Andrea Pirlo has confirmed that he is hanging up his boots at the age of 38, the Milan and Juventus hero having spent the last two years in the United States. UEFA.com pays tribute.
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The archetypal deep-lying playmaker and dead-ball maestro Andrea Pirlo has confirmed that he is quitting football following the end of New York City's league campaign. "You know when the time has come," the 38-year-old said. "Every day you have physical problems and you can't train as you would like to. At my age, it's fine to say enough is enough." UEFA.com applauds him off the pitch.
What they said
"His heart beats at 35-beats-per-minute. He's as cool as a cucumber."
Gianluca Vialli, former Italy forward
"When Andrea told me that he was joining us, the first thing I thought was: 'There is a God.'"
Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus goalkeeper
"Pirlo is a silent leader. He speaks with his feet."
Marcello Lippi, former Italy coach
"Passing the ball to Andrea Pirlo is like hiding it in a safe."
Zbigniew Boniek, former Juventus forward
"Whenever I see him with the ball I ask myself whether I should really be considered a footballer."
Gennaro Gattuso, former AC Milan and Italy midfielder
"A footballer in capital letters: spectacular. We played at every level before finally meeting as professionals, when he was playing for Italy, Milan and then Juventus. I have always been a fan and admirer of Pirlo."
Xavi Hernández, former Barcelona midfielder
International: 116 appearances, 13 goals
UEFA club competition: 139 appearances, 11 goals
European domestic competition: 556 appearances, 61 goals
Claims to fame
• Made his senior debut for Brescia at 16 as a substitute against Reggiana. Born in nearby Flero, Pirlo came through Brescia's academy and established his reputation in 1996/97, scoring twice in 17 games as a 'fantasista' as his side won promotion to Serie A.
• Struck his first Serie A goal in a 4-0 home win against Vicenza the following season, ending the campaign with four goals in 29 top-flight games.
• Boss at Brescia while Pirlo was in the youth ranks, Mircea Lucescu brought the midfielder to Inter in 1998/99, but he had a disappointing debut campaign. However, a loan move to Reggina rekindled his fire: he scored six goals in 28 games and enjoyed playing alongside fellow U21 internationals Roberto Baronio and Mohamed Kallon.
• Fared disappointingly as he returned to Inter under Marcello Lippi, and was loaned back to Brescia in January 2001, where Carlo Mazzone first deployed him as a deep-lying playmaker. The coach remembered: "Initially, the rest of the team mocked my decision but I just asked everybody to always give him the ball, nothing else."
• Milan traded Argentinian winger Andrés Guglielminpietro for Inter's Pirlo, with coach Carlo Ancelotti continuing to field him as a deep-lying playmaker. Pirlo morphed into the 'architetto' (architect) of the Milan side that won the 2003 and 2007 UEFA Champions League finals.
• In between those successes, Pirlo featured in the 2005 final shoot-out loss to Liverpool, a game which Milan led 3-0 at one point in Istanbul. "I considered quitting after Istanbul because nothing made sense any more,” Pirlo said. "The final haunted me: insomnia, rage, depression, a sense of nothingness. We invented a new disease with multiple symptoms: Istanbul syndrome."
• Pirlo played 401 games for Milan in all competitions, winning the Scudetto and the UEFA Super Cup twice, as well as the Coppa Italia and the FIFA Club World Cup. Ancelotti left for Chelsea, with Milan refusing Pirlo permission to join him, so the player went to Juventus at the end of an indifferent 2010/11 campaign, with many believing his best days were behind him.
• Led Antonio Conte's Juve to the Scudetto without losing a single match in 2011/12, and was voted best Serie A player of the season by his peers.
• Added three more Scudettos to his trophy cabinet, also helping Juventus reach the 2015 UEFA Champions League final (which they lost to Barcelona) before leaving for New York City in 2015.
• Guided Italy to glory in the 2000 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, scoring twice in the final against the Czech Republic. Remains Italy's second-top scorer at U21 level.
• Made his senior Italy bow under Giovanni Trapattoni in a UEFA EURO 2004 qualifier against Azerbaijan, but shone brightest under Lippi, getting Italy's first goal (against Ghana) at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and also registering in the final shoot-out success against France that earned Italy their fourth World Cup.
• Came third behind Zinédine Zidane and Fabio Cannavaro in the vote for 2006 World Cup Player of the Tournament.
• Helped Italy to the final of UEFA EURO 2012, where they lost out to Spain, famously chipping Joe Hart as the Azzurri defeated England on penalties in the quarter-finals.
• Won his 100th Italy cap during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, marking it with a goal in a 2-1 victory over Mexico at the Maracanã Stadium. He ended his Italy career in 2015 with 116 caps – only Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo Maldini have more.
What you might not know
• Pirlo is famous for stony-faced dealings with the press, but team-mates have described him as a dressing-room joker too. Gattuso recalled: "Once he took my phone and sent Milan director Ariedo Braida a text, pretending to be me, saying I would give him my sister in exchange for a new contract."
• He is a wine expert. In 2007 he opened a winery in his father's home village Coler, near Brescia. "I've always drunk wine, ever since I was little, when my mother mixed a little of it with water for me," he said. "I like to read about wine, to understand it, and to try wines from other regions, other labels."
• 'The Pirlo', a cocktail known as the Brescia's answer to the Spritz, was described by the New York Times as the best drink of 2017.
• After Alessandro Del Piero in 2008, Pirlo became the second Juventus player to receive a standing ovation at the Bernabéu when substituted with 11 minutes to go in a 1-1 draw at Real Madrid which took Juve to the 2015 UEFA Champions League final.
• Pirlo is one of just 11 players to have featured for Italy's big three: Juventus, Milan and Inter. The other ten are: Luigi Cevenini, Giuseppe Meazza, Enrico Candiani, Aldo Serena, Roberto Baggio, Edgar Davids, Christian Vieri, Patrick Vieira, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Leonardo Bonucci.
What he says
"Football is played with the head. Your feet are just tools."
"To win you need personality; if you don't have that, your opponents will eat you alive."
"I don't feel pressure ... I spent the afternoon of Sunday 9 July 2006 in Berlin sleeping and playing PlayStation. In the evening I went out and won the World Cup."