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Andrea Pirlo, Ufficiale OMRI (born 19 May 1979), is an Italian professional footballer who plays for Italian Serie A club Juventus and the Italian national team. Pirlo is a free-kick specialist, who is usually deployed as a deep-lying playmaker in midfield for both Juventus and Italy, and he is regarded as a leading exponent of this position due to his vision, ball control, and passing ability.
Pirlo is the fourth-most capped player in the history of the Italian national team with 113 caps. He has played for the Italian youth teams at U15, U18 and U21 level, captaining and leading the latter to victory in the 2000 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship as the Golden Player and Top Scorer of the tournament. He joined the Italian senior side during the qualification round for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and captained the national team to a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics. Later, he was instrumental in their victory in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He was named man of the match three times, including the final, more than any other player in the tournament, and ultimately won the Bronze Ball (third best player in tournament) also being elected to be part of the Team of the Tournament. He was also elected as part of the UEFA Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament, after leading Italy to the final, winning three man of the match awards in the process, the most of any player along with Andrés Iniesta. He has also represented Gli Azzurri at the 2004 and 2008 UEFA European Championships, the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, and the 2009, and the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cups, finishing third in the 2013 edition in Brazil, where he was elected part of the Team of the Tournament.
With Milan, he won two UEFA Champions Leagues (2003 and 2007), two European Super Cups (2003 and 2007), two Serie A titles (2004 and 2011), a FIFA Club World Cup (2007), and a Coppa Italia (2003). After joining Juventus in 2011, he added four more Serie A titles in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. He came in third, second and fourth in IFFHS World Playmaker of the Year awards in 2006, 2007 and 2012, respectively. He also came in fourth in the 2012 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. He placed 7th in the 2007 FIFA World Player, 5th in the 2007 Ballon d'Or and 7th in the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or award. He was also named as part of the 2006 FIFPro World XI and the 2012 UEFA Team of the Year. In 2012, 2013, and 2014, Pirlo was also elected as Serie A Footballer of the Year, and was also named as part of the Serie A team of the Year. In 2012, Pirlo was named the eighth best footballer in the World by The Guardian, and in 2013, Bloomberg ranked him the fifth best player in Europe.
Pirlo was born in Flero, Italy, in the province of Brescia. He began his career with the Flero youth side, later moving to Voluntas, and subsequently joining the youth sector of local club Brescia, where he initially played predominantly as a supporting forward. In 1995, at the age of 16, Pirlo made his Serie A debut for Brescia against Reggina, on 21 May, becoming Brescia's youngest player to make an appearance in Serie A. The following season, he did not appear with the senior team, although he was able to capture the Torneo di Viareggio with the youth side. After breaking into the Brescia first team during the 1996-97 Serie B season, he helped the club to gain Serie A promotion the following season by winning the Serie B title. He scored his first goal in Serie A during the 1997-98 season, in a 4-0 home win over Vicenza on 19 October 1997.
Due to his performances with Brescia, Pirlo was spotted by Internazionale coach Mircea Lucescu, who signed the playmaker. Pirlo was unable to break into the first squad permanently, however, and Inter finished eighth in the 1998–99 Serie A campaign. Inter loaned Pirlo to Reggina for the 1999–2000 season, alongside young Inter team-mates Roberto Baronio and Mohamed Kallon. After an impressive season, he returned to Inter but was once again unable to break into the first team, making just four league appearances. He spent the second half of the 2000–01 Serie A season on loan at his former club, relegation fighters Brescia, where he played alongside his childhood idol, offensive playmaker Roberto Baggio. As Baggio occupied the attacking midfield role for Brescia, manager Carlo Mazzone made a ground-breaking decision, becoming the first coach to deploy Pirlo as a deep-lying playmaker, rather than as an offensive midfielder, a deeper creative role in which he particularly excelled, due to his long passing ability. Despite initially struggling against relegation that season, Brescia would eventually manage a comfortable seventh-place finish in Serie A, also reaching the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, qualifying for the Intertoto Cup in 2001. A notable moment in Pirlo's Brescia career was his long pass which assisted Baggio's late equaliser against Juventus at the Stadio delle Alpi, in 2001.
Andrea has demonstrated all his great talent and worth. When we played together, everything started with him. He always had the great gift of being able to visualise and anticipate plays before everyone else. His vision, what he can do with the ball, and what he’s able to create, make him a true superstar. Andrea has something which you don’t see very often.
It was at Milan, in particular under manager Carlo Ancelotti, where Pirlo made big strides in developing into a world class player, and one of the best deep-lying playmakers and set-piece specialists in the world, as he went on to achieve notable domestic and international success during his time with the club. After Mazzone's pioneering decision to move Pirlo into a deep-seated playmaking role with Brescia during the previous season, Milan managers Fatih Terim and, in particular, Carlo Ancelotti further developed this role for him at Milan.In Ancelotti's 4-3-2-1 formation, Pirlo was deployed as a deep-lying playmaker in front of the defence, which allowed him to play alongside other talented attacking midfielders, such as Rivaldo, Rui Costa and eventually Kaká, replacing the gap left by Milan legend Demetrio Albertini in the deep midfield playmaking role. He would become an integral part of the Rossoneri's midfield, forming a formidable partnership with Gennaro Gattuso, as well as with Clarence Seedorf and Massimo Ambrosini, who also supported his playmaking role defensively. Pirlo was given the nickname the metronome during his time at the club, for the way in which he set the team's rhythm.
Pirlo made his Milan debut on 20 September 2001, in a 2–0 win over BATE Borisov in the UEFA Cup, after coming on for Massimo Donati. During his first season with the club, he helped the team to a fourth-place finish UEFA Champions League qualification spot, also reaching the semi-final of the UEFA Cup, the club's best ever result in the competition. On 30 March 2002, he scored his first goal with Milan in a 3-1 home win over Parma, from a free-kick.
Pirlo led Serie A in the 2002–03 season in four categories – passes played (2589), ball possession (123 hours played and 39 minutes), successful balls (661), and successful passes (2093); he averaged almost 90 passes per game throughout the season. During this season, his second with the club, he also managed a career best of 9 goals in Serie A, as Milan finished the league in third place, also winning the Coppa Italia over Roma, and the UEFA Champions League, beating out Italian rivals and 2003 Serie A champions Juventus in the final on penalties, following a 0-0 draw after extra-time. The following season saw Pirlo win the 2003 UEFA Super Cup with Milan over Porto, although the Rossoneri lost to Juventus on penalties in the 2003 Supercoppa Italiana following a 1-1 draw after extra time; during the match, Pirlo scored on a penalty in extra time, and once again in the shootout. Milan would also miss out on the 2003 Intercontinental Cup, losing out on penalties once again to Boca Juniors, following a 1-1 draw after extra-time; on this occasion, Pirlo missed his penalty in the shoot-out. Pirlo would celebrate winning his first Serie A title with Milan during the 2003-04 season however, following up the scudetto with the 2004 Supercoppa Italiana over Lazio, although the club would be eliminated in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League and the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia.
Milan finished as runners up in Serie A to Juventus in the 2004–05 season. In the 2004–05 Champions League tournament, Pirlo finished as one of the second highest assist providers with four assists, as he helped Milan to reach the final. In the 2005 Champions League Final against Liverpool, on 20 May, Pirlo assisted Paolo Maldini's opening goal, after 50 seconds, from a free-kick, and combined with Kaká before the Brazilian unleashed Hernán Crespo with a long pass for Milan's third goal before halftime. In the second half, however, Liverpool made a three-goal comeback, sending the match into extra time. After a 3-3 deadlock, the match went to penalties, and Milan were defeated by the English side in the shoot-out. Despite Pirlo's performance throughout the competition and in the final, one of the most forgettable incidents of the season was probably his penalty miss during the shoot-out in the final, as his spot kick was saved by Jerzy Dudek. Pirlo would later state in his autobiography that the 2005 Champions League Final defeat on penalties was the worst moment of his career, and that he had considered retiring prematurely following the match:
I thought about quitting because, after Istanbul, nothing made sense any more. The 2005 Champions League final simply suffocated me. . . . We’d invented a new disease with multiple symptoms: "Istanbul syndrome". I no longer felt like a player, and that was devastating enough. But even worse, I no longer felt like a man.
The following season, Milan once again finished in second place behind Juventus in Serie A (before their 30-point deduction due to their involvement in the 2006 Calciopoli scandal), also reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, only to be defeated by eventual champions, Barcelona, and the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia. In 2006, Pirlo placed 9th in the Ballon d'Or, which was won by his Italy team-mate Fabio Cannavaro, and was elected to the 2006 FIFPro World XI.
Pirlo led Milan in minutes played for the 2006–07 season with 2,782 across 52 appearances, as he went on to win his second UEFA Champions League title with Milan, also helping his team to a fourth-place finish in Serie A, and another Coppa Italia semi-final. In the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final against Manchester United, Pirlo set up Seedorf's goal, as Milan progressed on to the final. In the 2007 Champions League Final in Athens, Pirlo assisted Inzaghi's first goal, helping Milan to defeat Liverpool 2-1, avenging their 2005 final defeat in Istanbul. During the 2007-08 season, Pirlo won his second UEFA Super Cup with Milan, assisting Milan's second goal in the final, also contributing to the club's first ever FIFA World Club Cup title in 2007, once again setting-up Milan's second goal in the final. In October 2007, he was nominated for the 2007 Ballon d'Or, the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year, and the 2007 IFFHS World's Best Playmaker Awards, but they were all won by Milan teammate Kaká, as Pirlo placed 5th in the Ballon d'or, 7th in the FIFA World Player of the Year, and 2nd in the World's Best Playmaker Awards. Despite a strong start, Milan suffered a dip in form during the second half of the season, finishing the league in fifth place, failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions' League; Milan also suffered eliminations in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League and the Coppa Italia that season. The following season, Milan managed a second-place finish in Serie A, alongside Juventus, and behind local rivals Inter, whilst they were eliminated in the round of 32 of the UEFA Cup, and the round of 16 of the Coppa Italia.
After Kaká and Ancelotti left Milan in the summer of 2009, Chelsea tested Milan's resolve by bidding $12 million and Claudio Pizarro for Pirlo. The club rejected the offer and Pirlo was said to be contemplating a transfer request. On 5 August, club owner Silvio Berlusconi decided not to sell Pirlo, who said he was overjoyed and wanted to end his career at Milan. On 21 October 2009, Pirlo scored a notable 30-metre goal in Milan's 3–2 win over Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League; Milan were eventually eliminated in the round of 16. Milan finished the season with a 3rd place in Serie A, and a quarter-final finish in the Coppa Italia under new manager Leonardo.
The following season saw Milan dominate the league. Milan played host to Genoa on 25 September 2010, with Pirlo providing a lifted ball over the top of the defence to set striker Zlatan Ibrahimović free to score the solitary goal of the game. On 2 October, Pirlo scored a 40-yard goal against Parma to give Milan their first away win of the 2010–11 season. On 14 May 2011, Pirlo appeared in his last match for Milan, coming on as a half-time substitute for Massimo Ambrosini as the club celebrated their Serie A Title with a 4–1 victory over Cagliari. Four days later, Pirlo confirmed that he would be leaving Milan at the end of the 2010–11 season, after a mutual decision not to renew his contract. In his last season in Milan, Pirlo appeared in the league just 17 times under manager Massimiliano Allegri, notching just one goal and three assists, winning his second Serie A title with Milan that season, also reaching the round of 16 in the Champions League, and in the Coppa Italia semi-final.
In total with Milan, Pirlo made 401 appearances, scoring 41 goals. With the club, he won two Serie A titles in 2004 and 2011, as well as two Champions League titles in 2003 and 2007, also reaching the final in 2005; he also won a Coppa Italia in 2003, a Supercoppa Italiana in 2004, and two UEFA Super Cups in 2003 and 2007, as well as playing a key role in Milan's first ever FIFA World Club Cup title in 2007. During this period, Milan also finished as runners up in Serie A in the 2004–05 and the 2005–06 seasons, as well as finishing second on penalties in the 2003 Supercoppa Italiana, and in the 2003 Intercontinental Cup.
When Andrea told me that he was joining us, the first thing I thought was: "God exists". A player of his level and ability, not to mention that he was free, I think it was the signing of the century!
Following Pirlo's departure from Milan in 2011, Juventus signed him on a free transfer on a contract until 2014. His debut with Juventus was in a friendly match against Sporting Clube de Portugal, which they lost 2–1. His first competitive match with La Vecchia Signora was the Serie A opening match against Parma at home and tallied two assists, for Stephan Lichtsteiner and Claudio Marchisio, in a 4–1 victory. Antonio Conte played him alongside younger midfielders Marchisio and new signing Arturo Vidal in a three-man midfield. His first goal for Juventus was a free kick against Catania on 18 February 2012 securing a 3–1 victory for the Bianconeri and put the club back at the top of the Serie A table, above his former side Milan. On 18 March, Pirlo scored in a 5–0 demolition of Fiorentina and after the game dedicated the win to Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest playing for Bolton Wanderers during a match against Tottenham Hotspur the same day.
Pirlo finished the season by winning the 2011–12 Serie A title, after helping Juventus to secure a 2–0 victory over Cagliari. He provided the most assists in the Serie A that season, with 13, and he also found the back of the net three times in the league. Pirlo completed 2643 passes that season, with an 87% pass completion rate, completing 500 more passes than any other player in Serie A; the only player in the world to have completed more passes than him that season was Xavi. Due to his performances throughout the season, and his key role in leading Juventus to their first Serie A title in nine years, he was named to the "Serie A Team of the Year", along with his Juventus midfielder partner Arturo Vidal. Pirlo and Juventus also finished runners up to Napoli in the Coppa Italia final that season. Pirlo's fine form in the 2011–12 season, in which he led Juventus to the league title, the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia Final, as well as leading Italy to the final of Euro 2012, saw him nominated for the 2012 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, in which he finished 4th. He was also elected to be part of the ESM 2012 Team of the Year and the 2012 UEFA Team of the Year.
Pirlo played in the 2012 Supercoppa Italiana in Beijing on 11 August 2012 against Napoli, helping Juventus to a 4–2 win in extra time.
Pirlo curled in a free-kick to seal a 2–0 defeat of Parma on the opening day of the new Serie A season. The goal caused much controversy, as the Parma players protested that it had not gone over the line, and replays proved inconclusive. In the following league match against Udinese on 2 September, Pirlo helped to win a penalty and assisted Sebastian Giovinco's second goal of the match, as Juventus went on to defeat the home side 4–1. On 29 September, Pirlo opened the scoring when he dispatched a trade mark free kick to send Juventus on their way to a 4–1 defeat of Roma. Pirlo was nominated for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or, along with Juventus and Italy team mate Gianluigi Buffon, following their performances throughout the calendar year. Pirlo provided three assists for Juventus during the Group Stage, helping them to top their group undefeated and advance to the knockout stages for first time since the 2008–09 tournament. Pirlo was also elected as Serie A Footballer of the Year, as well as the best midfielder, and the Italian Footballer of the Year, also winning the 2012 Guerin d'Oro. He was named as part of the Serie A team of the Year. Pirlo also won the Pallone Azzurro, given to the best player of the year in the Italian National Team, as well as placing fourth in the IFFHS World Playmaker of the Year Award. Pirlo and Juventus retained their Serie A title that season. Juventus were, however, eliminated by Bayern Munich in the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League, and in the semi finals of the Coppa Italia by Lazio; both of these teams were the winners of these respective competitions.
Pirlo featured in Juventus's 4–0 win against Lazio in the 2013 Supercoppa Italiana, on 18 August 2013, at the Stadio Olimpico, in Rome. Pirlo helped to create Paul Pogba's opening goal in the twenty-third minute of play.
Pirlo was the only Italian player to be nominated for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or, and was also nominated for the 2013 FIFPro World XI. On 1 December, Pirlo sustained a knee-ligament injury which would keep him off the field for over a month. On 12 January 2014, Pirlo signed a new contract with Juventus, which will keep him at the club until 2016. Juventus won their 30th league title that season with a record 102 points and 33 victories. This was also their third consecutive title since Andrea Pirlo's arrival. Juventus were eliminated in the group stage of the Champion's League, however, but managed a semi-final finish in the Europa League, losing out to Benfica, with Pirlo scoring a match winning goal from a free kick in the round of 16 against Fiorentina. Juventus also reached the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia, losing out to Roma. Pirlo was chosen to be part of the 2013–14 Europa League Team of the Season, for his performances in the competition.
On 11 June 2014, Pirlo signed a new contract keeping him at Juventus until 2016. Pirlo made his 100th league appearance for Juventus in a 3–2 home win over Roma on 5 October 2014. On the 1st November, Pirlo scored Juventus's opening goal from a free kick in a 2–0 win over Empoli, on their 117th anniversary; this was his 26th goal from a free kick in Serie A, putting him two goals behind the all-time record holder, Siniša Mihajlović. On the 4th November, Pirlo scored once again from a trademark, curling direct free-kick in a 3–2 home win over Olympiakos in a group-stage Champions League fixture. This was Pirlo's 100th appearance in the UEFA Champions League, marking the occasion with his first Champions League goal with Juventus. On the 15th December 2014, Pirlo was named the Serie A Footballer of the Year for the third time in his career, and for the third consecutive year since his arrival at Juventus; he was also named part of the 2014 Serie A Team of the Year. In Juventus's 2-1 home victory over Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League, on 24 February 2015, Pirlo left the pitch during the first half of the match, after injuring his right calf, ruling him out for three weeks. Pirlo was called up on 11 April 2015 against Parma following his injury. He returned to the starting line-up on 14 April 2015, helping Álvaro Morata to win a penalty which was later converted by Vidal in a 1-0 victory over Monaco at the Juventus Stadium, in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals; he was replaced by Andrea Barzagli during the second half. On 26 April, Pirlo scored from a free-kick in a 2-1 away defeat to local rivals Torino in the "Derby di Torino"; this was his 28th goal in Serie A from a free-kick, which put him level with Siniša Mihajlović as the player with the most goals from free-kicks in Serie A history. On 20 May, Pirlo played apart in both of Juventus's goals as the Turin club defeated Lazio 2–1 at the Stadio Olimpico in the 2015 Coppa Italia Final.
Pirlo is a silent leader. He speaks with his feet.
To pass the ball to Andrea Pirlo is like to hide it in a safe.
Is he the best player of his generation? Not quite, but he is the most important.
Under-21 and Olympic Career, senior team debut, and Euro 2004 under Trapattoni
Pirlo captained Italy to an Under-21 European Championship in 2000 (wearing the number 10 jersey, and winning the awards for best player and top scorer of the tournament) and to a semi-final finish in 2002. Pirlo played for Italy at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, scoring a goal in Italy's 1–0 opening win over hosts Australia on 13 September; he also helped the Azzurri to win the bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. With 46 matches and 16 goals, Pirlo is the record appearance holder for the Italian U-21 side, and the second highest goal-scorer after Alberto Gilardino. Pirlo made his Italy senior debut on the 7 September 2002 under Giovanni Trapattoni, at the age of 23 in a 2–0 win over Azerbaijan in a Euro 2004 qualifying match; he also appeared in a friendly match against Turkey that year. Pirlo scored his first goal for Italy from a free-kick in a 4–0 away win in a friendly match against Tunisia. His first major tournament with the Italian senior team was UEFA Euro 2004 under Giovanni Trapattoni, where he made two appearances in Italy's last two group matches: the first in a 1–1 draw against Sweden, and the second in a 2–1 win over Bulgaria. The Italian team was eliminated in the first round, on direct encounters, following a three-way five point tie with Sweden and Denmark.
2006 World Cup
Under Trapattoni's replacement, Marcello Lippi, Pirlo became a key member of Italy's starting line-up during their 2006 World Cup Qualifying campaign, and he was eventually called up as a starting member of the Italian squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He had assured Italy's participation in the tournament after scoring two free kicks in a World Cup Qualifier against Scotland.
Pirlo appeared in all of Italy's matches at the 2006 World Cup. In Italy's first match of the tournament, Pirlo scored the opening goal against Ghana, and subsequently set up a goal for Vincenzo Iaquinta to seal a 2–0 victory, as the midfielder was named Man of the Match. In the second match, he set up a diving header for Alberto Gilardino from a set piece which proved to be vital in the 1–1 draw against the United States.
In the semi-final against Germany, he assisted Fabio Grosso's opening goal in the dying minutes of extra-time, and was again named Man of the Match, as Italy triumphed 2–0 over the hosts. In the final against France, his corner kick produced Marco Materazzi's equalizing header ten minutes after France had opened the scoring with a Zinedine Zidane penalty. The match went to a penalty shoot-out, in which he scored, helping Italy to win the title. Pirlo formed a formidable midfield partnership with Milan team-mate Gennaro Gattuso, and he completed 475 passes out of 580 attempted throughout the tournament. After the final, he was named Man of the Match for a third time, winning more Man of the Match Awards than any other player in the tournament. Pirlo was voted the third-best player of the tournament, winning the Bronze Ball, and he finished the victorious World Cup campaign as the top assist provider along with team-mate Francesco Totti, as well as Riquelme, Schweinsteiger, and Figo. He was named as part of the 2006 FIFPro XI and as part of the 2006 World Cup Team of the Tournament for his performances, placing ninth in both the 2006 Ballon d'Or and the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year Awards.
Post World Cup
On 17 June 2008, Pirlo netted a penalty as Italy defeated France 2–0, to send their rivals and World Cup runners-up crashing out of the European Championships at the group stage. Italy lost on penalty kicks to eventual winners Spain in the quarterfinals, as Pirlo and Milan teammate Gennaro Gattuso were suspended for the match.
On 15 June 2009, Pirlo assisted Giuseppe Rossi's second goal in a 3–1 win in Italy's opening match of the Confederations Cup against the USA. Italy subsequently lost the following two group matches against Egypt and Brazil, and were eliminated from the competition.
Pirlo was not able to play the first two games in the 2010 World Cup for Italy due to recent injuries. He came off the bench for Italy late in the match on 24 June against Slovakia. Even with his help in orchestrating a renewed Italian offense, Pirlo could not prevent Italy from being knocked out of the first round.
Coach Prandelli named Pirlo Vice-Captain of the Italian squad, behind Captain, Gianluigi Buffon. Pirlo appeared in nine matches as Italy qualified undefeated for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, providing several assists, and netting one goal in Italy's 5–0 victory over the Faroe Islands on 7 September 2010.
Because of his excellent performances in leading Juventus to win the Serie A title, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli included the playmaker in his 32-man provisional squad for Euro 2012, and subsequently in Italy's final 23-man squad for the tournament. Pirlo provided the cutting ball from which Antonio di Natale scored the opening goal of Italy's 1–1 draw with World and European champions Spain in the opening round of group play on 10 June 2012. Pirlo then opened the scoring himself, scoring from a direct free-kick in their second match against Croatia on 14 June, which also ended in a 1–1 draw; Pirlo was named "Man of the Match". In the final group match against Ireland, Pirlo set up Antonio Cassano's goal from a corner kick to help Italy take a 1–0 lead. Italy eventually won 2–0 and progressed to the knock-out stage of the tournament as runners-up in Group C.
On 24 June, Pirlo produced a Man of the Match performance in the quarter-finals against England, as Italy won 4–2 on penalties after the game had finished 0–0 in extra time. Pirlo scored in the shoot-out with an audacious chipped penalty down the centre of the goal, also known as a Panenka. Following the match Pirlo spoke of his eloquent penalty, stating, "At the moment I saw the goalkeeper making strange movements, so I waited for him to move and hit it like that... It was easier for me to chip it at that stage. Maybe my effort put some pressure on England." Pirlo completed more passes than the entire England midfield, as he managed 131 passes, the most of any player during the match, and the second most in a single match in the history of the European Championship, behind Xavi, with an 87% pass completion rate, as Italy finished the match with 63% ball possession. He also ran 11.58 kilometres throughout the match, covering more distance than any England player.
In the semi-final round, on 28 June, Pirlo once again put up a Man of the Match performance against Germany, starting the play which led to Balotelli's first goal of the match, as Italy won 2–1 to advance to the final of the tournament. Following Italy's success in the semi-finals, Italy were defeated 4–0 against Spain in the final.
Pirlo won three Man of the Match Awards at Euro 2012, the most awards won by a single player, along with Andrés Iniesta of tournament champions Spain. Pirlo was nominated for the Player of the Tournament Award, which ultimately went to Iniesta, and he was also elected to be part of the Team of the Tournament.
2013 Confederations Cup
Pirlo was selected for Italy's squad to play in Brazil at the 2013 Confederations Cup. He won his 100th cap on 16 June in Italy's opening game against Mexico, opening the scoring with a trademark free kick as Italy downed El Tri 2–1, and Pirlo was voted man of the match.
In the second group stage match against Japan, Pirlo assisted De Rossi's goal against from a corner. The match ended 4–3 to Italy. The win allowed Italy to progress to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time.
Pirlo did not play in the third group stage match against hosts Brazil, as he had come down with a minor injury at the end of the second match, although he would be available to play for the semi-finals. Italy were defeated 4–2, which meant that they finished second in group A, and would be playing the winners of group B, tournament favourites Spain, in a rematch of the European Championship Final of the previous year. Italy held Spain to 0–0 draw, and the match eventually went to penalties. Pirlo netted his penalty, but Bonucci's miss allowed Spain to advance to the final, as they won the shootout 7–6. Pirlo was injured for the third place final, although Italy managed to defeat Uruguay 3–2 on penalties, after a 2–2 draw. Pirlo was named to the Team of the Tournament, and was nominated for the Golden Ball award, although he failed to place amongst the top three players of the tournament, as the awards went to Neymar, Iniesta, and Paulinho, respectively.
2014 World Cup
Pirlo scored one goal during Italy's qualification campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which saw them top their group, undefeated. Pirlo converted a penalty as Italy dispatched Armenia by a score of 3–1 on 12 October 2012, and assisted several goals during the World Cup qualifying campaign. On 5 June 2014, Pirlo was selected by Italy manager Cesare Prandelli as part of his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Brazil. On 12 June, Pirlo announced that he would retire from international football following the tournament.
In the 2014 World Cup, Italy were placed in Group D, along with Costa Rica, England and Uruguay, in what was called the "Group of Death". On 14 June, in Italy's opening match against England, Pirlo wore the captain's armband due to Buffon's last minute injury. The match ended with a 2–1 win to Italy. Pirlo heavily contributed to Italy's win, controlling the flow of the game, and setting up several goalscoring chances, as Italy dominated possession. During the match, Pirlo made 108 passes in total, only misplacing five, with a pass completion rate of 95.4%, completing the most passes of any other player in the previous opening matches of the 2014 World Cup. With a 93.2 pass percentage, Italy also managed to record the highest pass accuracy percentage of any team in a World Cup match since Denmark in the 1966 World Cup, completing 561 of their 602 passes. Pirlo also contributed to Italy's first goal of the match: Candreva's short corner was played to Verratti, who then passed the ball out wide towards Pirlo, who drew his marker with him. Pirlo let the ball pass in between his legs to Marchisio, leaving him with space to score with a low drive from outside the area. Pirlo also managed to hit the crossbar from a swerving free kick in injury time. Italy suffered 1–0 defeats in both of their remaining matches against Costa Rica and Uruguay, however and were eliminated in the group stage for the second consecutive World Cup, finishing in a disappointing third place in their group, behind Costa Rica and Uruguay. Pirlo's appearance against Uruguay was his 112th cap for Italy, which allowed him to equal Dino Zoff's number of appearances for the Italian National side, and made him the fourth most capped player for the Italian national team. The Italian squad and manager, Cesare Prandelli, were criticised for over-relying on Pirlo to create goalscoring chances. Although Pirlo was able to set up some goal scoring opportunities and did test the opposition goalkeepers with some dangerous free kicks in the final two group games, his performances were stifled by the defensive pressure of the opposition, and he was much less dominant than he had been in the opening match against England. Although he had previously communicated his intention to retire after the World Cup, he stated, upon his return to Italy, that he would still be available to play for the national side.
Despite previously announcing his international retirement following the 2014 World Cup, Pirlo reversed his decision, and under new Italy manager, and Pirlo's former Juventus manager Antonio Conte, Pirlo returned to the Italian squad. On 10 October, Pirlo started in Italy's second Euro 2016 qualifying match, which ended in a 2–1 home win for the Azzurri over Azerbaijan. Pirlo assisted Chiellini's first goal of the match from a corner kick.
Pirlo is a genius. Together with Baggio, I think he’s the greatest talent that Italian football has produced in the last 25 years.
Tactically, Pirlo is capable of playing in several midfield positions, although he is usually deployed as a central midfielder, where he functions as a deep-lying playmaker for both his club and national sides. Pirlo is regarded by players, managers, and pundits as one of the greatest ever exponents of this position, one of the best midfielders in the world and of his generation, and as one of the greatest Italian players of all time. A highly technical and creative player, Pirlo started his career in a more advanced role, as an offensive midfielder. Although he was considered a talented, creative, young Italian prospect in Serie A, even drawing comparisons with former Italian footballing legend and playmaker Gianni Rivera, due to his technical ability, Pirlo occasionally struggled in this position, due to his lack of pace, and due to competition from other talented and more dynamic attacking midfielders. Because of this, he was later moved to a deep-lying playmaking role by his coaches Mazzone, Fatih Terim, and Ancelotti, where he was able to excel due to his unique capabilities. This position best utilises Pirlo's unique attributes, and allows him to operate creatively from a deeper position, in or even behind the main midfield line, in a seemingly defensive midfield role, where he is allowed more time on the ball to create scoring opportunities thanks to his ball skills, acute vision, and excellent long passing ability. He has also previously played as a supporting striker on occasion during his time at Inter, as well as on the wing under Allegri during his final season with Milan, due to his ability to provide accurate, curling crosses.
Although not gifted with pace, stamina, physicality or notable defensive or tackling abilities, Pirlo has been praised for his touch, technique, balance, close control, and dribbling ability, as well as his flair and creativity in beating players with feints during one on one situations to create space. As a playmaker, he is also highly regarded by pundits for his incredible vision, his inventive play, his wide distribution range, and his accurate passing ability on the ground or in the air with either foot; he is considered to be one of the best passers in the sport. He is also known for his accurate long distance shooting ability, which allows him to contribute further to his team's offensive play with additional goals as well as assists. Pirlo is a set piece and penalty-kick specialist, who has been praised by pundits for his versatility and ability to score on direct free-kicks, as well as his adeptness at creating chances from dead-ball opportunities. He is extremely effective at curling shots accurately on target from close range, which he states to have perfected whilst studying Baggio in training sessions during their time at Brescia together. Pirlo is also capable of scoring from long-range free-kicks with swerve and power, however, due to his unique technique, which was directly inspired by Juninho's free-kicks. Pirlo has scored the highest number of free-kicks in Serie A, alongside Siniša Mihajlović. He is regarded as one of the best free-kick takers in the world.
In addition to these characteristics, Pirlo is primarily known for his outstanding vision and his extremely accurate long-range passing ability as a playmaker, attributes which have led fellow players on the Italian national team to give him the nickname l'architetto ("the architect"), because of the way in which he builds plays, and as his long passes frequently set up goal-scoring opportunities. In recent years, Juventus fans also dubbed him il professore ("the professor") and Mozart, as a reference to the Austrian composer's prodigious ability. Pirlo was also frequently compared to fellow former Milan and Italy legend Demetrio Albertini early in his Milan career, due to their similar characteristics and style of play, such as their acute vision, accurate and varied passing range, excellent technique, and adeptness at set-pieces, penalties, and shots from distance. Pirlo was often thought to be Albertini's heir for Milan and the national side, and also inherited his nickname the metronome whilst playing at Milan, for the way in which he controlled the tempo of his team's play.
Pirlo was born in Flero, near Brescia, Lombardy, and started his professional career with provincial giants Brescia Calcio. His brother, Ivan, plays for a Serie C2 club in Brescia. Pirlo and his wife Deborah Roversi married in 2001 and have two children: son Niccolò (born 2003) and daughter Angela (born 2006). In 2014, Pirlo and Roversi divorced after thirteen years of marriage, following Pirlo's affair with Valentina Baldini, a woman he met at his golf club.
Pirlo's father founded a metal trading company in Brescia in 1982 called Elg Steel. Pirlo himself retains a stake in the family business.
With regard to his wealth from his family business and footballing career, Pirlo stated in an interview with Italian Vanity Fair magazine that he never talks about money. Pirlo is known for being a wine connoisseur and he also runs his own vineyard in Italy, which produces around 15–20,000 bottles a year.
In 2013, Pirlo wrote an autobiography, Penso Quindi Gioco (I Think, Therefore I Play).
On the 1 September 2014, Pirlo, along with many current and former footballing stars, took part in the "Match for Peace", which was played at the Stadio Olimpico, in Rome, with the proceeds being donated entirely to charity.
- As of 30 May 2015
- As of 14 October 2014
| Italy national team
- Scores and results list Italy's goal tally first.
|| 30 May 2004
|| Stade Olympique de Radès, Radès, Tunisia
|| 23x15px Tunisia
|| 26 March 2005
|| San Siro, Milan, Italy
|| 23x15px Scotland
|| 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification
|| 17 August 2005
|| Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
- REDIRECT Template:Country data Republic of Ireland || 1–0 || 2–1 || Friendly
|| 12 June 2006
|| AWD-Arena, Hanover, Germany
|| 23x15px Ghana
|| 2006 FIFA World Cup
|| 13 October 2007
|| Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa, Italy
|| 23x15px Georgia
|| UEFA Euro 2008 qualification
|| 17 June 2008
|| Letzigrund, Zurich, Switzerland
|| 23x15px France
|| UEFA Euro 2008
|| 28 March 2009
|| Podgorica City Stadium, Podgorica, Montenegro
|| 23x15px Montenegro
|| 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
|| 7 September 2010
|| Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy
|| 23x15px Faroe Islands
|| UEFA Euro 2012 qualification
|| 14 June 2012
||Stadion Miejski, Poznań, Poland
|| 23x15px Croatia
|| UEFA Euro 2012
|| 12 October 2012
|| Hrazdan Stadium, Yerevan, Armenia
|| 23x15px Armenia
|| 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
|| 31 May 2013
|| Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, Bologna, Italy
|| 23x15px San Marino
|| 16 June 2013
|| Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
|| 23x15px Mexico
|| 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup
- As of 17 June 2013
- AC Milan
- UEFA European Under-21 Championship Golden Player: 2000
- UEFA European Under-21 Championship Top Scorer: 2000
- 2006 FIFA World Cup Man of the Match: vs. Ghana, vs. Germany, Final vs. France
- 2006 FIFA World Cup All-star team
- 2006 FIFA World Cup Bronze Ball
- 2006 FIFA World Cup Top Assist Provider
- IFFHS World's Best Playmaker: Third place 2006, Second place 2007, 9th place 2009, 4th place 2012
- FIFPro World XI: 2006
- Ballon d'Or: 2006 (9th place), 2007 (5th place), 2012 (7th place)
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 2007 (7th place)
- UEFA Euro 2008 Man of the Match: vs. Romania
- ESM Team of the Year: 2011–12
- Pallone d'Argento: 2011–12
- Pallone Azzurro: 2011–12
- Guerin d'Oro: 2012
- UEFA Euro 2012 Man of the Match: vs. Croatia, vs. England, vs. Germany
- UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament 2012
- UEFA Best Player in Europe Award: 2012 (4th place)
- Juventus Player of the Season: 2011–2012
- UEFA Team of the Year: 2012
- 2011–12 Serie A Top Assist Provider
- Serie A team of the Year: 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14
- Serie A Midfielder of the Year: 2012
- Serie A Italian Player of the Year: 2012
- Serie A Player of the Year: 2012, 2013, 2014
- Premio Nazionale Carriera Esemplare "Gaetano Scirea": 2013
- FIFA Confederations Cup Team of the Tournament: 2013
- UEFA Europa League Team of the Season: 2013–14
- A.C. Milan Hall of Fame
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