Andrea Pirlo: Player Profile

Italy’s Architect Makes A Return

Personal information
Full name: Andrea Pirlo
Date of birth: 19 May 1979
Age: 35
Place of birth: Flero, Brescia, Italy
Height: 1.77 m (5 ft 10 in)
Playing position: Midfielder

Club information
Current team:

Youth career 
1994–1995: Brescia
Senior career
1995–1998 Brescia 49 Appearances, 6 goals
1998–2001 Inter Milan 40 Appearances, 0 goals 
1999–2000 → Reggina (loan) 30 Appearances, 6 goals
2001 → Brescia (loan) 10 Appearances, 0 goals 
2001–2011 AC Milan 401 Appearances, 41 goals 
2011– Juventus 151 Appearances, 18 goals
National team
2002– Italy 113 Appearances, 13 goals

Pirlo has been one of the best midfielders in world football for years and, even as a veteran, is still able to change a game with a single pass. Ten years ago it seemed that Pirlo would be mediocre, despite his great talent. His life changed when he moved from Inter to their rivals AC Milan: Carlo Ancelotti turned him from an offensive midfielder into a deep-lying playmaker, the role that highlighted his great technical skill and vision.

Most of modern football’s phenomena are electric in some way. Think of how Ronaldo, Messi or Neymar make the pulse quicken with their speed of movement. Pirlo’s way is not electric. It is subtle, considered. Even the position he plays in. We are not so used to playmakers sitting so deep. Football’s catalysts are supposed to operate closer to goal, but Pirlo seeks a different perspective. L’architetto, as he is called, wants to take a few steps back to see a broader picture. It is strange that Pirlo was for a number of years almost a secret weapon for Italy, because his profile as a younger player lacked the emphasis he has today. Even coming into the 2006 World Cup, he went slightly under the global radar compared with the names of Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti. Pirlo was 27 then, not exactly a novice. He had won a Serie A title and the Champions League with Milan, but he shied away from publicity and kept himself one step removed from the brightest spotlight. Marcello Lippi, the Italy coach at the time, relished that such a key player was not so high-profile. He described Pirlo as “a silent leader”. The clamour around him has grown in the latter years of his career. The thirty-something Pirlo has consistently produced a level of performance, for both Juventus and Italy, of sumptuous substance.

As a dejected Italy team returned from a disappointing World Cup, there was one piece of good news, with Andrea Pirlo saying he is considering reversing his decision to retire from international football. The 35-year-old, who plays for Juventus, said before the World Cup that he would quit international football after the tournament in Brazil. However, he later stated that “if the new national coach thinks he needs me, I will happily remain available”. Italy lost to Costa Rica and Uruguay after winning their opening game 2-1 against England. The manager, Cesare Prandelli, resigned immediately after the defeat to Uruguay. And when new manager Antonio Conte stepped in, he immediately asked Pirlo to help his national team for a while longer.

Pirlo made his club debut at Brescia aged just 16 years and two days and by the time he was 18 he had been snapped up by Inter Milan. However, it was not until he swapped allegiances in Milan and joined the Rossoneri in 2001 that Pirlo really established himself as one of the best playmakers in the game. The Flero-born player became the deep-lying metronome that manager Carlo Ancelotti built his team around and the midfielder's rarely misplaced passes helped Milan win the Italian Cup, the Serie A title and two UEFA Champions League titles. Drifting out of the Milan side in 2011, he moved to Juventus and was an immediate success as he helped the Old Lady to win the Serie A title unbeaten and confirmed his reputation as one of the best in the business.

A key player in the Italian national team since his debut in 2002, Pirlo won the 2006 World Cup and put in some wonderful performances in helping his side to the final of Euro 2012 where they were beaten by Spain. He has continued to be Juve's conductor-in-chief since then, winning a further two league titles, the second of which was achieved with a record points haul of 102.

Today’s Italy look considerably stronger. Although friendly results have been underwhelming, they are quite used to finding their gears when the race starts for real. Ending this love affair with playing football for his country is not something that will come easily. More likely the decision will have to be someone else’s. One thing is certain. Italians will be glad to see Pirlo back in an Azzurri shirt against Croatia this weekend.