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Report: Andrea Pirlo to retire at end of the season

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Enjoy it while it lasts.

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.

[MORE: Protect Pulisic, please. Yanks bemoan fouls, lack of cards.]

“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. “

Balotelli hammers Cesare Prandelli, implies he’s not a ‘real’ man

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Mario Balotelli’s unfortunately hasn’t showed off his finest form with Liverpool, and his lack of goal scoring saw the big-bodied forward off Italy’s roster for a number of recent Euro 2015 qualifiers.

Nonetheless, critical remarks made by the Italian footballer were directed at former Italy head man Cesare Prandelli, not new Azzurri and ex-Juventus boss Antonio Conte.

Promptly fired after Italy’s sub-par performance in Brazil, Prandelli called out Balotelli’s play in the World Cup this summer, saying Super Mario “lived in a place far from reality.” Prandelli also just told Sport that “Balotelli is not a champion.

The 24-year-old slammed him for these comments.

“Real men, if they have something to say, then they come to you and say it to your face,” Balotelli said. “I am a face-to-face person, a straight person. Prandelli said bad stuff about me. Should he be going and talking to the newspapers about me straight after a game? I did not expect that and I did not reply, because there is no point.”

The striker was unhappy with fans’ criticism as well.

“I have to be honest and say I was disappointed at what people were saying and how they were blaming me after the World Cup. I think I had two, maybe three chances all tournament. Everyone knows I scored against England, but I couldn’t do much else.”

Criticism or not, Balotelli was brought to Liverpool from AC Milan to net a fair amount of goals, and he hasn’t met those expectations. The past is the past, and any disparaging comments must be ignored in the interest of earning one’s worth on the pitch right now.

Mario Balotelli excluded from Italy squad prepping for Euro 2016 qualifiers

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New Italy boss Antonio Conte has named his roster for upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Malta, but striker Mario Balotelli, who has been considered one of Italy’s more dynamic forwards, didn’t make the cut again.

And this action arrived after Brendan Rogers decided to nix the Italian from his usual starting XI in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over West Brom earlier today.

Balotelli was also excluded from his country’s friendly vs. the Netherlands and Euro qualifier against Norway in September.

Conte has added a fresh face to replace the 24-year-old striker in the forward rotation. His name is Graziano Pelle and he’s enjoyed a great beginning to the season, scoring five goals in eight games so far this season. Pelle is a huge reason for Southampton’s early year success.

On the defensive side, youngster Daniele Rugani received his very first call-up to the senior team, and the Blues highest-capped defender, Juventus man Giorgio Chellini, is unsurprisingly set to star for his country.

Below is the complete roster, via ESPN FC.

Goakeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain).

Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter Milan), Daniele Rugani (Empoli).

Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Andrea Poli (AC Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain).

Forwards: Mattia Destro (Roma), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Borussia Dortmund), Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Inter Milan), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Simone Zaza (Sassuolo).

Newly appointed Italian soccer president probed by UEFA amid racism claims

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After being elected last week as the new President of the Italian football federation (FIGC), Carlo Tavecchio is already under investigation by UEFA and could face a three month ban.

The 71-year-old previously referenced bananas when talking about overseas players coming to Italy as professionals. That comment caused quite a stir and many were surprised Tavecchio still went on to be elected as the head of Italian soccer.

[RELATED: Tavecchio elected despite racism issues]

FIFA had urged the FIGC to investigate Tavecchio’s comments and now UEFA have stepped in to make sure that happens.

Tavecchio’s alleged racist comment come when he was talking about England’s strict requirements for overseas players, which Italy doesn’t currently have. He used a hypothetical name in the following comment.

“In England they select players based on professionalism, whereas we say that `Opti Poba’ is here, he was eating bananas before and now he’s starting for Lazio and that’s OK.”

If found guilty of racism, the long standing Italian soccer executive would face a minimum one month ban which could be as long as three. UEFA said the following in a statement on their website.

“Following a request of information made by UEFA on 28 July 2014, Mr Carlo Tavecchio, President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), has today been personally informed by UEFA about the decision of its Chief Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector to open a disciplinary investigation on alleged racist comments made by him during his FIGC presidential election campaign.

Once the report has been completed, the UEFA Chief Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector will submit its conclusions to the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body to render a decision about this matter.

Further details concerning these proceedings will be announced in due course.”

Tavecchio has since issued a statement on the FIGC’s website and has stated he is “calm and respectful of UEFA’s decision,” while also acknowledging that it is “a required procedure, so we already knew it was coming and I am certain that I can explain also in the UEFA headquarters both my mistake and my real intentions.”

We haven’t heard the last of this, as the racism scandal surrounding the leader of Italian soccer rumbles on.

Italy appoint Antonio Conte as new national team manager

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On Thursday the Italian Football Federation appointed former Juventus boss Antonio Conte as their new manager on a two-year deal.

Conte, 45, replaces Cesare Prandelli following Italy’s disappointing 2014 World Cup campaign where the four-time World Champions were knocked out in the group stage.

The announcement comes just three days after the federation elected Carlo Tavecchio as the new president, under much scrutiny, as the Italian national team has undergone big changes from top to bottom.

Conte has been linked with the national team job ever since he surprisingly stepped down as Juve’s boss last month.

During his time in Turin he led the La Vecchia Signora to three successive Serie A titles from 2011-14 but success in the UEFA Champions League eluded Conte.

His teams player a powerful, incisive style of soccer and he cultivated a winning mentality with Juve after they rose from the depths of Italian soccer following a match-fixing scandal which saw them demoted to Serie B and threatened to ruin the proud club.

With veterans such as Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon coming towards the end of their national team careers, Conte will look for his youngsters to step up to the plate as Italy prepare for the upcoming 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign which begins in September.