Andrea Pirlo’s autobiography offers insight into the world of Italian football and, for Giancarlo Rinaldi, it is refreshing to see it available in English.
It has taken the world a while to wake up to the qualities of Andrea Pirlo. Italy has been captivated by his skills since he first broke on to Calcio consciousness as a teenage talent with Brescia and came through every youth level of the national team. Only now, in his mid-30s, is he getting the global recognition a player of his abilities deserves.
It's a common enough complaint among Azzurri greats. It can sometimes seem as if the blue of their country is a cloak of invisibility when it comes to international discussions of the planet's top players. Praise can often be grudging, if it comes at all.
That's why it is quite refreshing to see Pirlo's autobiography, I Think Therefore I Play, actually being translated and published in English. It seems to suggest that the blinkers might finally be coming off in terms of judging Serie A's finest products. At last, perhaps, we don't have to bother asking ourselves if he could cut it on a cold night at the Britannia Stadium.
For me, it is something of a watershed moment. I can speak Italian, so I've been able to read the stories of plenty of other players, but it hasn't often been a pleasure I could share easily with friends in the UK. English-language books have tended to be the preserve of footballers or managers who have, at least at some point, plied their trade in the Premier League. Progress, at last, appears to be being made.
The book itself is as precise and punchy as a trademark Pirlo free-kick. It has the kind of plain-speaking you would probably expect of one of the “quiet leaders” of the Italy and Juventus dressing room. Littered across its pages are juicy little morsels of inside information about some of the biggest clubs and personalities on the Serie A scene and beyond.
There is a marvellous matter-of-fact manner to how the midfielder describes realising exactly how much better at the game he was to his peers when coming through the ranks at Brescia. And it is hard to argue with the pretty clear insinuation in his words that both Inter and Milan made big mistakes when they let him move to rival clubs. But bouncing off the pages - like his vicious, dipping Maledetta - comes his love for playing for his country at any level.
That is the most gratifying thing to read for anyone descended from Italian immigrants. Pirlo channels into the love of the Azzurri which is shared by so many of its fans resident overseas. He has certainly given them plenty of pleasure over the years.
Among the strongest aspects of this autobiography are the anecdotes of his near-miss transfers to some of the biggest sides in Europe. It comes as no surprise, perhaps, to hear that he has been courted by most of the continent’s elite at one time another. And the pangs of regret also come flashing through his prose after he showed loyalty to Milan which, ultimately, he felt was not properly rewarded or recognised.
There are little gems dotted throughout the book. Did he plan in advance to dupe Joe Hart with THAT penalty? What kind of Coach is Antonio Conte? What was the best trick he ever played on Rino Gattuso? And who is the better on the PlayStation - Pirlo or Alessandro Nesta?
All these questions and more are answered in I Think Therefore I Play. If there has to be one quibble, it is probably with the length of the book. Its chapters are short and sharp and fly by too quickly - perhaps a sign of just how enjoyable the content actually is. My other slight disappointment, as with many football biographies, is that you get the feeling that there is more Pirlo might say about certain players or managers once his career is over. However, there is still enough hard-hitting comment to ensure that this never becomes as bland as some books sadly brought to market.
But those are minor issues with what is otherwise a most gratefully received addition to the market for anyone of a Serie A persuasion. It only helps to underline how lucky Italy and his clubs have been to have him and also that, as he approaches the end of his career, why it is important to catch him while you can. Hopefully, this book can pave the way for more Azzurri stars to see their stories told in English. We've waited a long time for this one but, like wine from Pirlo's vineyard, it has been worth a little patience.
I Think Therefore I Play, by Andrea Pirlo, is out now in paperback and all electronic formats.
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