The legendary Andrea Pirlo turns 43 today and what better way to celebrate the Italian’s genius talents by watching a compilation of scoring free-kicks.
For some players, a long run-up is required to find the ultimate ‘sweet spot’, but former AC Milan and Juventus midfielder Pirlo only needed a few steps and the goal quivered in fear.
Accuracy was the Italian’s biggest strength and didn’t Serie A know it.
BT Sport put together a wonderful compilation of his finest free-kicks, showing youngsters out there that ‘knuckleballing’ isn’t the only way to score from 25 yards.
No matter the distance, no matter the angle – Pirlo was a set-piece specialist in every sense and is viewed as one of the greatest midfielders of the modern era.
In his 2014 autobiography, ‘I Think Therefore I Play’, Pirlo revealed that he mastered free-kicks after taking inspiration from Brazilian icon Juninho Pernambucano.
“My own Eureka moment arrived when I was sat on the toilet. Hardly romantic, but there you go,” wrote Pirlo.
“The search for Juninho’s secret had become an obsession for me, to the extent that it occupied my every waking thought. It was at the point of maximum exertion that the dam burst, in every sense of the term.
“The magic formula was all about how the ball was struck, not where: only three of Juninho’s toes came into contact with the leather, not his whole foot as you might expect.
“The next day I left the house really early, even electing to skip my usual classic PlayStation battle with [Alessandro] Nesta as I rushed to the training paddock. All I had on my feet was a pair of loafers – I didn’t need proper boots to demonstrate what I was now convinced was the right theory.
“The kit-store guy had already turned up for duty.
“‘Can you pass me a ball, please?’ I asked.
“‘Get to f***,’ he said under his breath, almost hissing at me.
“‘What was that?’ I replied.
“‘Right you are. Go on, you fool, throw me over a ball.’
“Reluctantly, he chucked one across. Mentally, he was already preparing himself for a trip to the woods to recover it. Instead I stuck it right in the top corner, just where the post meets the crossbar.
“A geometric gem. I placed the shot so perfectly that it would have gone in even with a keeper. Luckily for our goalies, none of them were around.
“‘Why don’t you try doing that again, Andrea,’ came a provocative voice from behind.
This was now a battle of two against one. Me on one side, the kit store guy and the ghost of Juninho Pernambucano firmly on the other.
“‘Okay then, spoilsport. Just you watch,’ I said.
“Up I stepped and unleashed a carbon copy of the previous free kick. It was a thing of absolute beauty, stylistically impeccable. I lined up another five strikes and it was the same story every time.
“By now it was official: I’d cracked it. The secret was no more.”