Juventus: 4 Reasons Why Andrea Pirlo Should Win Ballon D'Or
FIFA recently released its shortlist of 23 players nominated for the Ballon d'Or, the annual trophy given to the best player in world football.
The list contains many great players that had fantastic seasons, like Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Real Madrid's Christiano Ronaldo and Atlético Madrid's Radamel Falcao.
Any of these players would be deserving of the award, but there's one player the media aren't talking about enough: Andrea Pirlo.
Here are four reasons why Pirlo should be a prime candidate to win the award.
Instrumental to Juventus Turnaround
Andrea Pirlo is what makes Juventus' fantastic midfield tick.
While Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal do the dirty work, Pirlo orchestrates. He is the maestro on the field, dictating which Juventus player gets the ball and when.
He plays a vital role in linking the Bianconeri back line with its offensive players, making sure that the Turin giants execute Antonio Conte's game plan on the field.
Juventus re-qualified for Serie A within a year after being relegated in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal, but the team was unable to reach the heights we had grown accustomed to before Pirlo's arrival.
The Bianconeri are yet to lose their first Serie A game since the midfield wizard donned the black-and-white. It was his guidance that led Juventus to their first domestic title since Calciopoli.
His presence has also taken a lot of pressure of the shoulders of Marchisio, who finally bloomed into the player the Bianconeri faithful had always hoped he'd become. With the burden of dictating the play of Juventus lying with Pirlo, it frees up Marchisio to do what he does best: cover a lot of ground, help out defensively and contribute as much as possible in front of goal.
Juventus are a far improved team with Pirlo, and if they are to be successful in the UEFA Champions League, it will depend on his form and guidance.
Led Inferior Italy Squad to the Euro Finals
Before the European championship started, no one gave two cents for Italy's chances.
Cesare Prandelli's squad looked nothing like the team that had won the World Championship in 2006, and the team had been very disappointing during the last World Cup in South Africa.
Experts agreed that the talent was there, but the younger generation of players lacked experience at the highest level and were simply too young.
Prandelli decided to play people like Alessandro Diamanti and Federico Balzaretti, who are serviceable players, but not superstars.
The media seemed to agree that Andrea Pirlo was too old to pull the strings for the Azzurri and to have any meaningful impact during the tournament.
Boy, were they wrong.
Pirlo took control of the team and elevated the play of everyone around him. He was involved in nearly all of the moments that defined Italy's run, from the assist he gave to Antonio Di Natale to open the scoring against Spain, to his penalty that changed the momentum of the penalty shootout between Italy and England in the quarter finals.
He was over-matched during the final against Spain, but could not be faulted for that. Spain simply had a squad that was far superior to Italy's.
It's easy being a good player on a good team, and the teams that Spain and Germany fielded were superior to the Azzurri in many ways. Italy's success could be attributed in large part to Andrea Pirlo's fantastic tournament, not to a quality squad.
He Has Never Won The Award Before
The Ballon d'Or would be some sort of lifetime achievement award for Andrea Pirlo.
While it's absolutely true that the award goes to the best performer of the past year, and that previous history should not have anything to do with who wins, it's a travesty that Pirlo has never won the award before, neither in its current format nor back when it was still known as the FIFA World Player Of The Year Award.
Pirlo has been one of the top midfielders on the planet for close to a decade now, and he's been very underrated for a long time. He's always been overshadowed by others that quite frankly weren't as deserving of the award.
When Italy won the World Cup in 2006 under Pirlo's guidance, he wasn't even nominated. Fabio Cannavaro won the award that year (and deservedly so), but Pirlo's omission didn't sit well with the Italian fans.
Crowning Pirlo this year's winner would be some form of justice, and a commendable gesture from the voters to a player that has never gotten the kind of attention he really deserves.
He's Just as Deserving Than Players from La Liga
Yes, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the two best teams in the world: we get it now.
The media has been bombarding us with the superiority of those two teams for the past few years and frankly, I'm sick of it. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are fantastic players, but they're not the only two players on the planet.
The past six editions of the UEFA Champions League have been won by teams from Spain, England and Italy, with each country producing two winners.
Where's the superiority?
Great football is not limited to La Liga. Barcelona, Real and Atlético Madrid are fantastic teams with fantastic players, but so are teams like Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Juventus.
It's about time we stop this love affair and acknowledge teams and players from other leagues.
And when Vicente Del Bosque, the coach of the Spanish national team himself, tips Pirlo to win the award this year (per Goal.com), voters should listen.