CaughtOffside’s Top 50 Footballers In The World: # 21 – Andrea Pirlo (Juventus & Italy)

Juventus and Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo.

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One of the finest midfield playmakers of his generation, Andrea Pirlo is still playing at a world class level even at the age of 34, winning two league titles in a row with Juventus and inspiring Italy to the Euro 2012 final last summer as one of the players of the tournament.

There aren’t many in the game who have such a sweet connection with the ball; the Italian has superb technique with his range of passing and shooting, scoring many memorable long range shots and free-kicks throughout his great career.

The midfield maestro started his career slowly, failing to make a big impression at Inter Milan after joining as a youngster from Brescia. Remarkably, Inter let him leave for arch-rivals AC Milan in 2001 and it was there that he started to establish himself as a highly influential player. He helped Milan win the Champions League in 2003, and then the Serie A title a year later, forming part of a side that would come to dominate European football for much of the early to mid-noughties.

Mexico v Italy: Group A - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013

It was only at the World Cup in 2006 that he first started to have a serious impact for the Italian national team, as he produced some great displays to help the Azzuri win the tournament, including being awarded man of the match in the final against France.

His form dipped in his last couple of seasons with Milan, and in the summer of 2011 they made the surprise decision to let this legendary player leave the San Siro on a free transfer.

Although his career perhaps looked finished with his form dropping and age catching up with him, he was snapped up by Milan’s rivals Juventus, who reignited the career of this great talent, and he has gone on to play a key role in Juve’s recent rise, with two Serie A titles in 2012 (unbeaten) and 2013.

Pirlo is still a regular for Italy, and marked his 100th cap for his country with a trademark free-kick against Mexico in the Confederations Cup on Sunday. The old master has still got it, and can still claim to be one of the best in the world even against the many midfield stars in this dominant Spanish national side.

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