"It was August 2009 and I’d reached agreement with Chelsea, the club where Ancelotti had just come in as manager.
Carlo was like a father and a teacher for me, a kind, friendly man who knew how to make things fun."
Those are the words of Andrea Pirlo in his just published autobiography. The words of genius explaining what might have been.
Pirlo's move to Chelsea never happened and he joined Juventus two seasons later. The world went on to discover that the Italian was possibly the finest midfielder in football and that Chelsea had missed out on a huge gift.
Pirlo would have gone on to become a Premier League winner, in a record-breaking season under his former boss Carlo Ancelotti, had he signed for Chelsea. The Blues conquered England, winning the FA Cup, Community Shield and of course the Premier League. The Champions League, however, eluded them once again.
They crashed out of Europe's most elite club competition in the last-sixteen and while no player could have possibly changed the fate of a whole football club, Andrea Pirlo would have certainly made things a whole lot easier.
With Frank Lampard, Chelsea had goals in their midfield. However, an aging Michael Ballack and young John Obi Mikel, along with an injury-prone Deco and Michael Essien, meant Chelsea severely lacked creativity on the big European stage.
Could Pirlo have occupied a space alongside Frank Lampard? In a league so fast, electric and hounding, Pirlo most certainly would not have had the time and space he has in his native Italy.
But if so, were it true that Pirlo would have floundered in the English topflight, how could we explain how he tormented the Three Lions two years ago? How do you elegantly put it into context, the fact that he made Steven Gerrard and co. look like pub players? His 'Panenka' in the shoot-out was no fluke and while he admits in his new book that it only came to his mind a split-second before, the midfield architect is a smart man and only someone with his unparalleled vision could pull off such a move, on such a stage.
Pirlo exemplifies everything you want in a player. Passion, ability and elegance, something Chelsea could have done with during their European exploits in recent years. While Italy were embarrassed at the 2010 World Cup, Pirlo was not done yet and proved that with his eye-catching displays at the Euro's in 2012 with a series of scintillating performances.
Only a man with such a sophisticated technique can adopt the deep-lying playmaker role; like a sniper he can pick off his targets. His set-pieces are stupendous, and since 2011/12, no player in Europe's top five leagues has scored more free-kicks than him (nine).
Chelsea were eliminated from the Champions League the year Pirlo edged close to a move. Before the semi-finals for the first time in four years, losing 3-1 on aggregate in the first knockout round to Inter Milan. Mourinho's Italians dominated and dismantled Chelsea, a side missing an artist in midfield.
Pirlo missed out and so did Chelsea, but it was Juventus who benefited. Like a bottle of red, Pirlo became more exquisite as he aged.
Since Pirlo joined Juventus, he has helped the Old Lady win back-to-back Serie A titles, along with back-to-back Italian Super Cup's. He also provided the most assists in his first season (13). A master of the short pass, yet so lethal when given time for a long ball. He was nominated for the 2012 UEFA Best Player in Europe award, in which he finished fourth.
He bettered his exploits the following season, winning Serie A Footballer of the Year, as well as the best midfielder award and Italian Footballer of the Year gong. The only Italian player to be nominated for the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or, Pirlo was also nominated for the 2013 FIFPro World XI.
He has created a mesmerising 60 chances this season, only bettered by one Chelsea player - Eden Hazard (87).
His 89 per cent pass accuracy also goes some way to illuminating the artistry he still possesses.
Considered as one of the greatest players of his generation, what could have been had Chelsea had him in their ranks?
- Sports & Recreation
- Andrea Pirlo
- Frank Lampard