I Think, Therefore I Play by Andrea Pirlo

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I Think, Therefore I Play – Andrea Pirlo with Alessandro Alciato (translated from the Italian by Mark Palmer)

Oh good, another footballer’s autobiography one hears the book buying public exclaim at this BackPage Press publication. However, this small Scottish publishing house is building a reputation as nothing if not surprising, innovative and imaginative in both its list choices and its execution of what ought to be standard fare.

All of us interested in football know that Pirlo can play. He has been the de rigour hipster football man crush since he scurried onto the scene at Brescia in the late 1990s.

Few people can control a game, caress a pass or steer a free kick, like the man.
If you’re not familiar (a, shame on you and b, why are you reading this?) have a look here:

However, he also appears to have a way with words hitherto unexplored. Sometimes, this can be quite moving in its simplicity, such as when he explains to team mate Alessandro Nesta that he will be leaving AC Milan, saying simply, “I kept him up to speed with everything: step by step, tear by tear… I cried and I wasn’t ashamed to do so.” Not the sort of phrases one can imagine in the memoirs of a contemporary British footballers. Or even past British footballers if it comes to that.

There is remarkably little in the way of ‘the gaffer told me to go out and do that so I did.’ Instead, Pirlo seems to view himself as an almost metaphysical embodiment of Italy and – by extension – of calcio itself. The “wandering gypsy” on the pitch is translated into words with wit and insight by both Alessandro Alicato and the translator Mark Palmer who both do a superb job.

To be sure, Pirlo has got a healthy dose of self-confidence. “I would never have got to feel like just another guy. A normal person… The Pirlo I could have been but instead never became. They treated me like I was nothing special.” These are big words for any man and, in less skilfully written texts, can make a reader feel queasy. However, Andrea Pirlo gets away with it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he really is one of the all-time greats and, secondly, there are lashings of humour.

An already oft-cited example is the chapter on Milan’s signing of much-maligned Dutch forward Klass-Jan Huntelaar which is a comic master class from the writer interspersing his thoughts on the club at the time with the occasional exclamatory – “Huntelaar!” – to make the point that this really didn’t meet the standards of our Andrea. This chapter is worth the £9.99 admission price alone.

Perversely, the only real criticism I have of the autobiography is that it strays too far from the conventional. I learned that Pirlo is a cultured man, a fragile man and a vastly more interesting and intellectual man that we seem capable of producing in our own home grown sports men. But there was sometimes too little of the back story. I know almost no more about his growing up, his relationship with his parents or his wife than I did at the beginning.

It would appear that Pirlo’s beguiling obfuscations and sleight of hand are not restricted merely to his feet.

I Think Therefore I Play in Five Words
He Thinks. You Should Buy.

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