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. “
Conte, Verratti back NYCFC’s Andrea Pirlo despite poor MLS and Italy form
Andrea Pirlo hasn’t started his MLS career the way many had anticipated upon the bearded legend’s arrival in the United States, but his national team boss isn’t taking criticism of Italy’s favorite midfielder kindly.
Italian national team manager Antonio Conte told RaiSport, “I’m mortified by the criticisms of Pirlo. Before every game they say he’s irreplaceable, then if his game is a 6.5 instead of an 8, people evaluate him poorly. He knows what I think of him and I don’t have to explain that to anyone else.”
Pirlo, currently with the Italian national team as they sputtered to a 1-0 win over Malta in Euro 2016 qualification, has struggled in Major League Soccer with New York City FC. The MLS side has won just one of Pirlo’s six starts while losing four, and he has looked impactful at times, but at the same time has become a massive defensive liability in midfield and even occasionally going forward with loose passes and stretches of invisibility.
But while Conte continues to back his midfield rock, so too does fellow midfielder Marco Verratti.
When asked if Verratti, just 22 years old compared to Pirlo’s 36, is in line to replace his elder in the distributor role, Verratti replied that no replacement is necessary just yet.
“Pirlo must be the first choice in midfield, then we’ll see about the rest. When he decides to retire, then we’ll think about how to replace him. I have played in every midfield role and have no problems, but the most important thing is that Pirlo carries on for as long as possible.”
Italy, tied for the lead in Group H, takes on Bulgaria later today looking to distance themselves from Norway and Croatia. There are reports that either Pirlo, Verratti, or both could be benched for the match after the sluggish Malta win.