In his early thirties and unable to secure a new contract with AC Milan, the club which he had served for a good decade in Serie A, people were wondering where the midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo would go from there. The answers was, to the Old Lady of soccer, Juventus, and far from his best days being behind him, he showed that he had just as much craft, technique and youthful enthusiasm in him as he always had. Now with the Bianconeri, Pirlo is looking to add a third Champions League title to his vast list of honours.
Pirlo won the Champions League with AC Milan in 2002/03 and in 2006/07, and he is fully driven and committed to guiding Juventus to their second Champions League crown. Pirlo, who finished as runner up at Euro 2012 with Italy, being one of the tournament’s stand out players, still has plenty of legs left in his tank. Not that it is his speed of foot that catches the eye, but the speed of his immaculate footballing brain which has made him the heartbeat of his new club Juventus.
Taking over the play-making role from deep that he is so famous for, the time that Pirlo has on the ball is often deadly to opposition. It is an understated role deep in midfield where he hard to pick up, and while it is not always one glamorous pass that makes him shine, it is the work he puts in to wear opponents down. Pirlo is not just looking for the perfect pass, he just keeps plugging away consistently, jabbing at opponents, wearing them down before landing the knock-out blows. It is a war of attrition that Pirlo excels at, a craft that stands Pirlo out as one of the greatest in the world’s game.
His vast experience in the middle of the park helped transform Juventus into Serie A title winners last season. Nothing more than a top ten side before he arrived on a free transfer, Pirlo injected the missing link and was the pivotal anchor in the midfield which saw the Old Lady go the entire league season in Serie A unbeaten. Pirlo, wears the nickname l’architetto (the architect) which could not be more fitting moniker for him. He builds success around him.
Juventus will have a largely inexperienced side in terms of Champions League appearances this season as they gun for European glory, and that is why the calm, controlled leadership of Pirlo is even more important to them. Juventus line up against reigning European Champions Chelsea, Danish side Nordsjaelland and Ukrainians Shakhtar Donetsk. After missing out on the Champions League action last season following his move to Juve, he is once again relishing the challenge of taking on Europe’s best.
One of the best comments ever made about Andrea Pirlo was by former Italy coach Marcelo Lippi who said “Pirlo is a silent leader. He speaks with his feet.” His remarkable control and vision with the ball is what defines him as one of the greatest in his role. From being an unwanted figure at AC Milan, he is pretty much the envy of every other European club in the Champions League.
Andrea Pirlo is enduring. There has been no temptation of fleeing to a lesser standard of football in the far East or in North America, instead Pirlo has still a lot to prove at the highest level of the game. He proved that last season in winning the Scudetto and in being the fulcrum of the Italian side which reached the final of Euro 2012.
Can he take Juventus all the way in the Champions League this season? The resilience of the side was shown in them coming back from 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea on Match Day One to grab a point. The next challenge for Juventus will be against Shakhtar Donetsk this week.