The Rise Of Andrea Pirlo
Born in the province of Brescia to parents who ran a steel company, Andrea Pirlo grew up in comfort. He showed his prowess for football at a young age and after bouncing around a few amateur sides in the region his hometown club snapped him up in 1994.
Just a year later he made his debut in the Brescia senior side aged sixteen, before going on to establish himself as a regular during the 1996/97 Serie B promotion season. His stock was growing and within a year he found himself on the books of Inter Milan.
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Things did not start well for Pirlo at Inter. An inability to break into the first team saw him make several loan moves, first to Reggina and then back to Brescia. The latter would see a small shift that changed the course of his career forever. Pirlo, to this point, had generally been regarded as a classic number 10. Like most young Italians he had grown up idolising Roberto Baggio, a man whom he now found himself playing alongside at Brescia.
His manager, Carlo Mazzone, made the pivotal call to move Pirlo back to sit behind the midfield. This allowed Baggio the freedom to lead the attack while Pirlo created from the back. His range of passing and spatial awareness were ideal for the role, while his lack of pace could be compensated for with a more industrious teammate alongside him.
In a short spell of time he made the role his own as the league big clubs started to swarm. It would ultimately be Inter’s crosstown rivals AC Milan who snapped him up. While a call up to the national team soon followed. The next decade saw Pirlo win two champions leagues and Serie A titles with Milan and in 2006, five years after his pivotal season at Brescia, he played a vital role in seeing Italy lift the World Cup for the fourth time. His assist for Grosso’s winning goal in the semi final becoming a defining moment of his career.
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After a decade with Milan and with many considering his time at the top almost over, Pirlo made the switch at 31 years old to Juventus on a free transfer. Milan’s loss was Juventus’ gain as he led them to four straight Serie A titles before ultimately leaving Italy at 36 to join New York City of the MLS.
Words by Andy Gallagher