Thursday April 17 2014
‘Gattuso will always catch you’

Andrea Pirlo has revealed that one of his favourite past-times between games was to pick on then Milan and Italy teammate Gennaro Gattuso.

Pirlo has just released his autobiography in English this week and in an exclusive extract, the creative midfielder recalls how his on-field relationship with Gattuso also included a lot of off-field teasing.

My face, with its fixed expression, doesn’t let on what I’m thinking. But therein lies the beauty. I can make up the most crazy stories, say the most ridiculous things to my team- mates and everyone thinks I’m being deadly serious. They don’t realise what’s happening and I have a whale of a time. I’ll be smiling inside, but outwardly completely impassive as I plot my next joke. And sometimes it’s cost me a slap, particularly when Rino Gattuso was around.

With him not being a man of letters, a distinguished orator or a member of the Accademia della Crusca, whenever Rino opened his mouth the dressing room turned into the Rio Carnival. People would be blowing raspberries, making trumpet noises, doing the conga. Always the same reaction. We’d never let him finish before we started taking the piss. It was the Maracana at Milanello (or Coverciano), and he’d be speaking Portuguese without even knowing. To be fair, it’s the same story with Italian where Rino is concerned.

I’d call him terrone and he’d hit me. To get my own back, I’d nick his phone and send a bunch of texts to Ariedo Braida, our general manager. This one time, Rino de Janeiro, like me, was waiting for his contract to be renewed. I did the negotiating on his behalf by means of a single message. “Dear Ariedo, if you give me what I want, you can have my sister.”

Rino found out and gave me a beating before ringing up Braida. “It’s just one of Pirlo’s stupid jokes,” he said. I’ve always wondered if the response was, “what a pity”.

Before Italy games, De Rossi would hide under Rino’s bed and wait. He’d be there for anything up to half an hour. Gattuso would come in, brush his teeth, stick on his leopard- print pyjamas, get into bed, take out a book and look at the pictures. Just as he was about to fall asleep, Daniele would reach up from under the bed and grab his sides, while I’d burst out of the wardrobe like the worst kind of lover, making horrendous noises. Rino took it really well, despite risking a massive heart attack. First he’d beat up Daniele and then he’d do the same to me. Just to prove he was even handed.

Another time we gave him a soaking with a fire extinguisher. A draw away to the Republic of Ireland had been enough to secure our qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and so the last group game, against Cyprus in Parma four days later, had become almost like a friendly. Pretty much meaningless, and that’s exactly how we treated it. Lippi gave us a night off in Florence, and almost all of us went out for dinner. Gattuso didn’t – he stayed at the team hotel. When we got back, we were quite drunk, actually very drunk, and we ended up chatting in the lounge. We weren’t tired, so we needed to find something to pass the time. Everyone had the same idea: “Let’s go and piss off Gattuso.”

He was already asleep, with his little nightcap on his head. On the way up the stairs to Rino’s room, De Rossi spotted a fire extinguisher. “I’m off to put out Gattuso,” he said. We knocked on the door and out Rino came, screwing his eyes up as he advanced. Daniele started spraying, covering him in every last drop before running off to hide in his room (i.e. our room). He left me at the mercy of that monster in its underpants, absolutely dripping with foam and shouting total gibberish. Listening to him, though, I knew he was beginning to wake up and regain his senses. I tried to escape, but I was already done for. When the guy on your shoulder is Gattuso and he’s out to do you harm, you can run as hard as you like, but he’ll always catch you. You could be a gazelle or a lion – it makes absolutely no difference.

I Think Therefore I Play, by Andrea Pirlo, is out now in paperback and all electronic formats.

COMPETITION: We're giving away three copies of Andrea Pirlo's 'I Think Therefore I Play'. To be in with a chance of winning, simply Like the Football Italia Facebook page and answer our competition question correctly.

The competition ends on Saturday 19th April at 17:00 UK time. You may only enter once, winners will be selected at random, and will be notified within 7 days of launch. Buona fortuna!

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