Italy talisman Andrea Pirlo has said he is thinking of retiring from international football after this summer's World Cup in Brazil.
The 35-year-old cited age and the need to bring through a new generation of players as his reasons for potentially quitting the international game, per Sky Sports:
As I already said, I am still thinking of retiring after this World Cup, as I have a certain age and it’s only right to leave the field to the next generation coming through. Tt would be pointless to continue.
If I am needed, then there’s no problem in coming back. If I come on international duty and don’t play, then I’d get angry! It’s perhaps better I stay home.
Later he confirmed his intentions via John Dillon of the Express:
My dream is to win the World Cup and then say farewell to the national team. But whatever happens, it is sure I will say goodbye after this World Cup.
I am old. Now it is time to leave the place for younger players.
I have to say that Spain and Brazil are my favourites to lift the cup but I always play to win and I am sure this Italy team has all the right conditions to go all the way to the final.
The Juventus playmaker recently signed a two-year extension to his contract with the Serie A champions, per Inside World Football:
However, it seems that the former AC Milan player feels the 2014 World Cup is a fitting swan-song for his decorated international career.
Pirlo was part of the Italian team of 2006 that won the World Cup in Germany, and was man of the match when beating France on penalties in the final after Zinedine Zidane's infamous dismissal for head-butting Marco Materazzi.
It is a testament to his enduring quality that, eight years on, he is still arguably Italy's most important player, per Amy Lawrence in The Guardian:
He is, for many, the first name on the Italian team sheet, even after almost 12 years and 109 caps for the Azzurri, per Bleacher Report's Paolo Bandini.
While this was always likely to be his final World Cup considering his age, there are many who would have hoped to see him play on longer in an Italy shirt.
However, it is a career with time still left to run as Italy head into their Group D campaign with Uruguay, England and Costa Rica.
If Pirlo is at his brilliant best, there is no reason for Italy not to go deep into the summer's showpiece event.
It would be a fitting end to a fabulous career if one of the game's greats could finish on a high note in Brazil, football's spiritual home.