'He spoke with his feet': Tributes pour in for retired Pirlo

AP
With his long, flowing hair and bushy beard, Pirlo looked more like a philosopher than a footballer. But he was a perfectionist on the pitch.
AP
AFP

Italy midfielder and captain Andrea Pirlo looks on during an international friendly match against Portugal in Geneva in this June 26, 2015, photo. Pirlo, on November 6, 2017, called time on an illustrious career during which he won the 2006 World Cup, two UEFA Champions League titles and six Serie A trophies.

Tributes poured in for Andrea Pirlo after Italy's midfield maestro retired.

The 38-year-old passing wizard played his final match on Sunday when New York City FC lost in the Major League Soccer playoffs.

Pirlo went on in the 90th minute and was greeted with affection by fans at Yankee Stadium.

While Pirlo played his final seasons in the United States, he made his name by helping AC Milan and Juventus win a combined six Serie A titles, two UEFA Champions Leagues for Milan and, above all, the 2006 World Cup for Italy.

"He spoke with his feet," Marcello Lippi, Italy's coach at the 2006 World Cup, said on Monday.

A free kick specialist, Pirlo also mesmerized defenders with his superb ball control. When he had possession it often seemed like the match was being played in slow motion as he picked out his passing receivers with uncanny acumen.

"Whoever has played with Andrea can understand the word 'unique'," Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon wrote on Instagram.

With his long, flowing hair and bushy beard, Pirlo looked more like a philosopher than a footballer. But he was a perfectionist on the pitch.

"A champion who comprised class, elegance and humility," added Buffon, who also teamed with Pirlo at Juventus.

Recently retired AS Roma captain Francesco Totti, another teammate from the 2006 Italy side, tweeted, "It was an honor to play with you and against you, a champion with immense class."

Pirlo posted a statement on Twitter thanking his family and every team he "had the honor to play for, every teammate I have been pleased to play alongside, all the people that made my career such incredible and last but not least, all the fans around the world that always showed me support. You will always be on my side and in my heart."

Pirlo, who started his career in Brescia, also played at Inter Milan and Reggina before joining AC Milan, where he won two Serie A crowns and two UCL trophies in 2003 and 2007.

His final match in Europe was Juve's UCL final defeat in 2015 to Barcelona.

Capped 116 times for Italy, scoring 13 goals, during a 13-year career until 2015, Pirlo played his final two years with New York City FC.

Special Reports
Top