World Cup 2010 countdown – Top 20 Azzurri players of all time – No 19

Football Italiano continues the countdown of the all time top 20 players to have played for Italy.

19 – Andrea Pirlo

Italy’s greatest talents have traditionally been drawn from defence or offence, so there is some sense in the fact that Andrea Pirlo, despite not occupying one of the highest positions in this list, should be the only active midfielder to make an appearance on it. All of his colleagues either belong to ages past or are too young to have made their mark.

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Pirlo is a central midfielder of vocational purity, with outstanding passing skills from all ranges and strong finishing talent should the need arise. At his best, the Milan midfielder provides impeccable vision and reading of the game as well as a dead-ball shot which is fearsome from distance and absolutely terrifying from just outside the box.

Pirlo plays in a role that has had several interpreters, some as technically gifted as he was. He was also a late bloomer, and his accolades as one of the best midfielders in the world only truly began once he reached the age of 27 (although his work had become seriously valuable by the time he hit 24). What truly distinguishes him from other players of equal prowess on the field (like, say, Giuseppe Giannini) is simply achievement. Pirlo was the best Italian midfielder in the 2006 World Cup, and his performance in the final (inclusive of an assist for Marco Materazzi’s goal) earned him the title of Man of the Match. In other words, the man won the World Cup. Those who are not on this list did not. In a field where quality can be so subtle, this makes for a decisive difference.


Top 20 Azzurri players of all time


20 – Paolo Rossi


19 – Andrea Pirlo

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