Andrea Pirlo – A Midfield Maestro
For those of you who had never got a chance before to see the magician in action before, the Euro 2012 clash between England and Italy was a classic opportunity. And, for those who missed the match, my heartfelt sympathy for you. Because you have missed one of the best footballing lessons by any playmaker or midfielder ever. Even though the Italians failed to score a single goal, the show put up by Andrea Pirlo was a master class (it would have been a harsh injustice to the Italian national team and especially to Pirlo’s performance if England managed to scrape through on penalties).
Pirlo is deployed as a deep lying midfield playmaker for both the Italian national team as well as his current club Juventus (he played a similar role for his previous club A. C. Milan too). Over his long career, the 33 year old talisman has won several Serie A titles, 2 UEFA Champions Leagues and the 2006 FIFA World Cup (he was the man of the match in the final) in addition to several other comparatively less important medals and honors. He is truly one of the best playmakers and midfielders of his era, possibly of all time, and has often single handed led his teams to success. No wonder he was often known as ‘The General Of Milan’.
One of the major aspects of his game is his incredible vision. Pirlo can read and see the game in a way no other person can. This includes the other players on the pitch, the referee, several viewers and experts watching from their homes, the commentators and even his coach/manager. Such exquisite creativity and vision has produced some the best through balls and killer passes which have sliced open defenses like they dint even exist. Even though he may not score often, his vision and creativity has assisted goals on an innumerable number of occasions. No matter how alert a defender is, one must feel some sympathy for him when Pirlo has the ball at his feet.
Reading the game and creatively visualizing the pass is one thing, but carrying out the pass is another. His passing accuracy remains impeccable and he holds one of the highest pass completion rates every season in the Serie A (estimated to roughly 90% pass completion per season). This varies from several short passes to incredibly long 70+ yard diagonal balls. In addition, for more matches than one can remember or count, he has made a greater number of passes (with a higher pass completion rate) than all his teammates, and even all the players on the pitch. To put it briefly – he simply does not give the ball away.
Very few central midfielders can dictate play and boss midfield the way Andrea Pirlo can (only a select bunch of players such as the Xavis and the Scholes’ of the world can fall into this category). In the England v/s Italy game, Andrea Pirlo schooled Gerrard and co. on how to control and dominate midfield single handedly. A player should feel blessed to be playing on the same side as Pirlo is. I’m sure a common philosophy that the Italian team and juventus can currently abide by is – When in doubt, pass to Pirlo.
Lastly, Pirlo is definitely a class apart from most other players. His true class (and a hint of cheekiness and arrogance) was showcased in the spot kick converted by him during the penalty shootout in the England v/s Italy game. English goalkeeper, Joe Hart, was doing everything in his ability to distract Pirlo from scoring such as making funny faces and jumping around while swinging his arms. Pirlo, with all 33 years of composure and coolness, clearly made Joe Hart feel like a clown by converting an absolutely spectacular spot kick. Even one commentator was left stunned with the only words he could manage being – “Pirlo barely even touched the ball”.
If any young aspiring midfielder needs some inspiration or a playmaker role model, Andrea Pirlo would be an ideal and fine choice. I leave you with one of the best (among the many that there are), video compilations of Andre Pirlo’s playmaking ability and a popular quote I read about him by Joey Barton – “Pirlo doesn’t just kick the ball. He caresses it. He makes slow, sensual and really emotional love to it”.