Andrea Pirlo: Just How Much Is He Appreciated?

How much do you appreciate Andrea Pirlo? Is it a lot? Is it the most? Do you literally appreciate his talents more than anyone else on earth? Do you just get him? Someone must be the number one fan, and boy is there a fight on to find out who.

Andrea Pirlo is one of the greatest midfield players of his generation and will forever be in the mix when deciding who the finest playmaker of all time is – that should just be said outright, as this is in no way a piece about how Pirlo wasn’t all that good. He was phenomenal, a player who virtually single-handedly kept the concept of the deep-lying playmaker alive at the elite level. He was the star of the 2006 World Cup in a victorious Italian side, won everything at club level, and played the game beautifully to achieve it all.

No, the problem with Pirlo is that he’s become the ultimate hipster poster-boy. That always leaves a sour taste in the mouth with anything, even if you know it shouldn’t. You find yourself really wanting to rave about a great team or player, singing their praises and appreciating them, only to find there’s a worldwide game of one-up being played and the current consensus has grown to say that Harry Kane is as good as Ronaldo.

It’s the same thing that happened in 2013 when Gareth Bale was playing well and therefore was as good as Ronaldo and Messi; it cheapens it all, and suddenly you find yourself thinking “well, he’s not that good” at a time when you want to be celebrating something.

It’s Paul Scholes syndrome. Or at least, that’s what it should be called. Paul Scholes, the legendary Manchester United midfielder who defined deep playmaking in England for near twenty years. That’s been the reputation since he retired, anyway. Fact is, Paul Scholes started his career as a striker, and actually played most of it as an advanced player, usually off the striker (Ferguson had him down as the successor to Cantona). To the point where United fans literally chanted about how “Paul Scholes, he scores goals”.

Come the end, however, Scholes was used deep, now that possession football had taken over and his abilities suited it. His retirement was met with all sorts of praise from fans, ex-pros, legends of the game, all heralding the amazing underrated talent of Scholes. Scholes was certainly a fantastically talented midfielder, but his career has become remarkably revisionist.

“People associate me with starting attacks by knocking long balls. It became something of a trademark over the last few years when I wasn’t scoring so many goals.”

Paul Scholes

And, of course, there is the Gerrard and Lampard debate. See, the answer is actually Scholes, and if you think it isn’t, you’re wrong. Scholes was the greatest, and all the legends say so.

It’s an epidemic.

For all of the love Paul Scholes apparently got throughout his career, he never actually received a single vote for the Ballon d’Or. That’s three less than Jamie Carragher managed in 2005, a year that Lampard and Gerrard came second and third.

Scholes was great, but his reputation has grown exponentially since he stopped playing. The game of one-up thriving again.

So it all comes down to the question of how good Pirlo was. Absolutely incredible is the answer, and honestly just around in the wrong era. He enjoyed his peak years at a time when players of his type simply weren’t as appreciated as they are nowadays, which really shows off his career in an even better light. Still, by 2011, his stock had shrunk to the point where AC Milan released him on a free to make room for Alberto Aquilani on loan. Juventus picked him up and he was the key man for the first time in his career.

Shevchenko and Kaka were the stars during Pirlo’s best Milan days, dominating the side and taking the headlines. Juventus were a much different beast by 2011, having just finished 7th and bringing in Alessandro Matri is lead the line. Pirlo stamped an authority on that side that he previously never could, making it his and being the face of the return of Juventus to the top. Finally, he received the worldwide recognition that he had perhaps lacked until then, something that has grown and grown to what we have today.

Basically, Pirlo is great and he absolutely deserves immense praise for both having an incredible career and being one of the most aesthetically pleasing players of his generation. It would just be nice if it was kept grounded – a more subtle celebration for the most subtle of players.

But then maybe this is just ranting against something that can never change, something that will forever be a part of football and especially the internet. Maybe this is just a grumpy article about something that really doesn’t matter at all (it’s definitely all of that).

People will celebrate Pirlo, and there will be those who do what they do and push it a little too far. But then your own appreciation of a player shouldn’t depend on others; it’s the joy you yourself find out of football, for whatever reasons they are – Andrea Pirlo just happens to be universally enjoyable.