It's Andrea Pirlo's 36th birthday today so here's our tribute to the most suave man in world football.
Football has come a long way from the dark ages of the pre-Sky TV era. Whereas once the humble football fan was your two pints of lager and a packet of crisps stereotype, there is now a new breed of fan who is ruling the roost. The football intellectual. In reality, the football intellectual has become so ubiquitous that anyone can choose to join the ranks. Eligibility has been boiled down to one rule, that you worship at the feet of Andrea Pirlo.
Thankfully, for the followers of the house of Pirlo, the chosen one has deigned to release his commandments in the form of his autobiography, I Think Therefore I Play. It is essential reading for any Pirlo devotees, but for those who have yet to join the cult but still want to learn from the master, the commandments can be boiled down to this. You need to play the PlayStation. Relax and let Pirlo tell you why.
It can help with breaking the news that Pirlo may be about to leave you
I sat down with Alessandro Nesta: friend, brother, team-mate, roomie. A man with whom, I'd shard a thousand adventures, and about as many snacks. At half-time in one of our never-ending football games on the Playstation, I confessed all. "Sandro, I'm leaving."
It is vital in attaining the ability to get ice to run through your veins
I don't feel pressure, either. I don't give a toss about it. I spent the afternoon of Sunday, July 9, 2206, in Berlin sleeping and playing the Playstation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.
It is an instrument which allows you to demonstrate absolute devotion
After the wheel, the Playstation is the best invention of all time. And ever since it's existed, I've been Barcelona, apart from a brief spell way back at the start when I'd go Milan. I can’t say with any certainty how many virtual matches I’ve played over the last few years but, roughly speaking, it must be at least four times the number of real ones. Pirlo vs Nesta was a classic duel back in our Milanello days. We’d get in early, have breakfast at 9am and then shut ourselves in our room and hit the PlayStation until 11. Training would follow, then we’d be back on the computer games until four in the afternoon. Truly a life of sacrifice.
It teaches humility, even Pirlo will not allow himself to be perfect
Our head-to-heads with were pure adrenaline. I’d go Barcelona and so would Sandro(Nesta). Barça v Barça. The first player I’d pick was the quickest one, Samuel Eto'o, but I’d still end up losing a lot of the time. I’d get pissed off and hurl away my controller before asking Sandro for a rematch. And then I’d lose again.
It can be a force of even greater strength than Pirlo
Perhaps I'd spent so much time on the Playstation that I'd ended up inside it, sucked into a parallel universe by my favourite hobby and now the mercy of a puppeteer with some kind of enchanted hand.
It is a metaphor for knowledge of the highest order
Being a philosopher is to think, seek wisdom and have principles that guide and influence what you do. It's to give meaning to things, find your way in the world, believe that in the end, in every instance, good will overcome evil if there's a bit of suffering along the way. Guardiola has taken all that and applied it to football, an imperfect science. He racked his brains and dispersed the fog, more through hard work than mere thought. What he's achieved hasn't been about miracles, rather a gentle programming of his players. His style is crema catalana - easily digestible. It's virtual reality mixed with real life; a swim between the shores of fantasy and reality with Estiarte by his side. In other words, we're talking Playstation.
It occupies the physical space of spiritual nirvana
Guardiola lives in a Zen-like corner of the Playstation, an unused portion of the hard drive. It's a secret room where the shadows dance and on July 9, 2006, the day of the World Cup final, I camped out there as well. It's a strange place - only a few people end up there, and even then only by chance. Mine was a rapid but unforgettable incursion, one that's more difficult to understand than to recount.
Its power must be respected, you must know when to step away
My own eureka moment arrived when I was sat on the toilet. Hardly romantic, but there you go. 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 that 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 the classic Playstation battle with Nesta as I rushed to the training paddock.
If that's not enough, you can get more help with being like Pirlo here.