Quite a few of our favourite players retired in 2017, including the likes of Kaka, Francesco Totti and Xabi Alonso.
But arguably the biggest of them all was Andrea Pirlo, who called time on his sensational playing career in November after his club New York City FC bowed out of the MLS Cup.
The 38-year-old – who played for Inter, Milan and Juventus, among others, and won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 – was renowned for his elegance on the ball, composure in possession, technique, balance and dribbling ability.
He was simply magnificent.
Sadly for us Premier League fans, Pirlo spent the majority of his career in Serie A, only leaving for America near the end of his playing days.
So we never got to see whether he could make it at a top club outside of Italy.
But he came close.
According to Pirlo’s brilliant 2014 autobiography I Think Therefore I Play, the midfield maestro once had the chance to join Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side back in 2010.
In one of the most fascinating chapters of the book, Pirlo recalls the time Guardiola was keen on snapping him up from Milan.
To quote the book, Guardiola apparently said: “You’ve got to come here, Andrea. I’ve always liked you as a player. I want to coach you.”
But speaking to Sky Sport Italia in the aftermath of Philippe Coutinho’s £142 million move from Liverpool to Barca at the weekend, Pirlo went into detail about the nearly-deal, and why it didn’t materialise.
He said: “With Barcelona, there were negotiations for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and I was going to be the player heading in the opposite direction.
“In the end, it was resolved with only Ibra joining Milan.
“It would’ve certainly been a good experience, but I was happy at Milan.
“I’ll never know if I would’ve accepted the move.”
Back then, Pirlo was part of an incredible Rossoneri side that won the Champions League twice under Carlo Ancelotti, and a group of players he simply did not want to leave.
He added: “It was an historic group of Italians, there was me, Ambrosini, Gattuso, Nesta, Abbiati and Inzaghi.”
Yeah, not bad at all.
Pirlo left Milan for Juventus in 2011 on a free transfer, in a move that rejuvenated his career and handed him four more Serie A titles.
We’re sure he has very few regrets.
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