It’s over – the brilliant, bearded genius has announced his retirement, leaving his greatest admirers in a pool of their own tears as they come to terms with a lifetime of Pirlo-less football.
He will no longer grace pitches with his uniquely cool and elegant playing style, no longer pass his opposition into submission. In December, Andrea Pirlo will hang up his boots at New York City FC and leave us all mourning what we’ve lost.
There’s always the possibility of looking back on some of his greatest moments, though. The list is endless, but here are seven of them.
7. The Panenka Penalty
For most mere mortals, the thought of attempting a panenka penalty in the quarter-finals of the European Championship would induce a state of panic. Not Pirlo, though.
Italy and England had played out a goalless draw and it came down to a penalty shootout to establish the semi-finalists.
Ignoring Joe Hart’s futile efforts to distract him, the unerringly composed playmaker dinked the ball down the middle as the goalkeeper fell ungracefully to the right.
“Joe Hart looked very confident with himself, so I thought we had to bring him down a peg or two,” he later said.
Former West Ham midfielder Alessandro Diamanti went on to score the decisive penalty, but it was Pirlo’s brilliance that stood out. His performance throughout the game wasn’t bad, either.
6. The Best Goal of All Time
Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it’s unquestionably one of the best long-range screamers.
Back when Milan routinely competed at the top of Serie A and the latter stages of the Champions League, Pirlo was a feature of their midfield. His ten years at the club came to an end in 2011, but he departed with another Scudetto in his final campaign.
And in that campaign he scored arguably the goal of his career against Parma, an astonishingly accurate long-distance missile which nestled satisfyingly in the top corner. Even when all his passing options were cut off, he found a way.
5. The World Cup Final Penalty
Another penalty, another example of Pirlo’s unflappable composure.
The stakes were higher than against England; this was a World Cup final and the then beardless midfielder was first up.
But he stroked the ball down the middle, past Fabian Barthez, and set Italy on the way to lifting the 2006 World Cup.
“Being first on the spot, kicking off that torture in the biggest, most incredible game that a player can play or imagine,” Pirlo wrote in his autobiography: I Think Therefore I Play. “That’s not necessarily good news. It means they think you’re the best, but it also means that if you miss, you’re first on the list of d********.”
4. The Pass for Roberto Baggio
Andrea Pirlo and Roberto Baggio were a mouthwatering duo, and the two linked up perfectly to rescue a vital point for Brescia in 2001.
Playing against the would-be champions Juventus late in the season, Pirlo played an immaculate, lofted through ball into the path of Baggio, whose superb first touch allowed him to round Edwin van der Sar and level the scores.
That point, it transpired, helped Brescia finish outside the relegation zone by one point. Pirlo, on loan at the club from Inter, moved to Milan the following season.
3. Nomination for FIFA World Player of the Year
Pirlo, in recognition for his brilliant performances in 2006 and 2007, was nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year.
He excelled as Milan lifted the Champions League trophy, two years after the disappointment of Istanbul against Liverpool.
Pirlo finished seventh in the final voting, losing out to attacking teammate Kaka, but it was a deserved testament to his abilities.
2. Champions League Success
Champions League victory over Liverpool in 2007 more than made up for defeat against the same club two years earlier in Istanbul.
That was one of the low-points of Pirlo’s esteemed career, but he was on form as Milan earned their revenge in Athens.
His deflected free-kick made the breakthrough and, although Liverpool were the better side, the Italian club emerged with a 2-1 win.
1. Serie A Domination
Though it ended in tears with Juventus falling to defeat against Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final, Pirlo’s time in Turin was largely excellent.
In the latter stages of his career, there was no huge decline, and he contributed to the Old Lady’s inexorable domination of Italian football.
Four Serie A titles in a row was not a bad way to leave his indelible mark in his homeland, before he left for MLS.