Farewell, Andrea Pirlo, Mozart of Modern Football


Farewell, Andrea Pirlo, Mozart of Modern Football

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Andrea Pirlo is everything you want football to be about. He was never the quickest on the field, he wasn’t known to have much aerial prowess, he wasn’t ever physically intimidating, never the one to slide around with nasty tackles and bully. Yet, as we bid him goodbye, he is one of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the game. You couldn’t touch him, you could never get close to him. All one could do was just watch and admire.

“I Think Therefore I Play,” is the tagline for Andrea Pirlo’s autobiography. It is also an apt description for his footballing career. As he once famously said “Football is played with the head. Your legs are just the tools.” His was a game built around vision and complemented by some serious precision. With effortless grace, he could pick out any player on the pitch at any given time. The moment he struck a football, your head would follow the trajectory of the ball, as the beautifully curved strike found its destination every single time. There was such an elegant inevitability about it.

There are very few players in the world you could put in front of Pirlo in a dead ball situation. He scored some of the most breathtaking free kicks in his time. He had an accuracy that would make a sniper proud. It was never powered or fizzed-in with pace, just beautifully floated into the top corner, as the goalie watched with shock and awe at the same time.

There are people who are cool, and then there is Andrea Pirlo. Playing at the highest level of the game can get to even the biggest of players, but not Pirlo. He was always calm and unfazed by the magnitude of the game, which was evident in his Panenka penalty against England in a knockout game at Euro 2012. And more so in the way he just quietly walked back after scoring that goal, zero fucks given. Just as people do on the day of the World Cup Final, Pirlo spent time playing the PlayStation in the afternoon and went on to win the World Cup in the evening.

The moment he struck a football, your head would follow the trajectory of the ball, as the beautifully curved strike found its destination every single time.

Pirlo is perhaps the last of this dying breed, in a game that drastically changed during his lifetime. He is the classic vintage car in a world of SUVs and mean machines. The fancy haircuts, loud interviews, and over-the-top celebrations are no match for the dapper suits and trademark beard. The athletic powerhouses of today, with speed and trickery, who can cover miles and miles every single game, have taken over the simple charm of the pause and deception. Of the quiet domination of the midfield with effortless passing and possession, a quality mastered by the likes of Pirlo, Xavi, and Scholes.

Pirlo might be one of football’s last luxury players, who was guarded by fierce defensive midfielders of the likes of Gattuso and Seedorf, while he could take time on the ball. There wasn’t much pressure on him to keep tracking back and throw himself around on the field. His role was pretty defined, and there’s one thing you couldn’t afford to give him as an opposition player – time.

Andrea Pirlo, thank you for your time, and for all the memories. In the times of EDM and pop music, football is going to miss its Mozart of the modern game, who conducted the orchestra with simplicity and swagger, as only he could.