According to a report from Italian sports publication Gazzetta Dello Sport, New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo will retire at the end of the current season, with his contract expiring in December.
In an interview with Gazzetta, Pirlo lamented that he has no more cartilage in one of his knees and even had Juventus’ doctor look at it during his former club’s tour of the U.S., to no avail. Injuries have kept Pirlo off the field for much of the season, relegating him to a bench role.
“You just realize that the time has come,” Pirlo reportedly said. “Every day you have physical problems, you can not train as you would because you always have some stuff (wrong). At my age, that’s enough. It’s not that you can go on forever to 50. I’ll do something else.”
NYCFC made a big splash in July 2015 when they signed the legendary Italian midfielder from Juventus on a free transfer, but while the 36-year-old has had some brilliant moments in MLS, he also was part of some NYCFC lowlights, especially on the defensive end.
That being said, he currently has one goal and 18 assists in his MLS career through 60 games, with 58 starts.
When asked about what he’d like to do in the future, Pirlo deflected a suggestion that he could become an assistant coach for Antonio Conte at Chelsea this winter, though he didn’t rule out coaching entirely.
“I do not know yet,” Pirlo said. “I’ll be back in Italy already in December. Conte’s assistant? They say things. I have ideas, but give me time to decide.
If Pirlo does enter the coaching ranks, there’s a couple of directions he could go. Former teammates Filippo “Pippo” Inzaghi coached AC Milan for a year in just his second year of coaching, and is currently at Venezia, while Alessandro Nesta has opted for a lower level, starting his managerial career coaching Miami FC in the North American Soccer League.
“There is no right or wrong way,” Pirlo said. “It depends on the opportunities that you offer. If you coach a first team right away, it’s hard to refuse. I repeat: for now I do not have that intention. After 25 years of football I will be at home with my family (two twins were born in August ). To keep fit I will play golf (handicap 10) and tennis.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a story on American soccer without a question on bringing promotion/relegation to the American pyramid. And if he hadn’t said it already, now we know Pirlo is a fan of promotion/relegation.
“Absolutely agree,” Pirlo said. “If there was more pressure to avoid losing and falling back than to win, quality would rise. If MLS does not change the rules by liberalizing the market, there will never be a team like Real Madrid. “
Scott Parker’s first season as a manager ends in Fulham promotion
Parker took on a hefty challenge when he accepted his first senior managerial job last year. Fulham were a virtual lock to be relegated from the Premier League when he was named interim boss in February, and their place in the second division had long since been confirmed by the time he was named Claudio Ranieri’s permanent successor in May. The squad was expensive, bloated and full of players who had no intention of sticking around after relegation.
Given the club’s wealth of resources relative to the rest of the Championship, promotion at the first time of asking was more an expectation than a hope at Craven Cottage. Fast-forward 15 months, and the 39-year-old has quickly proven himself the right man for the job after doing just that — taking Fulham back to the PL by way of Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final.
Promotion may have been sealed on Tuesday, but Parker believes it was earned over a long period of transition and self-reflection by the players, beginning when he first took the job — quotes from the BBC:
“We’ve done what we’ve done tonight, but there’s still improvement, and that’s what makes me so proud and happy.
“For all of the good players and everything you see, what makes me so happy is I see a group of players who only a year ago were struggling psychologically, didn’t have a mindset or mentality.
“I’ve driven this team every single day and what makes me proud is I stood on the touchline tonight and seen a team that represents what I’ve been saying over the last 12 months.”
Now comes the the truly difficult challenge for Parker: after winning Fulham promotion he must assemble a squad of players not only good enough to stay in the PL, but also one full of individuals who want to be at his club and not simply any club that just so happens to be in England’s top division.
It was an incredibly cagey affair — as the Championship promotion playoff final tends to be — that saw the two sides combine for just 17 shots (four on target) through 90 minutes of regular time. In the end, it was the most unlikely of restarts halfway through extra time that sent the Cottagers on their way.
Brentford were nearly the architects of their own downfall early in the first half. FirstIt was a poor back pass from Henrik Dalsgaard that left David Raya in worlds of trouble in the 10th minute, though Fulham were unable to find a proper chance amid the chaos inside Brentford’s box.
Fulham were perhaps fortunate not to go a man down in the 29th minute, when Harrison Reed slid through Christian Norgaard and put studs into the Dane’s ankle. Reed came over top of the ball in a 50-50 challenge and, despite first making contact with the ball, came in with borderline excessive force and in a reckless fashion. Nonetheless, only a yellow card for the on-loan Southampton youngster.
The start of the second half looked like more of the same from the first half: Fulham with an early chance and Brentford scrambling to stay level. Neeskens Kebano curled a free kick around the wall in the 48th minute, likely beating Raya if it was on frame, but only managed to rippled the outside netting.
Championship Golden Boot runner-up (25 goals) Ollie Watkins had the final scoring chance of regular time in the 70th minute as he fired from the edge of Fulham’s penalty area, but Marek Rodak was able to comfortably palm the ball over the crossbar. Still, the first threatening signs of life from the Bees.
The decisive moment finally arrived in the 105th minute, and it came from absolutely nothing — less than nothing, one might credibly argue. Joe Bryan was tasked with restarting play following a foul roughly 50 yards from goal. Rather than lofting the ball high and to the back post, as Raya so clearly expected him to do, Bryan wrapped his left foot around the ball and whipped it toward the near post — as “near” as it can be from 50-plus yards. Raya was painfully slow to recognize the shot and tried to scramble across the face of goal, but never had a chance of getting anywhere near the ball.
Bryan doubled Fulham’s lead in the 117th minute. It was fast and fluid one-two atop Brentford’s penalty area and the left back tucked it away to seal promotion back to the top flight, and it turned out to be hugely necessary after Dalsgaard poked home a late consolation goal for the Bees with virtually the last kick of the game.
Fulham spent the 2018-19 season in the Premier League but finished with just 26 points in 19th place and were relegated back to the Championship after one season. Only time will tell if they’re able to stay in the top division this time, or if they’re a full-time yo-yo club.
Reports out of the UK claim it will reportedly cost just $26 million to bring Ferran Torres to Man City, plus possible add-ons, as he had just one year remaining on his contact with Valencia. Torres reportedly met with City sporting director Txiki Begiristain earlier on Tuesday, adding further fuel to the fire that a move was imminent.
Torres seems an obvious replacement for recently departed winger Leroy Sane. He’ll join Raheem Sterling as one of only two natural wingers in Pep Guardiola’s squad, offering more tactical flexibility — not to mention, width — after City were fairly limited in the wide areas during the 2019-20 season.
Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.
Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.
Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.
As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins
Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.
Odds and ends
Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.
The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.
Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.