It’s official: Andrea Pirlo is moving to New York City FC.
The Juventus and Italy star, 36, will take his distinctive brand of elegance and élan to the MLS newcomers, after the Italian champions confirmed Pirlo was moving on after four seasons with the club. Shortly afterwards, New York City FC confirmed that Pirlo would be joining as the club’s third designated player on July 21, and would be available for selection immediately.
Pirlo expressed his thanks to Juventus supporters in a lengthy tweet on Monday:
“Heartfelt thanks to all of you. It was not an easy decision to make, but the moment has come to start a new adventure which, however, will never make me forget the bond I have with these colours. To the very end: Forza Juventus.”
The bearded playmaker will link up with Frank Lampard and David Villa at Yankee Stadium, as NYC FC look to excel in their first full season in MLS. The club, owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, have money and ambition, but results have been mixed so far, and they’ve won only five of their first 18 games. They currently sit one spot out of playoff contention in MLS’s Eastern Conference.
In an effusive statement on the official Juventus website, the Bianconeri said:
“Pirlo is silent charisma, the steady hand in the middle of the park, the dummy that undoes the opposition defence. He’s that unexpected game that splits the game wide open, the lofted pass that brings a team to its knees.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to share these four fantastic seasons with Andrea, and all associated with Juventus wish him the very best for the future.
“Thanks for everything, Maestro, and good luck.”
Despite his age – he’s 36, and made his debut for Brescia 20 years ago in May 1995 – Pirlo’s transfer represents a coup for New York City. The midfielder has a rarefied style, and is arguably world football’s finest passer. He owns his own vineyard, disdains pre-match warm-ups, and published a bestselling autobiography in 2014 entitled I Think Therefore I Play. As Simon Kuper in the Financial Times wrote during last year’s World Cup: “No thinking fan can resist such a visibly cerebral player.”
NYC FC sporting director Claudio Reyna said on Monday: “In Andrea Pirlo we are getting one of the most recognized and influential players in world soccer. We are building something incredibly special in New York.” Pirlo himself said: “I had several opportunities to play outside of Italy, but I never had a doubt in picking New York for the enthusiasm of the people that come watch the team.”
Pirlo enjoyed an Indian summer in Serie A, starring in a stellar Juventus midfield after joining from Milan in 2011, where the coach, Max Allegri, considered him to be past his best at 32. Allegri and Pirlo came face to face again in 2014, when Allegri took over as Juventus coach, but the pair resolved their differences and forged a winning combination. Allegri said: “The transfer to Juventus revitalised him psychologically, and change can be cathartic.”
Pirlo offered Allegri his own assurance: “Don’t worry: you can count on me.”
Pirlo won four Serie A championships in four seasons with Juve, scoring 19 goals in 164 games, but ended his Juventus career on a teary note, losing 3-1 to Barcelona in this year’s Champions League final in Berlin.
He has 115 caps for Italy, and won the World Cup in 2006, where he was named MVP in the final against France, providing the assist for Marco Materazzi’s equaliser and beating Fabien Barthez decisively with Italy’s first kick in the shootout. Pirlo was scheduled to retire after last summer’s World Cup, but reversed his decision, and should play in next year’s European Championship for the Azzurri.
Pirlo’s highlights reel is hugely impressive, and includes the no-look pass for Fabio Grosso in the 2006 semi-final against Germany, a blast from long range against Parma in 2010 when the ball seemed to hang in the air, and the delicious chipped penalty – il cucchiaio, or the spoon – to confound England’s Joe Hart in Kiev in 2012. New York City FC fans must be rubbing their hands.