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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

Football

Peerless Pirlo set to join Italy’s 100 Club
AFP
Rio de Janeiro, June 18, 2013
First Published: 00:15 IST(18/6/2013)
Last Updated: 00:17 IST(18/6/2013)

Fittingly, for a man who owns a vineyard, the enduring brilliance of Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo continues to prove the old adage that some things get better with age.

The 34-year-old is expected to make his 100th international appearance against Mexico at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and with each game, he gives AC Milan fresh reason to regret letting him go in 2011.

Pirlo accumulated a sizeable trophy haul at San Siro, including two Serie A crowns and Champions League titles in 2003 and 2007, but the club elected not to offer him a new contract.

It was thus with extra determination that Pirlo crossed northern Italy to Juventus two years ago, and in his time in Turin he has confirmed his reputation as one of the pre-eminent midfielders of his generation. Pirlo was crowned Serie A Player of the Year after Juve romped to the title unbeaten in his first season and he was every bit as influential as Antonio Conte's side repeated the feat in 2012-13.

Having bowed out at Milan with a Scudetto success in 2011, it means Pirlo will be targeting a fourth successive league title when next season's Italian championship gets under way later this year. According to Juve and Italy team-mate Gianluigi Buffon, one of four players to have already reached the 100-cap mark for Italy, the Old Lady’s acquisition of Pirlo was ‘the buy of the century’.

Pirlo announced last month that he will bring the curtain down on his storied international career after next year's World Cup in Brazil. Having made his debut against Azerbaijan in September 2002, he was a key figure in Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph in Germany.

His cunningly disguised reverse pass teed up Fabio Grosso for the opening goal in a hard-fought semi-final win over the hosts and he also netted a penalty in the shoot-out victory over France in the final.

His performances at Euro 2012 last year helped secure his legacy.


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