(NYC FC’s newest star Andrea Pirlo with Head Coach Jason Kreis – Photo by Jason Schott)
Italian superstar Andrea Pirlo was introduced as the newest member of New York City Football Club on Thursday afternoon at Trump Soho.
Pirlo, a midfielder, has spent his entire professional career in Italy and is renowned for his incredible passing range and set piece ability. In nearly 700 matches at club level he has won two Champions League titles, 2002-2003 and 2006-07, with AC Milan, and has won the Italian Serie A title six times, including the past four seasons with Juventus.
Juventus reached the UEFA Champions League Final this past season. Even though they lost to Barcelona on June 6th, the fact that Juventus got there was an amazing achievement. They outlasted Christiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid in the semifinals to get there, preventing what everyone thought would be the second straight all-Spanish final. Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid in 2014.
Pirlo opened the press conference by talking about his impressions of New York, and said through a translator, “Good afternoon to you all and thank you for being here. I’ve been to New York as a tourist several times, so I think I know pretty much all the various areas and I feel really well over here. I like the fact that there’s always new things around. In terms of the field, I hope to be able to play on Sunday (vs. Orlando City at Yankee Stadium),but let’s see when we get to it.”
Pirlo spoke of the teammates he has had over the years, “Yes, I’ve been blessed playing with some of the best champions that were out there, but the most important thing is always the team. First and foremost is the group that is important; that goes beyond each individual player, so I can only say that I’m available, I’m available to my coach and my team, and I want to to do my best in order to reach the best result.”
Pirlo will be joining a team that already includes fellow international stars Frank Lampard and David Villa. Pirlo said of playing against new Lampard and Villa in the Champions League and the World Cup, and if he ever thought about playing with them, “Well, you know, when you are on the field, you only think of the games. Basically, you don’t start thinking about the future, what might happen, who you might be playing with, and so on and so forth. You only care about winning, you do everything you can to win there and then. Then, it just so happens that you are on the same team with someone, and of course, you’re going to do your best in order to work with this new person and win.”
Lampard said to the same question at his introductory press conference on July 7th, “I did think that, I was fortunate enough to play against many great players, and I have to say David and Andrea are right at the top of that list. I played against David when he was very young back at Valencia. I remember him very well, the quality of him was straightaway. Andrea Pirlo, he’s a joy to watch as a footballer anyway, and there was one time at Chelsea where there were rumors that he was going to come and play when Ancelotti was there, and he wanted to sign him, but it never happened. Both are players I’ve admired from afar, an absolute joy to play with. I didn’t realize it would happen at this stage of my career, I’m a lucky man to be on the same squad as them.”
NYC FC Head Coach Jason Kreis said of the impact Pirlo can have on his club, “Massive, massive impact for a player like Andrea, with the history that he’s had and the experience he has had and the position he plays in our group. He will have a central role to what we’ll be trying to accomplish. We’re very happy that he’s here, looking forward to what methods he can bring us, and off the field, his experiences are extremely important and vital to what we’re doing as well. As we know in this league, it’s not just about what you can provide to a team on the field, it’s what you can provide to a team off the field as well. There’s young players that need instruction and coaching and development, and they’ll always have three players now, two midfielders (Pirlo and Frank Lampard) and a forward (David Villa) that they can lean on and look to for soccer solutions.”
Pirlo arrived in New York on Tuesday and he spoke of the differences he has noticed between training at Juventus and with NYC FC, “Yes, these have been two very important days and I really felt like getting onto the field. Everything is new and this is so amazing, but I’m feeling well and the only thing that is left to do is to really get to the right physical condition in play at my best. Everything is going well and that’s it.”
Pirlo on his physical condition and if he can play Sunday, “Well, i do not know, as I mentioned before, it really depends on how things go day-by-day. I’ve been on vacation for a month, and I did work during that month, but you know, and I am feeling well, but we’ll see what happens on Sunday.”
Kreis said of Pirlo meshing with the group, “My honest opinion is it takes any player time to transition to any different league. Whether he was going from Italy to England, or from the U.S. to Italy, from anywhere to anywhere, so I think there will be a transition period that will come through playing matches. In the training sessions, we’ve had him involved in two, he was quite special today, to see him out there. We’ll continue to build him up through the week, and I will reiterate what he said (about Sunday), it’s a day over day process and we are not ready to make that decision today and we don’t need to make it today, so by Sunday, I think we’re all hopeful there will be a role for him, but we’ll see.”
Pirlo said of his age, 36, constantly being referenced, “Well, unfortunately, I can’t go back, that’s the age and in any event, that’s what it is. In any event, I don’t feel that I’m old, I feel like playing, I very much would like to play. And, I think that there’s other players that are not so much younger than me, so in any event, let the people that want to talk about age talk about age. I’m going to do my job.”
On the MLS, Pirlo said, “The MLS is growing, it’s still young at this point, but it is a very physical type of game, the one that is played here. Its very demanding, there’s a lot of players from South America, so the level is improving overall and I am sure that it will keep improving.”
Kreis said of what it means to him as an MLS pioneer to have these international stars coming to MLS, “I continue to say that I think this is an incredible, incredible time for our league, an incredible time for the people that are involved like myself, someone who was involved in day one, 1996, with MLS until now. This is a special, special time that we need to appreciate and take advantage of, because I think that we’re heading in a really positive direction. And it’s not just our team, if you look around at the number of world-class players internationally that are in our league now and will continue to be, and I am quite certain we will see a few more before the end of the summer. A really, really special time and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”
Kreis said of how the players are taking to having Pirlo around, “Everybody’s as pleased as I am that we’re able to add this type of player, this type of character to our group. It wasn’t like we were all, all the players were standing there with their mouths open looking at him, but everybody’s appreciative of the talent and the quality that he brings. Today, he had his first real opportunity to show his qualities, and you could hear the chatter amongst the players that they were all pretty impressed.”
Pirlo said of his reported $2 million salary with NYC FC, less than he could have gotten, “Well, you know, money, for me, it’s never been an issue. The most important thing is to play, it’s the field where you play, and of course, when you show your qualities, it’s only right that you earn a correct amount of money. I think that soccer is one thing and money is another thing. I’ve always been able to play for the love of the sport, not for the money, then everybody can do whatever they please.”
Kreis said of his job putting together a game plan with all these stars, and how Pirlo just has to go out and play, “First, I’ll agree with you, the player’s job is always easier than head coaches. If I could go back in time, I would. Yeah, I think that it’s going to take some time. I think that we’re going to do everything in our power to make that time as short as possible through video work, through training, through communication, we’re going to do everything we can to make the time as short as possible. I don’t hold a crystal ball, I can’t tell you exactly how long that will be. I do think, and I hope that, I know for sure that our club recognizes that there’s going to be a transition period here and hopeful that everybody understands that there’s a small transition period here.”
Pirlo said of whether he will embrace his anonymity here or try to become a household name in America, “I’ve never been throughout my career the kind of guy that always appears on the cover of magazines. I’m not really somebody that cares too much for publicity. I’ve been here, I am here not to be a tourist, but to play. It’s something that comes easy to me, it’s something that I enjoy doing, and I think that I do it well, so of course I want to help MLS to grow and to become more recognizable, but my major responsibility is that of playing and to do it well.”
Pirlo said of a goal for NYC FC for the rest of the season, “Well, you know, we still have a long while to go in the season, and as the coach already said, we have a new team, a team that started completely from scratch this year, and so at this point, we have to turn a new leaf, we have to do our best to try and do our best to reach the playoffs, and I’m sure with all the work we’ll put in, we will be able to reach that result.”
It took 28 minutes for Frank Lampard to come up and whether he will make his long-awaited debut Sunday, and Kreis said sternly of any news on that front, “No update yet.”
Kreis said of the growth of MLS and how it relates to other leagues in the world, “I think this is a positive and exciting time for our league in this country. I do believe that we should have goals and objectives to grow our sport, grow iur league as it’s viewed worldwide. For sure, a goal of ours is to become one of the best leagues in the world. I think a mini-goal, and one that’s maybe a little more attainable right now, should be to be the best league in the Western Hemisphere. We have a very big league just south of us in Mexico we can compare and contrast ourselves to, and when we play them, we’re typically a little bit behind. I think that’s a first step that’s relevant and something that we should go after is to be overall a better league than they are, to become the league of choice for South Americans to come to because, again, the majority of those players choose to go to Mexico or MLS as it stands right now. So I think we have a good future in front of us and I think we have some very realistic objectives that we can look forward to, and I think as we continue to grow and continue to attract more players that are in their prime and more players that are important players that we can look to that in the future.”