Italian legend Andrea Pirlo bid farewell to a glittering football career that spanned more than two decades, 22 years to be precise. The midfield maestro made a staggering 755 appearances in club football while donned the Italy shirt for 116 times. Known for his curling free kicks and pin-point passing skills, Pirlo hung his boots after persistent knee problems proved to be a deterrent in his everyday training schedule.
While announcing the big decision, the 38-year-old said, “You just realise that the time has come. At my age, that’s enough. It’s not that you can go on forever to 50. I’ll do something else.”
Andrea Pirlo started his professional career in 1995 with Italian side Brescia as an attacking midfielder but his beginnings were quite underwhelming. After catching the eye of Inter Milan scouts with his skillful displays, he moved to the San Siro outfit in 1998. Young Pirlo struggled to break into the first team of Internazionale in his first year because of huge competition in the squad and consequently he spent following two years on loan at Reggina and Brescia.
The 1998-1999 squad of Inter boasted of Javier Zanetti, Diego Simeone, Roberto Baggio, Ronaldo and many more, which proved difficult for a then 19-year-old Pirlo to establish himself as a first team regular. Finally in 2001, fortune came knocking in AC Milan and made the switch that summer.
Then AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti saw Pirlo’s ability to see a pass and shifted him to a new position of defensive midfielder. The Italian midfielder flourished in his position and cemented himself as an indispensable part of Ancelotti’s squad. He played crucial role in AC Milan’s domination of football in early 2000s and went onto win a host of domestic as well as continental trophies during his 10 year stay at Rossoneri.
In the summer of 2011, he was released by AC Milan as they saw his best years were behind him but on the contrary, another Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon infamously called him “signing of the century” when he joined Juventus on a free transfer. Buffon was proved right in his assessment of the midfielder, as Pirlo’s best years were still ahead of him as he was maturing like a fine wine.
Pirlo’s arrival at Turin literally turned the tide in Italian club football as the momentum shifted from AC Milan to Juventus. Juve which was trophyless since 2003 conquered the domestic football, winning four consecutive Serie A titles during Pirlo’s entire four year stay with them. Having won everything in Italian football, he moved to United States in 2015 for pastures new.
The midfield wizard played two seasons at New York City FC before announcing he will retire from the beautiful game. On international front, Pirlo represented his country at every age group and made 116 senior appearances, scoring 13 goals. At club level, he has won everything from Serie A titles to Champions League and he achieved the pinnacle of football when he won FIFA World Cup with Italy in 2006. At individual level, he was routinely named in every list of top footballers throughout his career, only the much-coveted Ballon d’Or eluded the midfielder.