10 best excerpts from Andrea Pirlo's 'I Think, Therefore I Play'

Andrea Pirlo
Amulya Shekhar

Andrea Pirlo is a household name in Italy, and not for the want of evidence. The former Juventus, AC Milan and Inter midfielder is considered to be one of the revolutionaries of his position. His departure from European football broke the hearts of millions of fans worldwide, who miss watching his magical touch every week in the Serie A.

Pirlo attained a cult following for his hard-hitting autobiography ‘I think, Therefore I Play’, which was published in the year 2013. There are several snippets from the book which illustrate the various aspects of his imposing, yet uber-cool personality. The following are the pick of the lot, placed in their order of appearance in the book:

#1 ‘If the sea’s deep, a fish can breathe...’

Andrea Pirlo

The first chapter of the book deals with Andrea’s last meeting with the then Milan vice president-cum-chief executive Adriano Galliani. Seated at his desk, Pirlo takes a moment to reflect on his Milan career – his 10-year long association with the Milanese giants. As he does so, he zooms out of the picture of the room for a bit, and delves deep into the make of the rather impressive pen in his hand.

He then reveals in the following lines why he decided to leave the club – he didn’t want to play on the left of midfield for coach Max Allegri. It is this situation that he describes with his beautiful, and rather fitting words: ‘If the sea’s deep, a fish can breathe. If you put him just under the surface, he’ll get by, but it’s not quite the same thing.’

He closes the chapter by remarking “I’ll never say which pen I used.” What a man!

#2 ‘I don’t feel pressure, either...’

Andrea Pirlo

In the very next chapter, Pirlo describes the experiences of his childhood – how he outclassed each one of his playmates in competition. His description of how he dribbles past the rest of the opponent team’s players might seem a little tongue-in-cheek, considering how he throws in the dissatisfaction of his own teammates for good measure.

But the part where he describes his evening before the 2006 World Cup final is really the part where he shows mere mortals like us what stuff legends are made of: “I spent the afternoon of Saturday, 9 July 2006 in Berlin sleeping and playing the Playstation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.”

Even the best of players are known to wilt under pressure. Pirlo is definitely not one of them.

#3 ‘After the wheel, the Playstation is the best invention of all time...’

Andrea Pirlo

Pirlo constantly refers to his constant muse – the Playstation – at innumerable junctures in the book. His favourite opponent was (and probably still is) his legendary Milan and Italian international teammate Alessandro Nesta, who he played with for 9 years at the San Siro.

At the beginning of Chapter 4, in which he talks about how his negotiations with Pep Guardiola and Barcelona failed due to Milan’s no-sale policy for him, Pirlo speaks the following words which would hearten every Playstation fan: ‘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.’

So much for being a Milan legend.

#4 ‘.....Much better to be a soldier on the pitch than in the bedroom’

Andrea Pirlo Anotnio Cassano

In the foreword of the book written by ex-Italy manager Cesare Prandelli (who was in charge of the national team at the time of publication), Pirlo’s love for the national jersey was made amply clear. And thus when we reach Chapter 6, we find substantial evidence for the same.

Without demeaning his compatriot for any of his activities, Pirlo firmly puts Antonio Cassano against him in a comparison that everyone would agree to, with the following lines, “Deep down, can he really be happy? I certainly wouldn’t be. That second skin, with its smurf-like blue, gives you a whole new image across the world. It makes you better, takes you higher. Much better to be a soldier on the pitch than in the bedroom.”

Who wouldn’t love a man like this!

#5 ‘...How can an employer change the terms of a contract at will’

Andrea Pirlo

Pirlo’s logic rings true and sound throughout the book, and he is never afraid to make his point. Men of his stature don’t bow down to manipulative people, and he makes that amply clear in chapter 7, in which he talks about how his name ‘Pirlo’ – a rather disgusting play of the world pirla (meaning penis in Italian) – has affected his life.

After talking quite affectionately about Gennaro Gattuso, whom he positively adores, Pirlo proceeds to question the very structure of football clubs with these statements:

“Are you telling me that the big cheeses, after organizing all kinds of clandestine dinners and secret meetings to get a player to their club and then showering him with gold, can suddenly ask for it all back? Are they not liars, those guys who, when it came down to it, weren’t capable of keeping their word? How can an employer change at will the terms of a contract he himself set out?”

He is clearly not a man who holds himself back from speaking the truth.

#6 ‘You mess up, you involve me...’

Andrea Pirlo

Talking about the massive betting problem which plagues all of Italian football at its grassroots, Pirlo once again lucidly lays out the situations he has been involved in. The Calciopoli scandal adversely affected the AC Milan team he played with – he was about to leave Milan for Real Madrid in the summer of 2006 before getting a new contract.

He talks about why collective responsibility is a bad principle to use in chapter 8, and uses the following words ‘You mess up, you involve me, I tell you ‘no’, I insult you, I don’t report you and now they come after me as well. It just doesn’t stack up.’

Nobody likes rats, and Pirlo certainly is not one of those men.

#7 ‘If I was a president, I’d never build a team...’

Andrea Pirlo Paolo Maldini

Pirlo has a clear disdain for awards handed out by journalists, the press and fellow players, and it’s easy to see why. The Ballon d’Or has been almost exclusively an award won by forwards and playmakers, and Pirlo’s description of the voting procedure takes up just 3 sentences in chapter 10.

He then proceeds to explain clearly why Paolo Maldini is, in his mind, the greatest footballer of the modern age, and why defences win titles. He also talks about the massive influence Paolo had on his mental makeup, in addition to lambasting the Milan hierarchy for not holding on to him.

The best bit of the chapter, however, is the last paragraph: “If I was a president, I’d never build a team with champions up front and dummies in defense. That’s just deceitful advertising designed to fool the fans.’

You wouldn’t want to debate the greatest ever Italian midfielder’s view on this, would you?

#8 ‘One of them is the only mean Swede....’

Andrea Pirlo Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Pirlo, throughout the book, remains firmly tongue-in-cheek whenever he gets the chance. He even talks about his penchant for making up unbelievable stories underneath the magnificently calm, composed expression that fans watch from afar when he plays games.

At the beginning of chapter 12, when he is finished with expressing his dissatisfaction with Silvio Berlusconi for the ill-fated signing of Klaas Jan-Huntelaar by the club, Pirlo talks about a time when he wanted to quit football. Even at that time, he cracks a worthy joke on his teammates Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Oguchi Onyewu, whose infamous brawl in the 2010-11 season went public:

“One of them is the only mean Swede, the other the solitary American who prefers football to baseball, basketball, gridiron, ice hockey and even hamburgers at McDonald’s.”

Quite a teammate to have, one can safely say.

#9 ‘The best ideas come about in moments of total concentration....’

Andrea Pirlo Filippo Inzaghi

Pirlo’s penchant for jokes extends to all kinds of humour, and he is not shy to include jokes about the human excreta in his book. They come by the plethora, and leave readers wanting more because of his extraordinarily apt sense of joke placement.

While talking about how he devised his own technique for hitting freekicks, which he did by studying Juninho’s hits, Pirlo refers to his personal Eureka moment in the following paragraph from chapter 16:

‘The best ideas come about in moments of total concentration, a state you can reach when shitting, as Filippo Inzaghi will attest. My own Eureka moment arrived when I was sat on the toilet. Hardly romantic, but there you go.’


#10 ‘If you’ve got Bar Rafaeli...’

Andrea Pirlo

In a view contrary to that of nearly all sports scientists, Pirlo proceeds to systematically dismantle the popular belief that pre-match warmups are a necessary element of football training. And he does so with a pinch of typically dry Pirlo humour that cannot be argued with

In his mind, football is mostly a game played with brains at the very top level. Evidence for that can be found today, when professional footballers are fitter, faster, leaner and meaner than ever, but Pirlo still outclassed all of them despite not matching them toe-to-toe.

“If you’ve got Bar Rafaeli lying naked in front of you, you just can’t wink at her and say: ‘Wait there, I’ll be with you in 15 minutes.’ All you’ll do in that quarter of an hour is think of her. You’ll hold everything back until you’ve got her in your arms and can throw yourself into the moment.”

Who can argue with logic like that!

Edited by Staff Editor


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