Once Antonio Conte became the Italian national team manager, Andrea Pirlo coming back to the Azzurri seemed like a formality. It wasn't a matter of 'if' there would be a return to international competition for the 35-year-old maestro, it was just a matter of when Conte would call him up and that would be that.
That day came this time last weekend when Italy's squad for a pair of Euro 2016 qualifiers were released. Pirlo was there, just like people expected he would be after featuring against Roma just a few hours prior. No big deal, kinda ho-hum, actually, considering this whole coming out of international retirement wasn't a secret at all.
"I talked to Conte, he asked if I was willing to return and I said yes. It was a tough decision, I wanted to leave the national team but the coach asked me to help and I'm glad I can do it."
(Source: Gianluca Di Marzio)
That was over a month ago when Pirlo decided that his international retirement would be as brief as Amauri's career with the Azzurri. Unless Conte threatened to bash Pirlo over the head with a frying pan if he didn't come back to the national team's setup, I'm just going to go ahead and figure that the conversation between the two of them was pretty understanding.
And how is he feeling now that he's officially made his return to the national team?
"Returning with an assist was fantastic, playing with this jersey is fantastic. We had the will to push forward after they tied the match, I'm very happy."
(Source: Gianluca Di Marzio)
But the main question still remains as Pirlo and his teammates prepare for a Euro 2016 qualifier against Malta is if Pirlo's comeback to the Azzurri will prove to be such a good thing.
Pro: More Pirlo, more beard, more fun to be had
A lot of people loved Andrea Pirlo even before he came to Juventus. Even though he played for a team that resides in Milan and inhibits the San Siro, Pilro's class overruled the colors and the badge on his club's jersey. But since he signed on a free transfer in 2011 and decided to not shave a summer later, Pirlo has become a cult hero. Amazing what a beard and a chip of Joe Hart from the penalty spot can do, isn't it? Okay, so his pinpoint passes and wide array of free kick mastery has something to do with it, too.
Who's in favor of having more chances to watch Pirlo on the biggest of stages? I'll drink to that.
Con: Juventus' best playmaker in the midfield will be playing more minutes for Italy
One of the biggest things that people didn't like when it came to Cesare Prandelli's handling of Pirlo was that whenever an international break rolled around, Pirlo was playing pretty much every minute possible. No matter who the opponent was, there was Pirlo, playing a ton of minutes and returning from the international break without having much of a break whatsoever. We know there's a noticeable difference between Rested Pirlo and one that plays hundreds of minuted each week, so there's no point in debating that further. You just have to wonder how playing so many minutes each and every week has an impact on a guy who will be 36 next year.
Pro: Italy gets its regista back
There is no doubting that Italy are a better team when Pirlo is on the field compared to when he isn't. When you list all of the midfielders that could be available to Conte the next time an international break arrives, Pirlo is going to be at the top of it. There's Daniele De Rossi, there's Pirlo, and then there's everybody else (not that the others are bad). And when it comes to who's running the show in the midfield, there's no doubting who that will be — Pirlo himself.
So if Italy goes 3-5-2 during the next international break like they did this past one, I'm pretty sure who be in the center of the midfield running the show. His name is Andrea Pirlo, and he has one heck of a footballer.
Con: More games played, more chances for injuries
It's not just that his workload will be just that much heavier. There's also the chance of Pirlo getting hurt every single time he steps onto the field in an Italy jersey. You know, the same guy who just came back from a month on the sidelines. Obviously we've learned over the past six weeks that Juventus can survive without Pirlo because Claudio Marchisio is awesome and has adapted to the regista role quite nicely over the past half-season worth of games. But there's only one Pirlo, and every time he's hurt
Pro: Antonio Conte will be his manager with the Azzurri
If there's one manager in Italy who I trust more than pretty anybody to handle Pirlo, it's certainly Conte. Why do I say this? Because of this: Pirlo's rapport with Conte seems pretty darn good from here. I don't think Pirlo would have come out of his incredibly brief international retirement for just anybody. That pretty much verifies that the Pirlo-Conte relationship is pretty strong, and it hasn't been hurt all that much when the latter suddenly resigned back at the beginning of preseason training.
Con: Pirlo will be 37 by the time the 2016 Euros roll around
In theory, Pirlo won't be the oldest player on Italy's roster because of Gigi Buffon's presence. The reality would be that could very well be beavily relying on two players that are two of the oldest in the competition. Not that it's not impossible or a totally bad idea considering the class of both those two fellas, but it's hard to predict what kind of form both players will be in a year and a half from now. Unless you have a crystal ball and want to let me borrow it, which would be cool.
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