FORMER AC MILAN and Italy midfielder Gennaro Gattuso claims playing alongside Andrea Pirlo made him consider switching careers.
Pirlo, who announced his retirement from football yesterday at the age of 38, formed a potent midfield partnership with the teak tough tackler for both club and country, but Gattuso maintains ‘Il Maestro’ would have flourished even without his diligent legwork alongside the stylish playmaker.
Asked on Radio 24 if his presence had afforded Pirlo the opportunity to blossom in the middle of the park, ‘Rino’s response was both humble and dismissive.
“Don’t talk nonsense, let’s not confuse Nutella with shit,” the Milan Primavera boss replied.
“When I saw him play it made me think I had to change profession. Nobody knows that better than me, because I started playing with him at Italy Under-15 level and then all the youth teams after that.
“It wasn’t only about his quality, but he was an animal covering 1000 metres, he had this athletic quality which is why he played until this age .
“He was someone who ran so much.
“I played with him for about 20 years when you consider the national youth teams, in difficult moments I just gave it to him, I always felt assured when I was next to him.
“I understood what I had to do, and he was taking care of the rest. He helped me much more in my career than I did him.
In the dressing room? He’s a big son of a… With all due respect to his mother! He teased me for months, he was very funny. I punched him more times than Bud Spencer did Terrence Hill!
Pirlo departed his long-term midfield partner and Milan in 2011, joining a Juventus side which had finished seventh in Serie A the previous season.
The lack of European football during his first campaign with the Old Lady proved crucial to Pirlo’s career Indian summer, as did manager Antonio Conte, according to Gattuso.
“He was incredibly lucky to find a Juventus who weren’t in Europe and worked so hard with [Antonio] Conte.
You know how Conte is, he’s a bad guy for a week but after that you start to feel good. He [Pirlo] needed that, this work but strength in his legs and he got that desire back.
“In my opinion that was the secret.”
Subscribe to The42 podcasts here: