When Andrea Pirlo failed to agree a new deal with AC Milan in July 2011 and left the Rossoneri after ten seasons and two UEFA Champions League triumphs to join Juventus on a free transfer, many thought his best days were behind him. They were wrong.
Pirlo quickly became the fulcrum of a team that went from seventh in the previous two seasons to become an invincible force in Italy. With Pirlo simply resplendent as l’architetto – architect – Juve won the Scudetto without losing a game to return to the UEFA Champions League, a competition he cherishes.
“Yes, that special Champions League melody has allowed me to experience great emotions,” he told Champions Matchday. “I missed it a lot last season, but now we are back on this fantastic European stage, and we will try to do as well as possible.”
Now 33, the newly bearded Pirlo’s priceless experience in Europe, classy touch and 360-degree vision could be a significant help for his team-mates, less well-versed in the rigours of the UEFA Champions League. “It can be something different, something important for them, and I will try to help. But we also have great champions in the team who don’t need any advice. I hope we can go all the way, but it’s a tough competition, with big teams taking part. “
Still, we have every chance to go a long way. I don’t know if we can even win it, but we will surely try,” said the UEFA EURO 2012 runner-up, whose big-game nous is all the more important following Alessandro del Piero‘s departure. “Unfortunately he’s left. We have new players like Sebastian Giovinco and we hope he can do what Del Piero did for Juventus.”
Although Pirlo was not as influential as he can be against Chelsea FC on matchday one, the manner of the Bianconeri’s comeback from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 suggests they need fear no one in this competition. First, however, the group stage must be negotiated. “We all know Chelsea, they are the defending European champions,” Pirlo said, casting his eye over his club’s Group E opponents. “As for Shakhtar, I know Mircea Lucescu, because I had him as a coach at Brescia when I was starting out. They play good football.
“The Danish team we don’t know so well, but we will have the chance to get to know them. We will play with the same mentality whether we are home or away. We want to impose our game and win matches by playing well. We will do that on every pitch as well as in Turin.”
After a decade in Milan, Pirlo certainly seems to have settled quickly and comfortably into his new surroundings. The artful midfielder shrugs off suggestions his switch from Rossoneri to Bianconeri was a traumatic one. “The training methods are completely different, as training sessions depend on the coach. The rest is pretty much the same, they are two big clubs with the same ambitions, with the same will to win,” he said. “They are the two biggest clubs in Italy, known around the world. There are no big differences.”
There is one significant difference, however: Pirlo’s future is now mapped out in black-and-white.
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