Andrea Pirlo will play in his fourth Champions League final in Berlin on June 6th, eight long years after his last appearance — for AC Milan in a 2-1 win over Liverpool in Athens — and he will surely be looking to add to an already impressive haul of honors that includes a World Cup winners medal, six Serie A league titles and two Champions League winners medals.
Pirlo was, of course, on the opposing side the last time Juventus made it to the final of the UEFA Champions League. Pirlo played on the AC Milan team that beat Juventus on penalties back in 2003, his first appearance in the final of Europe’s top soccer tournament. But after helping the Italian champions reach another final — after a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Real Madrid gave them a 3-2 aggregate semi-final win on Wednesday — the 35-year-old Pirlo will be hoping it’s the bianconeri that are celebrating this time, after playing FC Barcelona in Berlin on June 6th.
La storia a volte si ripete!! Ci vediamo a Berlinoooo!!! #finoallefine
— Andrea Pirlo (@Pirlo_official) May 13, 2015
Its been a long, unexpected journey back for Andrea Pirlo since his last Champions League final appearance. When he ended his 10-year stint at Milan at the end of the 2011 season, it seemed his days at the very top of the game had come to an end, and many would have thought it would mark the winding down of a successful career. Pirlo and Milan decided to part company at the end of the 2010-11 season, after the playmaker had won a second Serie A title, and Juventus were happy to take him on a free transfer.
It’s a decision they haven’t had cause to regret as Pirlo has only gone from strength to strength. In the four years since that move, Pirlo has been voted Serie A player of the year for three consecutive seasons, and Juventus — who hadn’t won a title since 2003 (they did have two “titles” taken away in the wake of the calciopoli scandal) — have won Serie A for four straight seasons.
The Champions League had proved harder to crack. They reached the quarter finals in 2012-13, losing heavily 0-4 to eventual winners Bayern Munich, but then failed to get out of the group stage the following year. But it’s all come together this season, and Wednesday’s success — against a favoured Real Madrid side — means Andrea Pirlo will get one more chance to grace a Champions League final.
Although he has a year left on his contract, this final could well be Andrea Pirlo’s last game in Juventus black and white and, given his age, it would be easy to assume that this would be Pirlo’s swansong, a fitting way to bow out at the top of the game. As he has shown before though, there may be even more to come from Pirlo.
Indeed, according to the Bleacher Report, there is already speculation of a possible Pirlo summer move to a Premier League club, while the Metro suggests that a deal with Liverpool could be in the offing. There’s also talk of a possible move to Major League Soccer.
That’s all rumor for now, though. First, Pirlo will be attempting to make his Berlin trip as enjoyable as previous ones to Manchester, where he won with Milan in 2003 and Athens.
Of course, just as Pirlo has sweet memories of those two wins, there’s also Istanbul, and the bitterness of a crushing loss in 2005, when Milan inexplicably gave up a three-goal lead before losing to Liverpool on penalties. As Pirlo himself noted in his brilliant autobiography, I Think, Therefore I Play.
“I thought about quitting, because after Istanbul, nothing made sense anymore….I no longer felt like a player and that was devastating enough. But even worse, I know longer felt like a man”
It’s not a feeling Andrea Pirlo would love to repeat on June 6th.
(Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images Sports)