World Cup winner and playmaker extraordinaire Andrea Pirlo is ready to hang up his boots.
The 38-year-old said he plans to retire at the end of the Major League Soccer season, closing the curtain on a decorated career spanning two decades.
"You realise yourself that the time has come. Each day, you have physical problems and you can't train as you would like because there's always some niggle," the former Inter, AC Milan, and Juventus midfielder told La Gazzetta dello Sport, courtesy of ESPN FC.
"At my age, it's fine to say enough is enough. You don't have to carry on until you are 50. I'll do something else."
Pirlo said he'll return to Italy in December following two-and-a-half underwhelming seasons with New York City FC. He wouldn't specify what he'll do in retirement, although there's a theory he'll join Antonio Conte's coaching staff at Chelsea.
He received much fanfare upon his arrival in the Big Apple, but slowly lost his role in Patrick Vieira's starting XI. His contract with NYCFC expires Dec. 31, allowing him to leave without any issue.
During his heydey in Europe, the Flero native established himself as one of the most gifted midfielders and free-kick takers of his generation. He whipped in a joint-Serie A record 28 goals from dead-ball situations with Inter, Reggina, Brescia, Milan, and Juventus.
He struggled at first to find his true role, starting in a more advanced position behind the striker. The lightbulb went off when Carlo Ancelotti turned Pirlo into a deep-lying playmaker at the turn of the century with the Rossoneri. Playing in front of the defence allowed Pirlo – more of a visionary than an athletic specimen – to spot long and short passes.
He won the 2006 World Cup with Italy as part of a three-man midfield and claimed the Champions League title a year later with Milan, easing the heartbreak from Istanbul.
Pirlo admitted he came close to joining Chelsea and Barcelona, going so far as to meet with Pep Guardiola in his office.
In 2011, after a decade with Milan, an out-of-form Pirlo was practically pushed out the door. He joined Juventus on a free transfer – to date one of the shrewdest pieces of business in football history – and rediscovered himself.
Helping the Bianconeri become a juggernaut in Serie A, Pirlo won four league titles, one Coppa Italia, and two Supercoppe Italiane.
He remained a part of the Azzurri until 2015, just missing out on last year's European Championship. His 116 appearances for his country rank fourth.
There were far fewer milestones to celebrate in the United States. Pirlo looked like a shell of himself in MLS, where his sauntering style of play didn't work. He's been an unused substitute on 13 occasions this season alone.
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