I take a look back at the Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo’s finest moments after being heavily linked with a move to New York City FC. Over his illustrious career Pirlo has won 6 Serie A titles, 2 Champions Leagues and the 2006 World Cup.
5. On the 24th July 2012 Pirlo would produce perfection. A perfect peneka penalty that personified the Italian master. This would ultimately be the penalty than dumped England out of Euro 2012 at the quarter-final stage. Post match after delivering the audacious chip, Pirlo would explain the logic behind this huge feat of courage. “At the moment I saw the goalkeeper making strange movements, so I waited for him to move and hit it like that… It was easier for me to chip it at that stage. Maybe my effort put some pressure on England”.
4. He was right, this piece of superb skill would heap the pressure on Roy Hodgson’s men as the two arch rivals met again in 2014. A sweltering hot day in Manaus was the setting for England’s opening game of the World Cup against Italy. Pirlo would control the game making 108 passes, with only 5 being misplaced. He set up the opening goal for Antonio Candreva before playing a part in the second with a mesmerising dummy to allow Claudio Marchesio the time and space to find the back of the net to settle 2-1 victory for Italy. Despite being an England fan it was a delight that day to watch him effortlessly float around the pitch with such ease.
3. After feeling the heartbreak of losing the Champions League final on penalties to Liverpool the previous season, Pirlo would go one better and win Europe’s premium competition. The scoring was opened by Filippo Inzaghi when his shoulder got in the way of Pirlo’s free kick. Inaghi would score again in the 82nd minute to capture a 2-1 victory. Pirlo played an instrumental part in Milan’s success in 2006/07, against Liverpool he played the familiar deep-lying midfield catalyst role allowing the likes of Clarence Seedorf and Kaka to push forwards and exploit any defensive holes.
2. Many believe that Pirlo has not got the recognition he deserves throughout what has been an incredible career. He was nominated for ‘the world player of the year award in 2006 and 2007, but came up short in the rankings. Pirlo finished 5th in the eventual decision in 2006, but was overshadowed by Milan team-mate Kaka. After all you have to remember that Kaka was a household name by now and Pirlo had not had a significant impact until that season, but getting the acknowledgment from the footballing world was a huge personal achievment and a step towards the great payer we see today.
1. On the 9th July 2006, Pirlo would appear in the world cup final in front of nearly 70,000 spectators. You see the iconic images of Fabio Grosso celebrating the winning penalty, and captain Fabio Cannavara lifting the notorious trophy, but Pirlo was the brains behind the operation. Pirlo converted the opening spot kick for ‘the Azzurri’ and unknowingly sent them on their way to World Cup glory. He also delivered the corner the level the score in the 19th minute and showed composure on the ball throughout, despite it being such a monumental occasion.
So that’s Andrea Pirlo, over 400 games for AC Milan, a century of Italy caps, and still he plays like he’s 18 years old. Surely he walks alongside the greats of this era after lighting up the football world for over two decades. But with the 2015 Champions League final on Saturday night, could his greatest achievement be to come yet?