Where Andrea Pirlo Ranks Among Italy's All-Time 10 Best Midfielders
With a list that could go on forever, let's take a look at some of the best midfielders that the Azzurri have been able to field through the years.
The players mentioned here include not only deep-lying playmakers but more advanced and defensive midfielders as well.
10. Gennaro Gattuso
Essentially the anti-Andrea Pirlo, Gattuso is by far the least technically gifted player on this list but allowed Pirlo and others to flourish in the midfield.
Gattuso's endless stamina, grit and leadership made him a stalwart in Milan's setup, and he was also important for Italy when they won the World Cup in 2006.
If a deep-lying playmaker is to find space, a player like Gattuso must do the dirty work for him.
9. Demetrio Albertini
Albertini was most known for his time at Milan, being a player who could test the opposition from long distance as well as set up the attack with a perfectly placed ball.
He was also dangerous from set pieces and had a nice overall game, which is useful for any side.
Albertini finished in Spain but will be remembered for his contributions in the 1990s for both Milan and the Italian national team.
8. Fabio Capello
Fabio Capello was one of Italy's most formidable players during the 1970s.
Having played for the three biggest teams in the peninsula, Capello transferred his skill to the national side by being an all-around skillful player in the midfield.
He could easily anchor a squad and had renowned leadership abilities.
During his illustrious career, he won four scudetti.
7. Roberto Donadoni
Roberto Donadoni was one of the key clogs in Milan's midfield during their invincible period in the late '80s and early '90s.
Even though the Dutch trio received most of the praise during this incredible period in Milan's history, it was Donadoni who was one of the most important pieces of a team that will be remembered as one of the finest of all-time.
His creative spark in the center of the pitch and ability to go by defenders made him an important part of both the Rossoneri and the Azzurri.
6. Marco Tardelli
The legendary Juventus midfielder starred for his club in Serie A as well as on the Italian national team.
He was the man behind the famous scream after scoring a goal in the 1982 World Cup final which gave Italy a historic third star on their crest.
Tardelli was able to do a little bit of everything in the center of the park, becoming the ultimate utility player who came through in the biggest moments.
5. Giancarlo Antognoni
Giancarlo Antognoni remains one of the greatest all-time Fiorentina players, blending creativity with a scoring instinct.
Antognoni was hardly a player that resembled Pirlo. While the current Azzurri star plies his trade right in-front of his defense, Antognoni made his mark in a much more advanced position right behind the strikers.
He represented the Azzurri more than 70 times throughout a career which spanned nearly 30 years.
4. Carlo Ancelotti
Carlo Ancelotti is of a different ilk than Andrea Pirlo but deserves a mention on any list detailing some of Italy's finest midfielders.
In his day, Ancelotti was one of the finest defensive-minded midfielders in Italy, combining grit with class and elegance. He helped guard the famous Milan back-line of the invincibles, negating the opposition's attack and always playing the right ball in possession.
As a player, he helped Milan win two Champions League trophies.
3. Giampiero Boniperti
Boniperti is one of the most attack-minded midfielders on this list, even though he played in various roles in his time with Juventus.
At the time of his retirement, Boniperti was the highest scorer in Juventus history. His record was recently eclipsed by Alessandro Del Piero. Despite being second on the list, he is revered by Juventus fans for his contributions to the early days of the Bianconeri.
He represented his country 38 times, scoring seven goals throughout the 1950s.
2. Gianni Rivera
Rivera played nearly two decades with Milan in a long and illustrious career that saw him lift the Euro Cup with his Italian national side in 1968.
Apart from his wildly successful career with the Rossoneri, Rivera matched it on the national side, where he brought a certain elegance that hasn't been seen in decades.
His pinpoint passing precision and penchant for scoring goals from the midfield made him one of the most legendary and endearing Italian football heroes.
1. Andrea Pirlo
Even though some who have been around long enough to see Gianni Rivera would argue that he was the finest pure passer of the ball they've ever seen, Andrea Pirlo's outrageous vision has led to an incredible array of accolades.
He is a two-time Champions League winner with Milan and was a central figure in Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph.
It'll be nearly impossible for the Azzurri to find another Pirlo in the near future.