Andrea Pirlo has lifted the lid on a momentous career in his new book, I Think Therefore I Play.
The Italian star provides snippets of his release on the Daily Mail website, where he discusses intricate thoughts on Sir Alex Ferguson, the moment he almost joined Chelsea and, of course, the heartbreak of losing the 2005 Champions League final to Liverpool.
Pirlo, a true great of the modern game, is not a player who is usually bound by shackles on the pitch. His range of passing and ability to find free space has lent itself to an extended career—even since the pitfalls of old age set in, he has been able to command.
That is, until he came up against Ferguson. Speaking about the "purple-nosed" manager who deployed Park Ji-Sung to man-mark him throughout Manchester United's previous Champions League tie with AC Milan, Pirlo was less than complimentary about the man who showed a "fleeting shabbiness" by his negative tactics.
"They'd programmed him (Park Ji-Sung) to stop me," said Pirlo, per the Daily Mail. "His devotion to the task was almost touching. Even though he was a famous player, he consented to being used as a guard dog."
Further frustrations also descended from Pirlo's interaction with English teams. The most famous of all was AC Milan's inability to win the 2005 Champions League final after leading 3-0 at half-time. Goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso sent the tie to penalties, where Jerzy Dudek called upon some inspiration from the wobbly legged Bruce Grobbelaar to help the Reds to victory.
Pirlo didn't take the defeat lightly, confirming he "thought about quitting" in the aftermath. He said "nothing made sense" after the Istanbul showpiece and that the result "simply suffocated me." While Pirlo also calls Dudek "that jackass of a dancer," he suggests the most painful part of defeat was admitting the Milan players "were entirely to blame."
The 34-year-old midfielder also describes the moment he took a penalty in the World Cup final just one year later, per Sam Wallace of The Independent:
This description by Pirlo of his emotions taking a penalty in the 2006 WC final against France is magnificent pic.twitter.com/PpAd9yM33d— Sam Wallace (@SamWallaceIndy) April 15, 2014
Pirlo eventually moved to Juventus in 2011, but as he remembers, his career almost led him to England:
It was August 2009 and I’d reached agreement with Chelsea, the club where Ancelotti had just come in as manager. Carlo was like a father and a teacher for me, a kind, friendly man who knew how to make things fun.
Unfortunately for the Stamford Bridge club, Silvio Berlusconi's ego got the better of him. The former San Siro president told Pirlo he "can't jump ship" after the club had previously sold Kaka, despite eventually offloading him two years later to one of Milan's fiercest rivals.
"That's Berlusconi all over," says Pirlo. Interestingly, the veteran midfielder confirms Chelsea offered him a four-year deal, indicating he would have likely just finished his initial contract in England if the agreement went through.
Pirlo's career is expansive, eventful and interesting. The World Cup winner also dishes out the truth when discussing his chipped penalty against Joe Hart at Euro 2012, addresses Roy Hodgson's tenure as Inter Milan boss and speaks about everybody's favourite bad boy, Mario Balotelli.
This is an individual who has done it all since turning professional in 1995. Further tidbits are sure to arrive alongside the book's release on Tuesday, as one of the sport's most revered playmakers uncovers his era of success with brutal honesty.