A Fantastic Article on Andrea Pirlo

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Post by Arquitecto Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:53 pm

In 2004, midway between Pep Guardiola leaving Barcelona as a player and joining it as coach, he described how his deep-lying, distribution-based midfield role was no longer wanted at the highest level. "The emphasis, as far as central midfielders are concerned, is all on defensive work," he told Gabriele Marcotti of The Times of London. "Players like me have become extinct."

"Twenty years ago, many clubs had guys with my characteristics," Guardiola said. There was just one man he pinpointed as the exception. "Today, the only one I see is at Milan, with Andrea Pirlo."

It should come as no surprise, then, that in a footballing world that has come to embrace the deep-lying midfield playmaker again, Pirlo still reigns supreme. Milan discarded him prematurely during the summer, preferring the industry of more defensive-minded players, the energy of Kevin-Prince Boateng and the younger guile of Alberto Aquilani.

Milan is regretting it already. At Juventus, Pirlo's passing range is still there, and mobility was never his strongest point anyway -- he's spent a career learning how to defend intelligently without tearing around the pitch like his old partner Rino Gattuso. In pairing him with Claudio Marchisio, a hardworking player but far from a holding midfielder, manager Antonio Conte has shown great faith in Pirlo's ability to command the midfield zone.

It's bizarre that Pirlo was the poster boy for deep-lying playmakers for much of the past decade. He started out as a No. 10, an attacking midfielder or a deep-lying forward, in roughly the same role as Roberto Baggio or Francesco Totti. He captained the Italian under-21 side to a European Championship win in 2000 and therefore was the next big thing in Italy.

Pirlo struggled to make the first team at Inter, however, and spent a couple of years out on loan to Reggina, then Brescia. It was at the latter, his hometown club where Pirlo had spent most of his teenage years, where a revolution occurred. Having been unable to force his way into the Inter side because of so many other great forwards, returning to Brescia, where he was up against the legendary Roberto Baggio, was unlikely to reap many rewards.

Brescia coach Carlo Mazzone had a solution. Baggio had the No. 10 shirt and played behind veteran goal poacher Dario Hubner up front, while Pirlo took the No. 5 jersey and played deep in midfield. It worked brilliantly, and Baggio's most famous moment in a Brescia shirt came because of Pirlo.

Away at Baggio's old club Juventus, Brescia trailed 1-0 in the 86th minute. Pirlo got the ball on the halfway line, looked up and lofted a ball over the top of the defense. Baggio produced a moment of extraordinary skill -- bringing the ball down, rounding Edwin van der Sar and rolling it into the empty net. All that, in only two touches. Baggio was in the headlines, but Pirlo was the architect. Few other clubs at that time would have had the invention of a genius deep in midfield to play the pass and a genius to finish the move in that style.

When Pirlo's loan expired that summer and he was bought by Milan, to whom did Brescia turn for its deep-lying playmaker? A man named Pep Guardiola, whom no other club wanted after his departure from Barcelona.

Pirlo, Guardiola and Mazzone kept the dream alive, the idea that central midfielders didn't need pace and didn't need to be a tackler. You could be a creator, a ballplayer, a beautiful footballer. Guardiola returned to Brescia earlier this year, dining with the club's technical staff and visiting the club's training ground. "If I return to work in Italy it will be to train Brescia," he said. "And I'll do it for free." A joke? Probably -- but don't underestimate Guardiola's faith in his ideology and his appreciation for the historical roots of footballing styles. When he was studying to be a coach, he visited Milanello to see how Milan trained -- and for the first time, he got to meet Pirlo.

Where would Pirlo be without Mazzone's decision to move him deeper? Compare his career with that of another promising Italian No. 10 at the turn of the century -- Domenico Morfeo. A wonderfully talented player at under-21 level, 5-foot-7, clever on the ball and a great free-kick taker, he had the ability to play for a top side, but both Milan clubs used him sparingly. A half-decent Serie A career followed, but he retired from football at age 32, saying he had gradually lost motivation for the game. The last club to take a chance on him? Brescia. You've got to admire it for giving it a go.

Pirlo, meanwhile, was linked with Barcelona this past summer, but ultimately it simply had too many central midfielders to justify bringing in one more. His move from Milan meant he didn't get the chance to face Guardiola's Barcelona side in the Champions League in September.

"Pirlo is no longer there, and AC Milan has lost a fantastic player," Guardiola said. "But Van Bommel is a player of great value." Certainly, but Mark Van Bommel epitomizes almost the exact opposite of Guardiola and Pirlo -- cynical and destructive. He won the Champions League in 2006 with Barcelona, in a final when Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta started on the bench.


It's hard to imagine such a selection decision now -- beauty has overcome the beast. Apart from at Milan -- how ironic, considering the Italians were the ideologists of the 2000s. Guardiola slammed Milan's defensive approach after the 2-2 draw in its Champions League encounter in September, perhaps out of disappointment as much as frustration. "Milan couldn't get across the halfway line," he remarked. "They only attacked two-and-a-half times." Pirlo would have helped the club create more.

Pirlo may never have been coached by Guardiola, but when asked whom he considered his "maestro," he was quick to respond. "Pep Guardiola. In this role, he has been a model. Or rather, the model: for his vision of the game, his calmness and his passing ability. Thanks to him, Barcelona is the now the finest team in Europe. It's so impressive, the speed with which they circulate the ball."

Pirlo has tentative plans to go into coaching when he retires. He speaks about football with the thoughtfulness of Guardiola, and maybe someday he'll inspire a similarly great side as coach. Milan has a habit of appointing its former midfielders as managers -- Fabio Capello, Carlo Ancelotti and Leonardo.

But then, don't expect Pirlo to go into coaching any time soon, for he doesn't need to retire just yet. He helped preserve Guardiola's ideology; now Guardiola's popularization of the passing midfielder is helping to prolong Pirlo's career. Other players and coaches should watch him, admire him, learn from him.

Is he best player of his generation? Not quite, but he is the most important.

Michael Cox is a freelance writer for ESPN.com. He also runs zonalmarking.net.
________________________________________________________________________

BTW Please DO NOT turn this into a xavi vs pirlo vs zidane vs scholsey thread.

Just appreciate the art of playmaking and its players who have been exuberant in its craft.

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Post by leemhuis Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:30 pm

We are missing him.
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Post by Great Leader Sprucenuce Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:41 pm

Dominico Morfeo he is definitely a player that belongs in the Wasted talents/Potential thread......

Completely forgot about him, what a talent such a shame.

And great article on Pirlo i will post my views on it later i just wanted to mention the part on Morfeo.
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Post by Magricos Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:49 pm

Just reminds me of the article on passing midfielders. Funny thing is Milan will still probably win the league.

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Post by shinkikai Tue Nov 01, 2011 2:30 am

some of my friends/foe said that Pirlo is Slow...then i told them "you dont need to be fast to be Pirlo. you need to be fast to chase Pirlo's passes"

then they shut their pie hole.
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Post by zizzle Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:57 am

great read, thanks for sharing
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Post by Kick Wed Nov 02, 2011 2:37 am

Good read,

So when Pirlo retires, who takes over the reigns? Who is the next up and coming DLP?
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Post by jibers Wed Nov 02, 2011 2:43 am

kick mars wrote:Good read,

So when Pirlo retires, who takes over the reigns? Who is the next up and coming DLP?

No one. He is the last of a dying breed. That's the point. Registas are dying out. Xavi isn't a typical regista. Scholes has retired. Modric, xavi and players like thiago are the new mould of cm. You can say Xavi was the first of the new kind of cm. ps Arq i commented on the article, yu should read some of my responses. I think I replied to it about a week ago or something. I try to talk to him on twitter sometimes. he's pretty cool and knows his stuff. The only other player that could be put in this category is Xabi Alonso but he is nowhere near Prlos level. Alonso can't take control of games the way this man does.
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Post by pasquale22 Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:07 am

Amazing , thanks for this
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Post by kiranr Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:25 am

Busquets could get there, if he wanted to...
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Post by Magricos Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:27 am

Since when is Xavi a new mould of CMs.

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Post by Kick Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:43 am

jibers wrote:
kick mars wrote:Good read,

So when Pirlo retires, who takes over the reigns? Who is the next up and coming DLP?

No one. He is the last of a dying breed. That's the point. Registas are dying out. Xavi isn't a typical regista. Scholes has retired. Modric, xavi and players like thiago are the new mould of cm. You can say Xavi was the first of the new kind of cm. ps Arq i commented on the article, yu should read some of my responses. I think I replied to it about a week ago or something. I try to talk to him on twitter sometimes. he's pretty cool and knows his stuff. The only other player that could be put in this category is Xabi Alonso but he is nowhere near Prlos level. Alonso can't take control of games the way this man does.

I bet everyone was saying the same thing after Pep retired.

Some Chelsea fans think McEachran could be a fantastic DLP so I am sure there will be someone and they will be special.
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Post by jibers Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:47 am

Magricos wrote: Since when is Xavi a new mould of CMs.

Well compare Xavi to playmakers such as Riquelme and Pirlo and Scholes and you'll see the difference. Xavi is somewhere in between, not quite a trequartista and not a regista. Same with Luka Modric. Modric is the next best thing after Xavi (even though he is few levels below him tbh). I believe United have Cleverley and he is a similar sort of player with his movement and his space creation (I am not comparing him to the former two before I get bashed, just saying he is exciting and the reason for our fluidity this season). They all dicatate tempos differently from registas.
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Post by Magricos Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:49 am

Carlos Valderrama.

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Post by jibers Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:49 am

kick mars wrote:
jibers wrote:
kick mars wrote:Good read,

So when Pirlo retires, who takes over the reigns? Who is the next up and coming DLP?

No one. He is the last of a dying breed. That's the point. Registas are dying out. Xavi isn't a typical regista. Scholes has retired. Modric, xavi and players like thiago are the new mould of cm. You can say Xavi was the first of the new kind of cm. ps Arq i commented on the article, yu should read some of my responses. I think I replied to it about a week ago or something. I try to talk to him on twitter sometimes. he's pretty cool and knows his stuff. The only other player that could be put in this category is Xabi Alonso but he is nowhere near Prlos level. Alonso can't take control of games the way this man does.

I bet everyone was saying the same thing after Pep retired.

Some Chelsea fans think McEachran could be a fantastic DLP so I am sure there will be someone and they will be special.

Registas are going o be phased ouyt just like you dont have out and out strikers and strikerless formations are coming into the fore front, the Xavi template will become the new mould of cms tbh.
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Post by Lord Awesome Wed Nov 02, 2011 3:54 am

Pirlo = best DLP since Albertini

Xavi = best DLP since Guardiola
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Post by BeautifulGame Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:17 am

Great read cheers

As for next generation of DLP Sahin is definitely worth the mention.I think he will develop into a really quality DLM in future.Certainly has the qualities.

As for saying Alonso is nowhere near the level of Pirlo if Scholes can be mentioned alongside Pirlo Alonso certainly can be.Alonso is a level above the likes of Scholes.
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Post by jibers Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:48 am

BeautifulGame wrote:Great read cheers

As for next generation of DLP Sahin is definitely worth the mention.I think he will develop into a really quality DLM in future.Certainly has the qualities.

As for saying Alonso is nowhere near the level of Pirlo if Scholes can be mentioned alongside Pirlo Alonso certainly can be.Alonso is a level above the likes of Scholes.

lol. dream on, when all your peers have called you the best then thats something. Edgar davids after winning the ballon d'or said scholes was the best, pep said scholes was the best, xavi recently said it. who the *bleep* is alonso? lol. jog it on son.
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Post by BeautifulGame Wed Nov 02, 2011 6:11 am

Anyone will say something similar when u are retiring out of sympathy.That doesnt make it their true opinion of hi, Laughing

Only thing Scholes great at is breaking opponents leg with pathetic tackels.Disgusting player
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Post by jibers Wed Nov 02, 2011 6:20 am

BeautifulGame wrote:Anyone will say something similar when u are retiring out of sympathy.That doesnt make it their true opinion of hi, Laughing

Only thing Scholes great at is breaking opponents leg with pathetic tackels.Disgusting player

lol, Davids said it when he won the ballon d'or, Zidane said it when he was at his peak and no one knew he was retring. Xavi called Scholes a role Model. Even your precious Alonso thought so. Alonso was so goo that rafa tried selling him to try and get another player. loooool. Again, jog it on son.


ps off topic beautiful game go to the united page and read the Cleverley thread and tell me what you think.
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Post by BeautifulGame Wed Nov 02, 2011 6:32 am

And Fergie never thought Scholes wasnt good enough Laughing

Veron was bought for fun i suppose Laughing

Oh we are talking of the same Scholes who did a Tevez by refusing to come of the bench because he was a sub.What a role model

Fact the only thing Scholes was great is at breaking opponents legs with his pathetic tackles through out his career.He is worse than Shawcross(No surprise which academy Shawcross came through Laughing ) as intentionally injuring players.Disgusting player is an understament.
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Post by Magricos Wed Nov 02, 2011 6:42 am

If some players said Messi was the best player ever some of you still won't believe. Scholes wasn't the best midfielder in the last 20 years.

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Post by The Franchise Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:28 pm

Scholes was a great player, wont listen to anyone who says differently. Certainly better then guys like Xabi Alonso, its not even worth a debate.

Anyway, great article and brings up some intresting thoughts.

Jibbers, how do you consider guys like Busquets and even Banega, both guys who love the deeper waters and like to start play there. Banega has a more direct approach then say Busquets, but I think he has the type of skillset to continue the trend if he was ever used in that way fulltime.

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Post by Swanhends Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:38 pm

I'm not sure I consider Xavi a deep lying playmaker, really...I dunno wtf to call him, but its not that..

I mean, I look at Pirlo or at Xabi Alonso and instantly based on their style of play thats the first thing that comes to mind....Xavi is just different

Same way with Banega really...I definitely don't consider him a deep lying playmaker, nor do I consider him an attacking midfielder

I think that both players are truly best categorized as just "central midfielders"
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Post by jibers Wed Nov 02, 2011 1:50 pm

The Franchise wrote:Scholes was a great player, wont listen to anyone who says differently. Certainly better then guys like Xabi Alonso, its not even worth a debate.

Anyway, great article and brings up some intresting thoughts.

Jibbers, how do you consider guys like Busquets and even Banega, both guys who love the deeper waters and like to start play there. Banega has a more direct approach then say Busquets, but I think he has the type of skillset to continue the trend if he was ever used in that way fulltime.


Busquets technical abilities have developed ridiculously over the last 3 years it's actually scary, he isn't a classic DPL aka regista like Pirlo or Alonso, but he does some of the duties. He has great anticipation hence why he is able to halt attacks before they start, he is very good at passing. Barcelona's game is dictated by Xavi so Busquets usually just brings the ball from the ack and plays a short simple pass. I see him as a more modern defensive MF, a sort of Makelele with a hint of Xavi, if that makes sense...

Banegas case is the oddest. The guy can't pass consistentl;y well and often misplaces passes because he is to hasty. But his anticiaption and positioning is incredible and he is a bg reason for Valencia's success against Barcelona in the last couple of seasoons, as he ia always able to read the ame well and make great tackles. I wouln't call him a destroyer, but he definately not a dlp, his distribution isn't anywhere good or consiustent enough to warrant that title imo.

PS franchise check out the united section tom cl;everl;ey thread, i think you'll find it interesting... Cool
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