After retirement, some players are remembered for the trophies they won, some for being fan favourites, and still others for the respect they earned from their opponents. Only a few players are able to fit in all three dimensions. One such footballer was Andrea Pirlo.
Looking back, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Pirlo went from domestic darling to worldwide brand: a visage that spawned a thousand memes. Was it the 2006 World Cup victory, or the Panenka deception of Joe Hart at Euro 2012?
What we do know is that sometimes along the way, he attained the pinnacle of football fame: the point at which a player’s name becomes associated with his position. The ‘Pirlo role,’ as it is known around the world, is the one in which he excelled: sitting in the pocket in front of the defense, picking out throws like an NFL quarterback.
Pirlo began his football career with his hometown club, Flero. Later, he joined Voluntas. He later joined the Brescia youth ranks in 1994. He began his career as a supplementary forward.
Pirlo made his Serie A debut for Brescia the following year, at the age of 16, becoming the club’s youngest player to do so. During the 1997-98 season, while Brescia was in Serie B, he broke into the first team. He assisted Le Rondinelle in winning the Serie B title and advancing to the Serie A.
Inter Milan and a loan move to Brescia
Lucescu, his former Brescia manager, was Inter’s manager at the time. He was signed by Lucescu from Brescia. Pirlo, on the other hand, struggled to break into the first squad and was loaned to Reggina for the 1999-00 season.
He impressed on loan and was recalled by Inter, but he was once again warming the bench. He was loaned to his childhood club, Brescia, in the second half of the 2000-01 season.
Roberto Baggio was already a Brescia attacking playmaker at the time. It was in Brescia that manager Mazzone took the bold decision to use Pirlo as a deep-lying playmaker.
AC Milan days
In 2001, Pirlo was sold to rivals AC Milan. He underperformed a little in his early days at Milan. However, he gradually improved his performance. Ancelotti is regarded with bringing out the best in Pirlo by combining him with the famous Gennaro Gattuso.
Gattuso’s duty was to take a step back and give Pirlo more freedom on the field. Pirlo used to rush ahead and find people like Inzaghi, Shevchenko, and Kaka, while Gattuso did the tough job behind the scenes.
Pirlo used to work his magic in dead-ball situations, particularly with his lethal freekicks. Pirlo earned two Serie A titles, two Champions League crowns, two UEFA Super Cups, one Coppa Italia, one Supercoppa Italia and one Club World Cup during his time at AC Milan.
Juventus days & the MLS
Pirlo joined Juventus on a free transfer in 2011. His first goal for the Old Lady came from a free-kick against Catania. With Juventus, he finished his debut season as Serie A champion.
He was nominated for the 2012 Ballon d’Or and named Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2012. He also helped Juventus reach the 2015 Champions League final when they were defeated 3-1 by Barcelona.
He appeared in nearly 160 games for Juventus, scoring 19 goals, 15 of which were free-kicks. In the summer of 2015, he departed Juventus for the Major League Soccer club New York City.
He announced his retirement from football at the end of the 2017 season. In 2018, a testimonial match was held in San Siro in honour of his retirement from football.