Pirlo not ready to end Italy career
At 35, footballers have no right to say they're at "the start of something new" as a player.
Unless you are Andrea Pirlo, who is fast becoming the Chuck Norris of football.
And it's not just the out-of-bed hair and fuzzy beard that somehow seemed to match his club polo tee, track pants, Patek Philippe watch and Nike sneakers he wore yesterday when he met The New Paper at The Fullerton Hotel.
Arguably the most popular figure in the Juventus team as the Serie A champions get set for a glamour friendly against a Singapore Selection side tonight at the country's new National Stadium, Pirlo's presence has sent fans into a tizzy at every public appearance he's made in the Lion City.
Women want to date him, men want to play video games with him.
And it will be music to every Italian fan's ears when he told TNP he is still open to playing for his country, despite having declared he would retire from international football after the World Cup ended last month.
"This is news you would already know, the new Italy coach is Antonio Conte... I strongly believe this is the start of something new," said the peerless Pirlo, who has scored 13 goals in 112 appearances for his country.
"We worked well when he was at Juventus. If he needs me, if I can be useful, I will go on. If the situation is better without me, I'm ready to stop."
Pirlo was at the heart of the Azzurri midfield when they lifted the World Cup in 2006.
Together with Conte, he has been a vital member of the Juventus engine room as the club stormed to a hat-trick of Serie A titles over the last three seasons.
But there is no apparent heir to "Mozart", a nickname given to the deep-lying playmaker and prodigious passer who is enjoying the sunniest of career autumns.
Much like the wine he produces at his own Pratum Coller vineyard, his football is getting better with age.
Critics thought it was the beginning of the end of Pirlo in 2011 when he was allowed a free transfer from AC Milan to Juventus by Massimiliano Allegri, ironically named as successor to Conte at the "Grand Old Lady".
But, since his move to Turin, Pirlo's pass completion rate in the famous black and white of Juventus has improved from 86.9 per cent in 2011/12 to 87.3 per cent in 2012/13 and 88.5 per cent last season.
More importantly, over the past three title-winning terms, he contributed 26 assists.
"My aim in football is to improve my team, keep playing the best as I am used to, and also to satisfy my way of play," he said.
Pirlo, who counts Zinedine Zidane as the best player he's played with or against, rates his happiest moment in football as the time when he helped Italy land an improbable fourth world title in 2006.
Knowing the Italian's penchant for style, he was then asked about his personal grooming.
It was then that he finally a rare smile through all that facial fuzz when he was quizzed about his routine to keep all his hair in place.
"I obviously trim my beard, but for the hair, no, nothing," he claimed.
Juventus, and football lovers around the world, will be hoping he continues playing at a high level, hair and all, for as long as possible.