Connect in the back of the net

Italy legend Andrea Pirlo made his final ever appearance in football by coming on as a late substitute for New York City against Columbus Crew on Sunday evening, the game in which NYC were knocked out of the MLS play-offs, marking the end of an illustrious career packed with trophies including the World Cup, the Champions League twice and six Serie A titles, representing Italy, and at club level, Inter Milan, Juventus and AC Milan.

With 116 caps, Pirlo is the joint fourth-most capped player in the history of the Italy national team. The midfielder proved to be vital to Italy as they won the World Cup in 2006 against the odds, beating the hosts along the way in the semifinals, with Pirlo being the man of the match.

Following his last game, Pirlo tweeted: “Last match in MLS. As my time in NYC FC comes to an end, I want to thank everybody for the kindness and support they have shown me in this incredible city. Not only my adventure in New York comes to an end but my journey as a football player as well. Thank you to the amazing supporters, thank you to the coaching staff and everybody that work behind the scene, thank you to my teammates.”

The midfielder’s career got underway at Brescia before he joined Inter for £1.8m in 1998. Pirlo failed to establish himself as a first-team regular at Inter, and in 2001, moved to rivals AC Milan for £16m. During a decade at Milan, the 38-year-old played 400 games, won the Serie A title twice in 2004 and 2011 and also the Champions League twice in 2003 and 2007.

Pirlo surprised many by making a controversial move to Juventus in 2011 in a deal dubbed ‘the deal of the century’ by Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon days after his 32nd birthday, with his contract set to expire.

Under Antonio Conte and Max Allegri, the midfielder played in a deeper role. He won four league titles and an Italian cup with Juve, and almost single-handedly took the Bianconeri back to the top of Italian and European football following their demotion to Serie B in 2006 after the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, establishing his reputation as one of the most graceful, technically-gifted midfielders in world football.

Although Pirlo won his two Champions League trophies with Milan, a trophy which eluded him at Juve, Pirlo was central to everything the Bianconeri achieved during his time with the club and there is no doubt that the midfield magician reached his peak whilst donning the black and white of Juve.

After winning his sixth Serie A title with Juventus in 2014/15, the midfielder headed for the United States.

Pirlo was a free-kick specialist and is known by the nickname ‘the architect’ due to his playmaking skills and his particularly elegant and refreshing playing style. In the centre of the pitch, he offered a cool and confident reassurance to his team-mates in all matches, regardless of their significance.

The midfield maestro controlled games and very rarely lost possession, and former Juventus team-mate Leonardo Bonucci once said in a press conference that giving the ball to Pirlo was like ‘putting it in a safe’.

New York City FC issued a statement, saying: “Everyone at New York City FC would like to congratulate Andrea on an incredible career and to thank him for his excellent contribution to NYCFC over the past two and a half years.”

I believe that everyone in football should congratulate Andrea Pirlo on an incredible career, and to thank him for giving us the privilege of witnessing such beauty and elegance in the art of football which we all love.

 

Written by Sina Latif

Follow Sina on Twitter @_sina93

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