The architect, the metronome, the professor, maestro, Mozart. Andrea Pirlo has picked up a few nicknames throughout his career and they tell you the story of what kind of player he was.
The Italian has announced his retirement after a 22 year career that saw him win the World Cup, Champions League (twice) and Serie A (six times). But perhaps his greatest achievement has been developing the ‘Pirlo role’. A position that is now recognised by fans and players all around the world, to have that role named after him might be the biggest footprint of his legacy.
Pirlo has been one of the best players to watch over the last couple of decades, dictating the pace of play and controlling the midfield in every game he played. Like a boss, we would say. He didn’t have the pace, strength or height of many commanding midfielders, but he more than made up for it with his brain.
Pirlo is a football genius. He see’s things on the field that nobody else does and always looks cool, calm and relaxed, even in high pressure situations. That’s because he says he doesn’t feel pressure, and you have to believe him when you look at moments like his no-look pass assist in the World Cup semi-final against Germany, or his panenka against Joe Hart at Euro 2012. Andrea has explained that he only decided to do that during his run-up because he saw Hart making twitchy movements.
In his book he wrote: “I don’t feel pressure… I don’t give a toss about it. 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.”
He was so good because he combined his cool character with anticipation and an ability to find space, so he had more time on the ball than the rest of the field. Not to mention the majestic way he would ping inch-perfect balls from midfield, pulling the strings for AC Milan, Juventus, and Italy. It always looked effortless and his heat map would probably just show a blob near the center of the pitch. But that’s all he needed to make his impact.
He would play the game on the big stage the way most of us pros would play on the street or in the park. Pros know that you can’t play with the pace you do on the streets at a high level. But Pirlo did. And seeing him bring both to the top level was a joy to watch, and it’s crazy how he made it all possible by staying ice cold.
When He played for Italy against Holland at Euro 2008 we were told by Marco Van Basten: “you take Pirlo out and they lose 60% of the brain power.”
We did and we ended up winning that game.
It has been rumored that Pirlo might join Conte at Chelsea as a coach. I don’t know if they’re true, and he will probably want to take a break and spend time with his family back in Italy before making his next move. But here is to hoping that he could become part of the blues setup!
Maybe Buffon said it best: “When I saw him playing I thought to myself, ‘God exists’.”
Hearing that from a legend made me smile and I nodded in agreeing. I’m sure that if I was around him I would be watching with big eyes, mesmerized, just like I did watching him on tv.
You will be missed Maestro!