'Pirlo, Mamma Mia!' - football world hails Italian maestro at Euro 2012

The clamour is growing for the 33-year-old midfielder to be named the player of the tournament after a series of sublime performances for the Azzurri
Having played a pivotal role in helping Juventus clinch the Scudetto in his maiden season at the club, Andrea Pirlo has taken that exceptional form straight into the Euros for Italy, with some superb displays against the likes of Spain, Ireland and England.

A metronomic display full of class helped the Azzurri into the semi-finals at the expense of the Three Lions on Sunday night, a performance capped by a stunning penalty kick that turned the shoot-out in his side's favour in Kiev.

It has led the footballing world to collectively hail the Italian playmaker - and here Goal.com takes a look at what his fellow professionals, both past and present, have had to say about the man in question.

"Yes, for me, Andrea should win the Ballon d'Or. He deserves it. He is the best of them all."

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli throws his weight behind the growing admiration for the former AC Milan man.

"Did you see what Pirlo did? Only a genius has this intuition. Andrea is immense and there are no other adjectives to add."

PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti, a former manager of Pirlo's at Milan, is left speechless by the Panenka-style penalty.

"We did all the things one could possibly do from a professional point of view but it still doesn't change the fact that Andrea Pirlo has the incredible confidence at that level of football to do a Panenka chip over the goalkeeper."

England boss Roy Hodgson admitted that all the planning in the world couldn't prevent the penalty.

"If I had to choose a lasting image from the game I'd say Pirlo's penalty. I'd not seen such a crazy shot as that since the days of Francesco Totti."

Italy captain Daniele De Rossi hailed the penalty, referencing Totti's similar strike against Netherlands at Euro 2000.

"Pirlo. Mamma Mia!"

Udinese midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, who is set to join Pirlo next season after agreeing a move to Juventus, brushes up on his Italian while praising the 33-year-old.

"On a pure footballing note Pirlo just put on a pure footballing master class + the penalty was too much."

Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand, left kicking his heels at home by England during the tournament, lauded the masterclass put on by the Italian playmaker.

"Wow. Pirlo is a joke."

Free-agent Michael Owen simply could not believe his eyes.

"What a great penalty from Pirlo – phenomenal."

Barcelona midfielder Xavi, a player that Pirlo is often compared to, was effusive in his praise of the penalty.

"Pirlo is just class."

Spain international Gerard Pique also joined in on the fun.

"A player of another world. It's a player like that who the French team miss"

Former PSG holding man Luis Fernandez, winner of the European Championship with France in 1984, believes Les Bleus are missing a player of Pirlo's quality in the middle of the park at the moment.

"He is simply a world class player, on the top level for years. How he has taken the penalty - that was great class. On Thursday it is not Ozil vs Pirlo, but Germany vs Italy."

Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil was keen to talk up the ability of his opposite number ahead of the two teams' upcoming semi-final clash.

"That was very bold in that situation. When he doesn't score... As a keeper you don't expect such a penalty. That shows how strong his nerves are."

Die Mannschaft goalkeeping coach Andreas Kopke hailed the unpredictable nature of the spot-kick.

"But what class!"

Cesc Fabregas applauded the technique and nerves needed to pull of such a penalty given the context of the situation.

"Pirlo's penalty [is the] moment of Euros so far for me - reminded me of Zidane's pen in World Cup [2006]. Big players at the big moment produce a moment of class!"

Everton utility man Phil Neville called the Pirlo penalty his highlight of Euro 2012 so far, lauding the player's mental strength.

"Pirlo has unbelievable quality and England could not match him or Italy. Pirlo has been fabulous, he controlled and dictated the game and was absolutely masterful. It was a masterclass in technical ability, and Steven Gerrard spent the night chasing Pirlo around."

Never one to hold back with his opinion, Liverpool legend and Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen complimented Pirlo on his performance against England.