It’s certainly no coincidence that Andrea Pirlo’s arrival in Turin last season has corresponded with a Juventus renaissance which has yielded back-to-back Scudetto titles and an Italian Super Cup.
Throughout last summer’s European championships, a common shirt spotted among the throngs of Italian supporters was one bearing the slogan ‘Keep calm and pass it to Pirlo’. The shirt was worn with pride by the fans and it spoke volumes about the midfield veteran’s status as an idol and national treasure to the whole of Italy.
Indeed, the 34-year-old is not just the best in the business in his home country, he is also more than capable of holding his own when compared to the cream of the crop in Europe. His average of 98 passes per game is a figure only surpassed by Barcelona duo Xavi Hernández and Jordi Alba.
Furthermore, no player in all of Europe this year has scored more goals from free kicks than Pirlo. Francesco Lodi is level with him on five, but dead-ball specialists Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have netted just four and three respectively.
However, setting aside the comparisons with Europe’s elite, Andrea is undoubtedly the dominant midfielder in Serie A. In 32 matches and 2858 minutes of championship action, he has played 2198 successful passes, 1335 attempted in the middle of the park and 935 in the final third. This places him first in the entire league in all three departments.
He has also provided seven assists, one less than Vidal, 55 crosses and created 96 chances on goal, which is the highest in the Bianconeri squad.
While the former AC Milan man is like a precision sharpshooter when picking out team-mates, he is also no slouch in front of goal, having struck 42 shots this season, exactly half (21) of which have worked the opposition goalkeeper.
Pirlo’s clear importance to Juve’s attacks means that opponents rarely hold back and just let him dictate play. It is therefore unsurprising to see that he is the second most fouled Bianconeri player as his tally of 54 puts him seven behind Giovinco’s total.
Some critics claim that Andrea is merely a playmaker and that he doesn’t effectively carry out the defensive duties of a holding midfielder. However, this is not a notion backed up by his tackling statistics. Excluding Vidal, he has made the most tackles in the Juventus squad, winning 82 challenges at a success rate of 73.2%.
To sum up, Andrea wants the ball at his feet at all times. And when his team-mates can’t pass it to him, he goes and gets it from the other team himself.