Xavi and Pirlo are cut from the same footballing cloth. Both are fanatics of the ball and they share a supernatural ability to pass the ball wherever they like. A simple five yard pass? No problem. An eye of the needle ball past three defenders? No problem. A 40 yard lobbed pass that lands directly at your teammates feet? No problem.
Andrea Pirlo has always had that bit of flair about him. While Xavi grew up as an unassuming kid into a modest adult who often shied away from the limelight, Pirlo relishes it. He is the James Bond of the footballing world (he owns a wine vineyard, has the best beard in football and took a Paneka penalty in a major international tournament shootout) and for once his attitude is justified by his ability.
In the modern age of football, players with big egos who think they're everything when they haven't won anything come often. Pirlo and Xavi are the opposite of that. Players who have won practically everything under the sun and still value the beautiful game over the lifestyle it brings.
"Take someone like Antoine Cassano. He says he's slept with 700 women in his time, but he doesn't get picked for Italy any more. Deep down, can he really be happy? I certainly wouldn't be." - Pirlo
If you are a world class footballer it seems once you surpass the age of 30, questions begin to be raised about how long you can stay at the top. Most players opt for a few more good years at their club or an early retirement. Xavi and Pirlo are testament to a third option which lays increased significance on the mind over the body.
Pirlo was released by Milan after a failure to agree a contract extension and with the announcement of the Italian's intentions to join Juventus, many thought it was the swansong of his career. Four league titles later, Pirlo has proven every doubter wrong. The Juventus number 21 evolved his game and became a deep lying playmaker. Using football intelligence over football athleticism. Playing under the mantra that you don't need to run twenty yards if you were already in the right position before the pass was made.
An ideology that he shares with Xavi. Such is the influence of Xavi that Barça have been searching for his potential replacement for years now. Thiago, Cesc Fàbregas, Sergi Roberto were all touted as potential candidates but all didn't quite fit the bill. Finally this season it seems they have found an applicant in Ivan Rakitic but it is only through an alteration in style that it has worked and we will only truly see if it worked next season after the Barcelona captain departs.
It is only this season that we have seen Xavi's game time reduced but when he did make an appearance on the pitch he served his role exquisitely. Meanwhile Pirlo appears frequently at the heart of a Juventus midfield that blends skill with power. The likes of Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal compliment Pirlo's style and this has led Juventus to the verge of the treble.
Xavi is supported by Andrés Iniesta and Rakitic as they look to establish a consistent link between the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar. Deciding when to make a pass, looking for the space and opportunities to attack are what Xavi provides when tasked with breaking down well organised defences which Barça often come up against.
It will truly be a joy to watch these two midfield maestros meet each other on June 6th for what may well be the final time and while Xavi has confirmed his intentions to leave after the final, Pirlo has been a little more vague.
"He said that if he wins, he'll retire? Let's hope he doesn't retire then" - Xavi
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