However in AC Milan’s final training session of the season there was an air of sadness. Tears were being shed all round by the new Champions of Italy.
When grown men such as Filippo Inzaghi and Gennaro Gattuso are wiping their moist eyes it is for a very good reason. The reason is the training session was also a fair well to Andrea Pirlo. He announced his departure from the San Siro on the 18th of May and we now know he will join Juventus. His team mates applauded him, they were all itching to hug him and console the man who had been such a leader for them on the pitch. Inzaghi threw a comforting arm around his team mate and walked with him as he left the training pitch for the last time, sobbing into his hand as he did it.
There was no doubt it was an emotional day in the Milan camp. The departure of Andrea Pirlo signals a new beginning for AC Milan and draws the curtain on an era which saw the Rossoneri reach 3 Champions League finals in 5 years becoming European Champions twice. Today is very much the day of Barcelona, they are the new dynasty of Europe. They are the side that we all admire and are never surprised to see in the Champions League final.
From the 2002/03 season to the 2006/07 season however, that team was AC Milan. Whilst the strikers in that time changed frequently featuring the likes of Shevchenko, Crespo, Inzaghi and Tomasson the midfield was consistent throughout. Milan adopted a diamond shape with Gattuso as the aggressive holding midfielder, Seedorf the smooth passer that would use his wit to beat many a defender. Kaka at the head behind the strikers, running at defenders and scoring goals that will live in the memory forever and of course the man who pulled the strings of everything Milan did: Andrea Pirlo.
Pirlo symbolised the Milan side of this time, passing the ball round with seeming ease, always finding a team mate and jogging about the pitch as if he owned it. As all great midfielders do, he chipped in with a goal every now and then. Often from a dead ball situation, he was the master at scoring a free kick to the left of the box between 20 and 25 yards from the goal. Pirlo was what Xavi is for Barcelona right now. The Italian’s stats indicate this too.
During the 02/03 season, in which AC Milan won the Champions League. Pirlo completed an amazing 2093 passes. A stat which averages 90 successful passes per game. In the season of their next European triumph (06/07) Pirlo spent a staggering 2782 minutes on the pitch, the most of any Milan player that season. That along with the 32 goals in 284 appearances earned Andrea the nick name: The Metronome.
Now at the tender age of 32 and with the emergence of a new generation of Milan midfielders (the likes of Flamini, Boateng, Van Bommel etc.) Andrea has called it a day with the side he joined in 2001. It has been a magnificent 10 years which will earn him his place in Milan folklore along with the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Marko Van Basten, Cesare and Paolo Maldini, Frank Rijkaard and Filippo Inzaghi.
The term ‘legend of the game’ may be thrown about a little too much these days. But I very much doubt anybody will disagree with you when using the term with Andrea Pirlo.
Juventus, you don’t know how lucky you are.
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