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Eight exceptional moments from playmaker Andrea Pirlo

News that Italian football icon Andrea Pirlo will officially leave Juventus, and Europe, to join MLS outfit New York City FC for an American adventure has left fans across the continent pausing to contemplate the playmaker’s extraordinary talent.

The evergreen deep-lying midfielder’s combination of incredible vision and audacious but precise passing has seen him collect an enviable array of trophies, but which have been the 36-year-old’s most memorable moments?

Here Coral experts present our eight excellent career stand-outs from Pirlo, one of Italy’s most talented and under-appreciated greats…

2006 World Cup semi-final assist v Germany
Pirlo is just one of those players it is a pleasure for fans and pundits alike to have seen grace the pitch. The Azzurri international particularly excelled during Italian football’s darkest moment, Calciopoli, to be instrumental in helping his nation to another World Cup crown in 2006.

Summing up his contribution in a Man of the Match performance against fellow semi-finalists Germany is a breathtakingly perfect extra-time pass, in which Pirlo split the German defence, deftly sliding Fabio Grosso through to net the winner.

Watch here:

2006 World Cup final equalising assist v France
The best players make their mark on the biggest stages, and Pirlo did just that in the Berlin World Cup final against France in another Man of the Match performance.

Former Italy coach Marcelo Lippi once famously said “Pirlo is a silent leader. He speaks with his feet,” which was certainly true, as he curled in a trademark corner for Marco Materazzi to head home a crucial equaliser, before coolly converting in the subsequent spot-kick shootout as Italy clinched the World Cup.

See Pirlo’s perfect corner:

Pirlo pulls the strings v Manchester United in 2007 Champions League semi-final
AC Milan and Manchester United have done battle in a fair few classic continental clashes, but it was the Rossoneri who triumphed 3-0 in this Champions League semi-final second-leg, partly due to Pirlo. The midfielder conductor sent in a pinging cross for Clarence Seedorf to slot home Milan’s all-important second goal.

2007 Champions League final Inzaghi assist v Liverpool
“I thought about quitting because, after Istanbul, nothing made sense any more. The 2005 Champions League final simply suffocated me,” stated Pirlo of AC Milan’s extraordinary loss to Liverpool in his biography.

However, just two terms later, Pirlo was instrumental in revenge against the Reds as the Rossoneri claimed their fifth Champions league title, with his deflected free-kick also setting up poacher Filippo Inzaghi’s first.

Highlights here:

Pirlo puts one past Real Madrid
In an important group stage duel, in the 2009/10 term, Pirlo stepped up to instigate a fight back at the Bernabeu against giants Real Madrid in a famous 3-2 victory.

The exemplary playmaker showed the world his striking prowess with a stunning long-range effort to help AC claw back a two goal deficit in the second half.

Check out Pirlo’s peach:

2011/12 Scudetto win with Juve
Clinching the 2011/12 Scudetto with the Old Lady was a hugely important moment in Pirlo’s career and Juventus’ first for nine years. Originally traded to the Rossoneri (16/1 with Coral to win Serie A) by Inter Milan as a youngster, before eventually being considered surplus in the red and black half of the San Siro too, the serial winner had a point to prove in his first Turin term.

Having clocked up the most Serie A assists that season with 13 to help Juve (odds-on at 8/11 to retain the Scudetto) succeed, it was evident Pirlo still had plenty left in the tank. Gianluigi Buffon’s quote just about sums it up: “when Andrea told me that he was joining us, the first thing I thought was “God exists”…I think it was the signing of the century!”

See all Juve’s 2011/12 goals:

Infamous Joe Hart penalty lob
Having played a leading role in Juve’s revival, Pirlo headed to Euro 2012 with Italy, although the Azzurri were eventually thrashed in the final by Spain.

Before then though, Italy’s standout star was Pirlo, who bossed midfield in a quarter-final against England, also cheekily chipping Three Lions goalie Joe Hart, who was attempting to put him off, in the penalty shootout. What now for Pirlo’s international future while playing on the other side of the Atlantic? Does retirement beckon?

See Pirlo’s Panenka:

Pirlo’s free-kick panache
In his final Serie A season, Pirlo grabbed Juve’s opening goal against Empoli in a 2-0 triumph. While the superb solo effort was not exactly notable alone, it did mark the Old Lady’s 117th anniversary and put Pirlo within touching distance of Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Serie A free kick record, a tally of 28 Pirlo would later equal before leaving.

Not bad huh?