting in midfield with his head on a swivel, trying to detect where his next pass is going to come.
Whether we will continue to see Pirlo playing at the Juventus Stadium or not, remains to be seen, but we may well see a central midfield partnership of Pirlo and Lampard in the Big Apple, a duo that ten years ago, would have been the midfield of dreams for any top side.
We might never see someone like Pirlo again, the maverick midfielder will hold the face of a generation. He has provided the spine of Italian football, leading the national team to a World Cup, and imposing himself as an ever-present figure in domestic football. If he is to leave Juventus, then it is a farewell for an icon in Italy, a hero that has to be appreciated for an astonishing career.