Despite announcing his retirement from football at the beginning of November Andrea Pirlo still has an awful lot to offer in the game. If his footballing acumen appeared innate up until the end, a man of such robust intelligence can surely offer insight to others. His time to teach is coming.
The studied face, the aesthetics of the beard, the football hipster tag of recent years, Pirlo has developed into something of an iconic figure. In a game where physicality, athletic ability and energy play such a pivotal part Pirlo was different.
Well to a point he was. The argument that he wasn’t an energetic performer isn’t particularly accurate. Pirlo’s use of energy is a huge part of the reason he has been able to continue his playing career until the age of 38. Not totally unknown when you see the likes of Francesco Totti playing into his 40s. Although the dynamics around his role differed somewhat.
But for a midfielder, 38 is a big ask. One only had to look at Pirlo’s movement around the pitch to understand why this hasn’t been a big issue. Pirlo may appear laconic. However, he was always moving. Pass and move is a fairly basic philosophy in football. But Pirlo nearly always seemed to understand when was the right time to move and where to move to. Because his mind supported his body and his ability to read the game meant that little of what he did was futile.
And it was in doing this that he preserved his energy, his body, his muscles. That his hips weren’t worn and his legs could carry him through a prestigious career with AC Milan, Juventus and Italy, before his move stateside. Along the way he won the Champions League, twice, the Serie A title six times and the World Cup in 2006.
The 38-year-old has been linked with a move to Chelsea following his retirement and the possibility of linking up with compatriot Antonio Conte. Speculating on the specifics of this scenario may seem futile. But use this, the Italian being a possible member of Chelsea’s coaching staff, as an example of what Pirlo could offer.
This season’s Premier League title race is not over, but Manchester City are in a dominant position. Chelsea’s defeat to David Moyes’ West Ham over the weekend has led to Conte publicly stating their opportunity to successfully defend the league title is over. It may prove to be a rare occasion whereby what a manager thinks privately and says publicly are one and the same.
But could Pirlo coming in help lessen the developing gap? If Chelsea can’t match City for squad depth, could they close the gap in other ways? Experience, sure. But Pirlo can offer more. If he can, hypothetically, illustrate to Chelsea players how to utilise time and space, how concentration can help read the game, how nuanced movements can help dictate play and how adroit movement can create gaps in tight spaces then he can achieve a lot.
For a player that played so much of his game by not just reacting, but by being proactive in his movement and approach; imparting that knowledge in an accessible manner can help open up the tightest of margins that will always exist at the top of the game.