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Thursday October 11 2012
Time to push out Pirlo

As Italy touch down in Yerevan ahead of their qualifier against Armenia, Alex Mott looks at why Andrea Pirlo should call it a day for the Azzurri.

Shakhtar Donetsk boss Mircea Lucescu perhaps put it best. “I am convinced that, with all he has done last year in the League and for Italy, he deserves to win the Ballon d'Or.” Calcio fans have been banging on about it for years, but 2011-12 was the season that Andrea Pirlo showed the wider world he was utterly irresistible.

Vision, pin-point passing and a mastery of set-pieces, the Juventus man owned Serie A last season – contributing 13 assists to the Bianconeri's unbeaten campaign, and bagging three vital goals along the way. Antonio Conte made him the fulcrum of the side and reaped the rewards. Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli followed the same model at Euro 2012, and was equally blessed with a run all the way to the Final.

The 33-year-old was arguably player of the tournament at Poland and Ukraine, demonstrating to fans across Europe he was the game's ultimate puppet-master, the creative hub, the key cog in the Azzurri's machine. Why then, is it time for him to be ousted from the national side?

Age is a funny thing in football. One minute you're deemed a veteran of the side – reliable and with a been-around-the-block assurance. The next, you're past it with a sorry glint in your eye and a slow limp to the pundits' chair.

It seems almost blasphemous to say it about one of the best players of this generation, but Pirlo is well on his way to the ex-pro retirement home. A double-shift of Champions League and Scudetto commitments seemed to have taken it out of the former Milan maestro, and his performances this term have been the proof in a soggy, bitter pudding.

Cesare Prandelli has given his unbridled commitment to the Lombardy-born regista as they try to qualify for Brazil 2014, but perhaps the former Fiorentina boss should take some advice from Carlo Ancelotti. “Italy can relax for the next World Cup,” he told Corriere dello Sport. “As they already have an alternative to Pirlo and his name is Marco Verratti.”

The 19-year-old has been stunning for Paris Saint-Germain so far this season. His unexpected rise to prominence for Les Parisien has been surprising to say the least, but the former Pescara man has shown just why the Ligue 1 side splashed €12m on a relatively unknown midfielder. Assured on the ball, instinctive in possession and clinical with his pass, the teenager has shown, in just three months for his new side, what all the fuss was about.

Thiago Motta has lavished praise on the youngster. The greats of the Italian game have eulogised about this guy's talent. Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic thinks he's pretty good.

The Azzurri boss has waxed lyrical since the Euros about trusting young talent, blooding in inexperienced players ahead of the World Cup. Antonio Cassano has been dropped for the games against Armenia and Denmark, with goal-less Mattia Destro in his place. Emanuele Giaccherini has been picked despite not playing for Juventus. These players, rightly or wrongly, are getting their chance. Now is the time for Pirlo to step aside and let PSG's young starlet shine.

If you're good enough, you're young enough. Marco Verratti is 19 – and very, very good.

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Have your say...
If Pirlo can continue to play well I do believe Verratti could play in the Trequartista role as well. Both posistions require very similar characteristics. However, I think he deserves a go in the Regista role as well. I cant believe all you so called Azzurri fans hating on Verratti. You claim to be fans of Italy and then bash one of the top prospects Italy has produced for some time. What a joke you all are. Pirlo IS GETTING OLD. Lets deal with it. Totti bowed out of Italy at about the same age
on the 11th October, 2012 at 5:50pm
@ NIC - You call the writer of this article foolish and then say Verratti is not a Regista? ACTUALLY, Verratti IS A REGISTA. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You clearly have not watched him play over the past two years. He plays exactly the same role as Pirlo, and Ancelotti is grooming him to be Italys new Regista. I do believe it is time to slowly start fazing out Pirlo. Bring in Verratti at 60 minutes and see what he can do, I garantee you he will suprise all of you doubters.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 5:47pm
Pirlo is a genius.....How ever, the signs he won't be around for ever are approaching.
He has a tendency to slow the game down too often. On the odd occasion he loses the ball (by hanging on to it too long) he puts the defence under pressure as he doesn't have the pace to get back in!
It is time to integrate other players because of his age, and he may simply be injured! Lippi had no plan B in 2010. We don't want that in 2014.......
on the 11th October, 2012 at 5:41pm
Pirlo is a babe, leave him alone, still got many more years ahead of him...
on the 11th October, 2012 at 4:07pm
Something people don't want to say about verratti. He's good..however going forward he is non existent. Pirlo gets forward much more. Verratti is also very prone to picking up cautions due to his small frame and getting overpowered...dont get me wrong..he has great vision and a nice turn and trickery in tight spaces..but i don't think in the long run he's going to be as good as pirlo..for me he might be a slightly better version of david pizzarro.

just keeping it real.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 4:01pm
Not impressed with this. Pirlo is worldclass is is vital for Italy. He has lots to offer still, and will be vital for the world cup in 2014, both on the pitch and off it for the younger players. If its the case I cant believe Prandelli is dropping Chiellini for the Armenia match. A back four of Maggio, Barzagli, Bonucci and Criscito. Whats going on in Prandelli s head. Should be Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti for me.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 3:45pm
So just because Pirlo hasn't hit the form that he has the past few seasons within a few games he should be outcast from the national set up permanantly and replaced by a kid who up until a few months ago had only ever played in the 2nd tier of Italian football? Pathetic and ridiculous.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 3:23pm
Writer obviously did not watch Juventus v Siena last weekend. Pirlo was superb. He has scored 3 goals this season. He is far from being finished. The Italy National team should be built around him for the 2014 World Cup. Remember the 2010 World Cup when he missed the first two games? A disaster. He deserves to win the Ballon D'Or this year as well. His experience, and all that comes with it, is an unmatchable asset to any team.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 3:08pm
In less difficult games like the one coming up on Friday Italy should start Verratti. That way he can start playing for the squad. Besides Pirlo needs a rest after playing almost all of Juve's games. He can't do everything. Give Verratti a chance.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 2:33pm
Verratti, great promise but still to young and unexperienced too high of standards for him to quickly its crazy. better options right now but let him learn with these friendly matches and qualifiers its good.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 2:28pm
This reminds me of when everyone was claiming Del Piero was done years ago at Juventus and there were calls to replace him with Micoloi and then with Giovino.

Veratti is good, he has a future, but at this time he is not at Pirlo's level. Against the smaller nations rest Pirlo and give the kid a shot, but going into Brazil hard to image Pirlo not in the starting 11.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 2:26pm
who wrote this article is utterly foolish. verratti is not a regista, nor is he a anything of a pirlo. pirlo can retire after the world cup in brazil. that gives him two more years. pirlo pulls the strings and an azzurri with out pirlo isNT fully functional. pirlo is irreplaceable! period. what the azzurri does after he is gone, i don't know. but i know if i was the CT, i would hold on to pirlo for two more years. after that, what happens, happens. silly to think that pirlo is all washed up.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 1:34pm
On the formation.... Juventus' invincibles were mostly 3-5-2 last year and didn't lose a game... The reason we lost to Spain was because we decided to play way too open with 4-3-1-2. The bulk of the Juve players (especially back 3/GK - best in europe last season) are playing for Italy. USE THE 3-5-2!! It gives Pirlo more time and strengthens the MF. BUFFON, BARZAGLI, BONUCCI, CHELLINI, ABATE, MARCHISIO, PIRLO, DE ROSSI, CRISCITO, CASSANO, BALOTELLI. That is the best Italy have to offer right now
on the 11th October, 2012 at 1:31pm
Wow..Veratti over Pirlo? Everyone NEEDS to understand one thing. There will NEVER be another Italian MF like Pirlo. Not in my lifetime. Veratti can be rotated in or play alongside Pirlo when Marchisio or De Rossi are injured but if everyone is at full strength, Veratti should not be in the Blue Shirt yet. He's not ready. I'll take Pirlo any day. Did you see his last 3 goals or his goal last game? Remember this? http://youtu.be/5Rc0jy1SlWM "Pirlo, Pirlo.... Goaaaaal!" Nuff said
on the 11th October, 2012 at 1:28pm
I believe that Pirlo can still shine in Brazil and Italy is fortunate to have found his heir to the position already. I don't think Pirlo should be cast out completely right after his stunning performance in the Euros last Summer, and for Verratti to suddenly step in and replace the maestro just seems a little premature. Age does not effect vision and creativity and that is the important part of this role. The best thing would be for Prandelli to select both so Marco can gain more experience.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 1:25pm
No, he should play it all the way to Rio 2014!!!
on the 11th October, 2012 at 1:09pm
could not agree more with Rosario. Age catches up with the best of players and Pirlo is only human.Even for Juve,his performances have been below par. Veratti must be given more chances of Italy need options.And even Juventus should start looking for an alternative.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 1:02pm
What a load of bull! Pirlo's last appearance for La Nazionale should be at the World Cup in Brazil end of.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 12:46pm
@ Abdul Kano

Re-read your comment. Then again. Pirlo may a be a good player, but to call him the best ever is farfetched. I remember people calling for his head after Euro 2008, then again at Milan. But he has proved his worth at Juventus, and now he seems indispensable. Fickle, but that is football, isn't it?
on the 11th October, 2012 at 12:32pm
Rosario and SL Juve ae correct, I agree rest him when it can be done but enjoy what he does while he does, players like him are rare,
on the 11th October, 2012 at 12:15pm
A bit premature. Pirlo still has plenty to offer the Azzurri. We are not so far removed from his exploits at the Euros this past Summer. Your talents do not erode in just 4 months. With a bit of rest, Pirlo can takes us further than the youngster can.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 12:03pm
Pirlo has done it against the best. Let Verrati do it in a league like Seria A and I'll be the first to root for him.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 11:54am
Verratti needs time he has not proven anything to me like Giovinco, Cassano, Pazzini to mention a few he has had a few good months, but until he can play fantastic football for two or three straight seasons all the hype around him is useless and distracts the lad from further developing. Pirlo is still our go to guy and needs to help Verratti develop with time and no pressure. Until Verratti is ready to take over we will have to either phase out Pirlo's position or use Pirlo!
on the 11th October, 2012 at 11:48am
A midfield of Pirlo at the base, Marchisio and De Rossi in the middle and Verratti at the tip will do us fine.

Italy owe their euros to Pirlo, so he can hang around for as long as HE feels he can contribute.

A true master.

And there aren't too many of those around.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 11:32am
This is officially the absolute dumbest opinion yet expressed on this site.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 11:11am
the reality is that Pirlo was beginning to feel the strain of week in week out champions league and Serie A commitments at Milan all the way back in 2008-09 season. The season after Milan won the trophy, he was still effective but too often the defense was put under pressure due to him slowing down. Last season we saw the best of pirlo for two reasons. 1. he was injured for much of the previous campaign at Milan and hence rested fully. B. Juve didn't have any midweek European commitments.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 10:48am
Undoutedly, Pirlo is the best midfielder ever. However, he will turn 35yrs comes 2014 and by playing 2 matches every week I dout if he can deliver something at Brazil.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 10:37am
.........Pirlo doesnt need to be pushed out. Prandelli needs to learn rotation, conte has started n so does prandelli. Games like the previous one home at malaga or away at armenia is the ones verratti shd be starting and Piro can come on if verratti not doing it right or the team needs him. Prandelli has got an easy group n good experienced players n amazing youngsters but unless he wants to screw up like he did in the final, If he doesnt rotate he is going to run players to ground like euros
on the 11th October, 2012 at 10:23am
Cast aside Pirlo?? are you kidding?? He is Italy, he will be like Veron still a master in his mid 30's, He can make the next world cup easy and at a push euro 2016, he is the best deep lying midfielder in the world in my opionion more complete than Xavi, Balon d'or worthy for sure but we all know you have to be at Barca for that, Verratti looks good but offten I see hyped up players fail I hope he doesnt however, Lets not Forget it took Pirlo a little while to get going in his early career.
on the 11th October, 2012 at 10:14am
Veratti has a very promising future but Pirlo is one of the best midfeilders in world football and currently Veratti is simply not. Learning from the master is what Veratti needs rather than replacing Pirlo and having incredible pressure and unrealistic expectations to fill pirlos boots so young
on the 11th October, 2012 at 10:10am

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