No One Like Pirlo

Before Juventus aged Andrea Pirlo ten years in just a couple of seasons, he was the clean-shaven Maestro of Milan’s midfield. Quiet, hard-working, and blessed with absolutely sublime skills, he was the artist to Gattuso’s destroyer, and the pairing could not have been more perfect for Milan. His exit was an actual travesty, exponentially so because he went to Juventus for free, and Milan has literally never been the same without him. Nine years later, and there is still no one like Pirlo.

Ten unforgettable years... for Milan fans

When Pirlo came to Milan, he had been rotting on the bench or on loan to lower division teams from Inter. Like a beautiful rescue story, Ancelotti changed his position and changed his career.  As a deep-lying playmaker, Milan’s play revolved around him. Not in a selfish way, rather like the reciprocal lessons of a humble teacher, hence his nickname of “il Maestro.”

Pirlo was always calm and focused, and with Gattuso to do the dirty work next to him, Pirlo could create pure beauty. His passing was heavenly, his teammates could always count on him delivering it perfectly so that they could continue the magic and make the fans' hearts sing. He read the game perfectly and always seemed at least one step ahead of everyone else, thus orchestrating some of the most amazing and exquisite play that Milan has seen in the past two decades.

His skills put the beauty in the beautiful game

Of course, he is probably most known for his free kicks. With the reputation of being able to put the ball on a dime from anywhere on the pitch, there wasn’t really any point in opponents trying to defend a free kick. They could only watch and be grateful that he allowed them to witness his brilliance. We could only watch and be grateful that he allowed us to witness his brilliance.

Obviously, Milan were a team with plenty of talent at the time, but with the Maestro in their midst for ten years, they won two Champions League trophies, two Scudetti, a Coppa Italia, a Supercoppa, two UEFA Super Cups, and a FIFA Club World Cup.

Something Juventus could never give him

So what went wrong? Why would a player like that leave when he was so beloved and part of such an important team? Well Galliani, obviously. And Berlusconi, too. They treated him very poorly, and when it came time for a contract renewal in 2011, Galliani insisted that players over 30 would only be given a one year renewal. This was a rule that only seemed to be enforced at the time of Pirlo’s contract renewal, as he was known for giving lengthy and expensive contracts to all players, especially aging ones. And he gave multi-year contracts to other much less-talented players over 30 as soon as the following year.

The magic was real

All Pirlo asked for was a two-year contract. After all he had given the club over ten years, and being instrumental in Italy’s 2006 World Cup win, too, it was not too much to ask. But Galliani said no, he would rather him leave on a free transfer. His stubbornness effectively gifted him to a rival, as he ended up signing for Juventus. Pirlo's move effectively shifted the balance from Milan to Juventus, as Milan had won the Scudetto that year, and missed out on it by a mere three points the following year. Pirlo gave them the impetus that began their reign of terror.

Also, notably, to celebrate Pirlo’s ten years at the club, Galliani gave him a pen. A pen. Like not even something terrible that was football-related, a stupid pen, after ten years of sweating blood for the club. It would have been better to give him nothing, the pen was such an insult. Also, Allegri. Pirlo only featured 17 times his last year at Milan, when we won our last Scudetto. Allegri’s tactics left no room for his position, and he spent way too much time on the bench.

What it looks like to have a soul

Milan fans were angry when Pirlo went to Juventus. But from a footballer’s perspective, if you are at the greatest club in Italy, your only other destination is to go down the next rung on the ladder. While Pirlo earned personal accolades, and was part of Juventus’ total dominance of the league, winning four Scudetti during his four years there, he never won the Champions League again, obviously. The irony that Allegri followed him to Juventus when it was well-known that they did not get along was not lost on me. I think Pirlo grew the beard to hide his shame, but he looked more like a homeless person than the exquisite footballer that we knew and loved.

I would disguise myself, too, if I went to Juventus

Pirlo was not kind to Milan in his autobiography, which shows how much character he lost when he stepped out of Milanello. Fans were hurt by his shameless worship of his four-year Juventus family, but that is what Juventus does to a person, it sucks all character out of your soul. It was probably his sins of omission in the book that were more damning, as he barely spoke of Ancelotti and all of the teammates who made him great during his ten years at Milan, the most important years of his career. I can understand that he was deeply hurt by his treatment by management, but all of us fans were behind him for all of those ten years, and it would have been nice for him to remember the love that his coach, teammates, and everyone else gave him and the tears we all shed at his exit.

Not as close as they once were

These days, Pirlo seems to have remembered a little bit about the club who loved him, but he doesn’t talk a lot in the media. After retiring, he kept the hipster/homeless look and seems to focus a lot on his winery. A distant memory of the incredible player he was for Milan. Meanwhile, Milan’s midfield has never been the same, either. Bennacer has so much promise, but he is still so young and struggles with discipline. From his sheer footballing brilliance to his shocking betrayal, Milan may never see another player like il Maestro again. There is simply no one like Pirlo.

This post inspired by the music of Garbage’s “Even Though Our Love is Doomed”

No One Like Pirlo No One Like Pirlo Reviewed by Elaine on 3:02 AM Rating: 5
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