Considered one of the greatest deep playmakers in the world, Andrea Pirlo was once an offensive midfielder. It was a master-stroke from Carlo Ancelotti who had him play in front of the back four in what would prove to be one of the most incredible and shrewd moves by the Coach. Since joining Milan in 2001, Pirlo has made 328 appearances for the team collecting nearly all club level trophies along the way. Since adapting to the role we see him in today, Pirlo has played his finest football for Milan securing a regular place at both club and international level.
After his development as a youth player at Brescia, he broke into the first team and began to have an increasingly important say in the progression of matches. This attracted the attention of bigger teams and Pirlo secured a move to Inter in the summer of 1998 and played regularly in an unimpressive Nerazzurri side the following season. He spent most of the next two seasons out on loan so he had gathered a vast amount of Serie A experience by the time he moved to Milan at the age of 21.
If Gennaro Gattuso is the engine of the Milan midfield, Pirlo is his perfect complement – smart, resourceful and creative. The pair work tirelessly together to stop opposition advances and the key to their play is possession, rarely giving the ball away. They are also crucial in their team’s attack development where Pirlo is not just a passer – consistently he registers the most successful passes and longest time spent in possession of the ball during each game – he is l’Architetto (the Architect). Like only the greatest players, he always seems to be in space, and from there he controls the game at his own pace, seldom panicked and even more infrequently caught in possession.
Most of Pirlo’s ability stems from his intelligence on the pitch. In defence, it means that he can give himself the edge where physically he is perhaps second best. Equally, when in possession, it allows him to quickly gauge the scene around him and make the correct decision quicker than most. Invaluably, because he is always in control, the team can keep possession for longer. His left foot is strong and his right exceptional – set-piece specialist and pin-point passer are two of his most renowned attributes. What is to be considered when studying Pirlo’s game, is his dedication to producing the unexpected in the flight of the football – often it is goal-scoring moments – Pirlo stepping up and deceiving the goalkeeper, planting the ball high into the net.
When Milan are defending, Pirlo sits at the base of the midfield. Gattuso is able to close down, tackle and snap at the opposition while Pirlo reads the situation to intercept a pass, block a shot or make his own challenge on the attacker. In possession, his game comes to life. He is the recurrent option for his team either receiving the ball from the defenders or from a striker’s mistake – he is always available to move the ball on and explore a new avenue for attack. Pirlo plays almost constantly behind the ball when his team have it, enabling him to carry out his pivotal role whilst also offering a measure of security to pick up loose balls and failed attacks.
Milan circa 2001-2009
RB – CB – CB – LB
DM – Pirlo – DM
AM – AM
For his nation, Pirlo is sometimes granted the more attacking role seen prior to his days under Ancelotti. He still retains his unflappable demeanour and precise passing but is granted more licence to explore forward. Nevertheless, wherever stationed, he still controls the game and continually influences the play of both sides. He is the ultimate playmaker from deep invariably finding the right pass quickly and accurately to set up an attack. Further up the field, he can create chances, assist with an incisive pass or cross, or find the net himself. The positions he assumes mean he is incredibly difficult to suppress unless the opposition sacrifice an attacker. As a world class player he entered the stage relatively late in his career, nevertheless he has become a precious talent now considered the ultimate in his position and a constant threat to any opponent. Yet the reason he is so sought after is that his talents are contagious – composure, control and poise are brought to his teammates and spread through them – any side lucky enough to hold his ability will undoubtedly play a higher quality of football. For this reason alone, Andrea Pirlo is a lesson to all fans and peers.
Name – Andrea Pirlo
Age – 30 (May 19, 1979)
Position – Central midfielder
Clubs (Appearances/Goals) – Brescia (61/6), Inter (22/0), Reggina (28/6), Milan (228/31)
Club Honours – Coppa Italia (2003), UEFA Champions League (2003, 2007), UEFA Super Cup (2003, 2007), Serie A (2004), Supercoppa Italiana (2004), FIFA Club World Cup (2007)
Nationality – Italian
National Honours – UEFA European Under-21 Championship (2000), Olympic Bronze Medal (2004), FIFA World Cup (2006)
Past Lessons in Calcio
Alessandro Del Piero