'Pirlo was the best in the world' - Former Man Utd star Park pays homage to retiring 'great'

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The former Red Devils midfielder came face-to-face with an iconic playmaker during a two-legged Champions League last-16 clash with AC Milan in 2010

Park Ji-sung believes Andrea Pirlo was among the “best in the world” around the time of a famous duel between Manchester United and AC Milan.

The iconic playmaker has announced that he is heading into retirement, with his boots to be hung up at the end of his contract with MLS side New York City.

Man Utd 11/1 to win Champions League

The 38-year-old is already assured of a standing alongside the modern greats, as a six-time Serie A champion, two-time Champions League victor and World Cup winner.

Park believes Pirlo is fully deserving of such acclaim, having discovered first-hand how talented he is during a Champions League last-16 encounter in 2010.

The former United midfielder told Goal: "He was not a big player physically, but his ability in passing, taking free-kicks, shooting from distance, play-making was the best in the world at that time.

"I believe he was a great player who could dictate the game. He was the biggest threat to any team who played against his team."

Park Ji-sung Andrea Pirlo Manchester United AC Milan 2010

While recognising the “threat” posed by Pirlo, Park played a key role in nullifying that during United’s European battle with Milan.

Sir Alex Ferguson had charged the South Korean with containing the Rossoneri playmaker during a two-legged tie, and was rewarded with a 7-2 aggregate success as the Red Devils swept into the quarter-finals.

Park added on the part he played in that triumph: "Man Utd analysed Milan's game and concluded that Pirlo is the key man for them. Sir Alex Ferguson made me man-mark Pirlo. 

"So, I tried to block him so that he cannot be in possession of the ball. When he had the ball, I tried to prevent him passing the ball in front of him.

"To mark Pirlo was not easy. It was hard mentally, physically but consequently Milan had a difficult game against us."

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Park even got on the scoresheet during the second leg of United’s continental tussle with Milan, with a 4-0 win at Old Trafford highlighting their dominance in the contest, and Pirlo himself has admitted that the South Korean is one of the few players he could not best.

"On one of the many occasions when our paths crossed (Pirlo's, and Sir Alex Ferguson) during my time at Milan, he unleashed Park Ji-sung to shadow me," he wrote in his autobiography, 'I Think Therefore I Play'. "The midfielder must have been the first nuclear-powered South Korean in history, in the sense that he rushed about the pitch at the speed of an electron."

It was efforts such as that which helped to secure a versatile performer cult hero status, with Park having shown on countless occasions that he was more than a match for the likes of Pirlo and the very best in the business.

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