Pirlo doesn’t need the Ballon d’Or to prove his greatness

Juventus FC v Atalanta BC - Serie A


There can be no doubt that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have stolen the show in 2012 and, as a result, both of them are Ballon d’Or finalists, along with Spain & Barcelona’s highly successful Andres Iniesta. Nevertheless, there are a couple of veterans who have also lit up this year and deserve to receive immense credit for their performances & contributions over not only the past 12 months but across their illustrious careers – Iker Casillas and Andrea Pirlo. Both these stars were included in the initial 23-man shortlist for the FIFA award but not in the final list. TKTG made the case for Casillas earlier and now we focus our sights on the Italy and Juventus talisman. Kris Voakes of Goal.com outlines the Italian’s contribution for both club and country during the calendar year

Even before he took a couple of paces towards the ball, you just knew something special was about to happen.

Andrea Pirlo’s stunning free kick put Sunday’s game beyond Atalanta and ensured that Juventus will end 2012 at the top of Serie A. It is the only fitting place for the Italy midfielder to spend the winter break after a calendar year of magnificent proportions.

A team who had finished seventh in the league in consecutive seasons has been transformed since Pirlo’s arrival from AC Milan in 2011, and the last 12 months have been the best of his career. Since January, he has scored nine goals and laid on another 22 in 61 games for club and country. For a player whose starting position is so far removed from the opposition goal, that assist rate is a phenomenal record, and outlines just how much he adds to the Bianconeri.

But Pirlo has always been a bit different. His switch to a role at the base of midfield while under former coach Carlo Ancelotti at Milan sparked many a copycat move by trainers around the globe, but nobody has been able to reproduce his form in the role. His consistent quality has helped to make him one of the most loved and respected footballers in the game, and many now consider him to be one of the best technicians never to have been seriously considered for a Ballon d’Or at any stage of his career.

Courtesy: Goal.com

Courtesy: Goal.com

Having never come any higher than fifth place in the race for the world player of the year accolade, this should arguably have been his time. He should have been in the top three at the very least.

As the basis for a pressing game that has made Juventus into an attacking monster few have been able to tame, Pirlo has taken the side onto two whole new levels, first domestically, and then in the Champions League.

He was also the guy driving Italy around the park as they confounded a huge number of pundits to reach the Euro 2012 final, and then when the Azzurri needed to get their World Cup qualifying campaign off to a decent start, Pirlo was the man who got them going again. Carrying his Juventus form into the international arena, he had rediscovered the touch that had previously made him such a widely regarded footballer’s footballer.

And yet this has been no ordinary year, even for a player who was spectacular in 2006, when he became a world champion with Italy, and in the seasons ending 2003 and 2004 which led to him being crowned as a king, first of Europe and then of the Bel Paese. Pirlo’s 2012 has topped even those outstanding years, and while the Ballon d’Or awards ceremony will not feature the 33-year-old, that cannot take away from what he has achieved in the past 12 months.

So when the prizes are handed out at Fifa’s big gala next month, worry not over Pirlo’s absence. Instead, simply raise a glass to a legend who has outdone himself once more. Just ask Juventus and Italy fans if they need him to have a golden ball under his arm in order to appreciate his magnificent contributions of the last 12 months.

What are you thoughts regarding Pirlo’s contribution for club and country in 2012? Let us know in our comments section below, on Facebook or Twitter (@toknowthegame).

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