Andrea Pirlo is an Italian professional football player, a key figure in the country’s successful 2006 World Cup campaign. A set piece and penalty-kick specialist, he is widely considered as one of the greatest deep-lying playmakers in midfield of all time. He started his club career as an attacking midfielder but often failed to make the starting XI in various clubs he played for, primarily due to his lack of pace. During his time at Brescia, manager Carlo Mazzone took the innovative decision of utilizing Pirlo as a deep-lying playmaker. He thrived in the new position. His outstanding, almost supernatural skill at passing was on full display as he was instrumental in his future team A.C. Milan dominating both the Italian domestic football and the European circuit. After becoming a free agent in 2011, he signed to Juventus and had an equally efficacious run with them. As a member of the Italian national team, he is the fourth-most capped player with 116 appearances. He was the captain of the bronze-medal-winning Italian contingent at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He currently plays for ‘New York City FC’ in the US.
Childhood & Early Life
Andrea Pirlo was born on May 19, 1979, in Flero, a commune in the province of Brescia, in Lombardy, Italy to parents Luigi and Lidia. He has a brother named Ivan.
Pirlo was a football protégé. Growing up, he used to play with his brother and friends on the sand in the seaside resort Viareggio in Tuscany, where his family went for holidays.
He drew international attention for the first time at 13, when he and his team, ‘Voluntas Brescia U15s’, participated in the 1992 ‘Dana Cup’. They made it to the semi-finals before being knocked out.
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Signed to Brescia, Andrea Pirlo played his first ‘Serie A’ game against Reggiana on May 21, 1995, at the age of 16. His game made an impression on the ‘Inter Milan’ coach Mircea Lucescu, who brought him into his squad. His stint with the club was not especially productive; he was seen on the field sporadically. However, Inter briefly loaned him to Reggina for the 1999-2000 season, and that turned out to be an impressive outing.
In the next season, he was loaned out yet again and this time to his former club Brescia. Their manager, Carlo Mazzone, was the first coach to put him in front of the defence. Playing beside his childhood idol Roberto Baggio, he would guide the team to a respectable seventh-place finish in the league.
He was bought by A.C. Milan from Inter after being in the latter’s books for three seasons. There, he met the team’s manager Carlo Ancelotti who would guide his career towards a new trajectory that would eventually make him a world class player. He debuted for the team on September 20, 2001 against the Belarusian team ‘BATE Borisov’ in the UEFA Cup. Milan won the match 2-0.
Pirlo served as a central midfielder for Milan for the next decade, winning a ‘Coppa Italia’ (2003), a ‘Supercoppa Italiana’ (2004), a ‘FIFA Club World Cup’ (2007), two ‘Serie A ‘titles (2004 and 2011), two ‘UEFA Champions Leagues’ (2003 and 2007), and two ‘UEFA Super Cups’ (2003 and 2007). He appeared for the club in 401 matches and scored 41 goals.
In 2011, he left Milan after coming to a mutual decision with the club. He joined Juventus on a free transfer and debuted in Serie A with a 4-1 victory against Parma.
Before Pirlo came to Juventus, the team had been trophy-less since 2003. He brought four Serie A titles (2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015), two Supercoppa Italiana titles (2012 and 2013), and a Coppa Italia (2015) to the club. He played in 164 matches for them and scored 19 goals.
In 2015, he signed with ‘New York City FC’, a team that is part of ‘Major League Soccer’, where he has been till date.
Andrea Pirlo captained Italy U21 team in the 2000 ‘European Championship’, earning both the best player and the top scorer awards. He was in Italy’s 2000 and 2004 squadrons to Summer Olympic Games, winning the Bronze medal at the latter edition.
At 23, he debuted at the senior level in a 2-0 win against Azerbaijan. He played a pivotal role in his country’s qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup.
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He scored Italy’s first goal in the tournament against Ghana and helped Fabio Grosso score his opening goal against Germany in the semi-final on July 4.
He continued his stellar form in the final against France on July 9. A hard fought match, it went to a penalty shoot-out after both teams failed to break the 1-1 deadlock. He was the first to take a spot-kick from the Italian side, successfully converting it into a goal. Italy would win the match and become World Champion after 24 years. Pirlo was named the ‘Man of the Match’ for both semi-final and final matches.
He served as the vice-captain to captain Gianluigi Buffon in the 2012 Euro Cup. They beat Ireland, England, and Germany to make it to the final where they suffered a 4-0 defeat to Spain.
While he did announce his international retirement after the 2014 World Cup, he came back to the Italian squad for 2016 European Cup qualifiers. However, his move to the US brought unintended repercussions. It was announced on May 23, 2016, that he had been left out of the 30-man Euro 2016 squad.
Awards & Achievements
In 2004, Andrea Pirlo was awarded the rank of a Knight (official title: ‘Cavaliere Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’). Two years later, he received the rank of an Officer (‘Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana’).
He won the ‘Bronze Ball’, and the ‘Top Assist Provider’ award at the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Andrea Pirlo was the recipient of the 2011-12 ‘Pallone d'Argento’ for having “the most fairest and for football talent, sporting correctness, good morality and for generosity towards the weak", as judged by the ‘Unione Stampa Sportiva Italiana’ (Italian Sports Press Union) or USSI.
He was hailed as the ‘Serie A Footballer of the Year’ for the back-to-back years 2012-14.
Personal Life & Legacy
Andrea Pirlo married Deborah Roversi in 2001. They have two children together; their son Niccolo was born in 2003 and daughter Angela was born in 2006. The couple divorced in 2014 after 13 years of marriage. It was later reported that Pirlo had an affair with the real-estate agent Valentina Baldini whom he had met at his golf club.
He published his autobiography, ‘Penso Quindi Gioco’ (I Think, Therefore I Play) on April 30, 2013, through ‘Arnoldo Mondadori Editore’. Endlessly quotable and brimming with wit and charm, the book was well-received by critics and fans alike.
His net worth is estimated at €50 million.
Pirlo’s teammates in the Italian national team have given him the nickname ‘‘l'architetto” (the architect in Italian). He has also been called “il professore” (the professor), “Maestro”, and “Mozart”.
For the majority of his career, Pirlo has worn #21 jersey.