The legendary Andrea Pirlo turns 43 today and what better way to celebrate the talent of the Italian genius by watching a compilation of free kick goals.
For some players, it takes a long run to find the ultimate ‘sweet spot’, but former AC Milan and Juventus midfielder Pirlo needed only a few steps and the goal shuddered with fear.
Accuracy was the Italian’s greatest strength and Serie A did not know it.
Sport put together a wonderful compilation of his best free throws, showing youngsters that ‘playing with your knuckles’ isn’t the only way to score from 25 yards.
No matter the distance, no matter the angle: Pirlo was a set-piece specialist in every way and is considered one of the best midfielders of the modern era.
In his 2014 autobiography, ‘I Think, Therefore I Play’, Pirlo revealed that he mastered free kicks after being inspired by Brazilian icon Juninho Pernambucano.
“My own Eureka moment came when I was sitting on the toilet. Hardly romantic, but there you go,” Pirlo wrote.
“The search for Juninho’s secret had become an obsession for me, to the extent that it occupied all my waking thoughts. It was at the point of maximum effort that the dam broke, in the entire extension of the term.
“The magic formula had to do with how the ball was hit, not where: only three of Juninho’s fingers came into contact with the leather, not the whole foot as one would expect.
“The next day I left home very early, and even chose to skip my classic PlayStation battle with [Alessandro] Nesta while running to the training paddock. All I had on my feet was a pair of loafers: I didn’t need proper boots to prove what I was now convinced was the correct theory.
“The guy from the equipment store had already reported for duty.
“‘Can you pass me a ball, please?’ I asked.
“‘Fuck you,’ he said quietly, almost hissing at me.
“‘What was that?’ I replied.
“‘You’re right. Go on, fool, throw me a ball.'”
“Reluctantly, he threw one away. Mentally, he was already preparing for a trip into the woods to retrieve it. Instead, I stuck it right in the top corner, right where the post meets the crossbar.”
“A geometric gem. I placed the shot so perfectly that it would have gone in even with a goalkeeper. Lucky for our goalkeepers, none of them were close.”
“‘Why don’t you try that again, Andrea?’ said a provocative voice from behind.
This was now a battle of two against one. Me on one side, the kite guy and the ghost of Juninho Pernambucano firmly on the other.
“‘Okay then, spoilers. Just watch,’ I said.
“I stepped up and unleashed a carbon copy of the previous free throw. It was a thing of absolute beauty, stylistically flawless. I lined up another five strikes and it was the same story every time.
“It was official: I had figured it out. The secret was no more.”