Cesare Prandelli once described Andrea Pirlo as ‘a player who belongs to everyone’ and never has a truer word been spoken about the bearded genius. Whether you are a Juventus fan living the dream, a disappointed Milan fan still angry at his exit or simply an observer, Pirlo’s elegant style of play is one that leaves any football fan drooling at the sight of his simply mesmerising play.
It seems that as the years of experience start to show on his face, his feet, filled with wisdom, continue to generate that same golden wisp of magic he conjured up when he first emerged on the scene.
Over the course of the last two decades, football fans have been able to marvel at the joy Pirlo has brought to the game.
He gets out of tricky situations effortlessly, he has a vision second to none, and he has the ability to persuade and manipulate the ball to swerve and move in any direction he chooses. Pirlo doesn’t respect the ball, the ball respects him.
“Pirlo brings people together because he is football. He’s the most skilful type of player, someone who’s never done anything horribly wrong – he’s the essence of the game,” the former Italy coach went on to say.
Even though the football maestro has been ever-present in Italian football for 20 marvellous and memorable years, he still manages to surprise his closest of fans. But what goes on in the mind of the mind of the 2006 World Cup winner?
In his book ‘I Think Therefore I Play’, the Juventus man goes on to reveal some of his thought processes when faced with some of his biggest career moments.
And as one soon goes on to discover, while Pirlo’s style of play may be simple yet complicated to the naked eye, football is just a game of mind over matter and simple mathematics for him.
“I’ve understood that there is a secret: I perceive the game in a different way. It’s a question of viewpoints, of having a wide field of vision. Being able to see the bigger picture,” he wrote in his book.
“Your classic midfielder looks downfield and sees the forwards. I’ll focus instead on the space between me and them where I can work the ball through. It’s more a question of geometry than tactics.”
With two UEFA Champions League titles and the prestigious World Cup title to his name, Pirlo is no stranger to the big scene yet he barely seems phased when confronted with a career defining moment.
His calm demeanor is something that few players are able to instill in themselves, and, surprisingly, he pulls it off with poise and finesse, barely showing a glimpse of fear.
Pirlo’s secret behind treating a cup final like it was any other game, or for we mere mortals, another day in the office, is remaining distant from the emotional attachment.
“I don’t feel pressure, either. I don’t give a toss about it. I spent the afternoon of Sunday, July 9, 2006, in Berlin sleeping and playing the PlayStation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.”
To this day Pirlo’s calmness remains an astounding sphere of his personality, but it is a large portion of why he plays in the style he does.
Few players interpret space the way the 36-year-old does, and only a person with a calm, confident and tactical mind would attempt the moves he makes and strike the ball the way he does.
In just four days Pirlo will be competing for his third UEFA Champions League title, and he will also return to Berlin for the first time since helping Italy win their fourth World Cup.
While this fixture against Barcelona may be a big deal to the Bianconeri and the whole squad, this is just another fixture in Pirlo’s mind; despite admitting he showed the slightest glimpse of normality in the penalty shoot-out against France in ’06.
“Caressing the ball was something I had to do,” he said about stepping up to the penalty spot in front of Fabien Barthez. “I then lifted my eyes to the heavens and asked for help because if God exists, there’s no way he’s French.”
Rest assured Massimiliano Allegri will be looking to his talisman to add the creative flare and the decisive touch when the Old Lady turns out against Luis Enrique’s Barcelona side. And while Juventus may claim bragging rights over the rest of Italy should they emerge victorious, they will nonetheless have the backing of the whole nation come kick-off on Saturday.
“Being part of a team that belongs to everyone makes me feel good and at peace with myself. It relaxes me,” Pirlo further revealed in his book. “A lot of the time, it’s better than sex: it lasts longer and if it all falls flat, it can’t just be your fault.”
This will be a game not only for the people of Turin but also for Italy as a country.