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This extract from Andrea Pirlo's autobiography, 'I think therefore I play', details some of the hilarious pranks that the Italy star played on his former team-mate

Andrea Pirlo and Rino Gattuso formed one of the best central midfield partnerships of the 2000s. The below extract reveals some of their hilarious battles off the pitch. I THINK THEREFORE I PLAY by Andrea Pirlo is out now in paperback and ebook.

BOOK EXTRACT
By Andrea Pirlo

My face, with its fixed expression, doesn't let on what I'm thinking. But therein lies the beauty. I can make up the craziest stories, say the most ridiculous things to my team-mates and everyone thinks I'm being deadly serious. They don't realise what's happening and I have a whale of a time. I'll be smiling inside, but outwardly completely impassive as I plot my next joke. And sometimes it's cost me a slap, particularly when Rino Gattuso was around.

With him not being a man of letters, or a distinguished orator, whenever Rino opened his mouth the dressing room turned into the Rio Carnival. People would be blowing raspberries, making trumpet noises, doing the conga. Always the same reaction. We'd never let him finish before we started with the p*** taking.

I'd call him "terrone" (a derogatory term for a southern Italian) and he'd hit me. To get my own back, I'd nick his phone and send a bunch of texts to Ariedo Braida, our general manager. This one time, Rino de Janeiro, like me, was waiting for his contract to be renewed. I did the negotiating on his behalf by means of a single message. "Dear Ariedo, if you give me what I want, you can have my sister."

Rino found out and gave me a beating before ringing up Braida. "It's just one of Pirlo's stupid jokes," he said. I've always wondered if the response was, "what a pity".

Before Italy games, Daniele De Rossi would hide under Rino's bed and wait. He'd be there for anything up to half an hour. Gattuso would come in, brush his teeth, stick on his leopard-print pyjamas, get into bed, take out a book and look at the pictures. Just as he was about to fall asleep, Daniele would reach up from under the bed and grab his sides, while I'd burst out of the wardrobe like the worst kind of lover, making horrendous noises. Rino took it really well, despite risking a massive heart attack. First he'd beat up Daniele and then he'd do the same to me. Just to prove he was even handed.


Hardman | Gattuso's career is remembered for a number of physical encounters

Another time we gave him a soaking with a fire extinguisher. A draw away to the Republic of Ireland had been enough to secure our qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and so the last group game, against Cyprus in Parma four days later, had become almost like a friendly. Pretty much meaningless, and that's exactly how we treated it.

Lippi gave us a night off in Florence, and almost all of us went out for dinner. Gattuso didn't – he stayed at the team hotel. When we got back, we were quite drunk, actually very drunk, and we ended up chatting in the lounge. We weren't tired, so we needed to find something to pass the time. Everyone had the same idea: "Let's go and p*** off Gattuso."

He was already asleep, with his little nightcap on his head. On the way up the stairs to Rino's room, De Rossi spotted a fire extinguisher. "I'm off to put out Gattuso," he said. We knocked on the door and out Rino came, screwing his eyes up as he advanced. Daniele started spraying, covering him in every last drop before running off to hide in his room.

He left me at the mercy of that monster in its underpants, absolutely dripping with foam and shouting total gibberish. Listening to him, though, I knew he was beginning to wake up and regain his senses. I tried to escape, but I was already done for. When the guy on your shoulder is Gattuso and he's out to do you harm, you can run as hard as you like, but he'll always catch you. Rino ran me through his full range of slaps.

Gattuso's also superstitious to a pretty disgusting degree. At the 2006 World Cup, because things were going well, he kept the same tracksuit on for more than a month. It was something like 40 degrees in Germany and he was going about dressed like a deep-sea diver. From round about the quarter-finals, he began to stink. Never mind a fire extinguisher – what he really needed was an industrial supply of lavender.

Gattuso would grab a fork and try and stick it in us. Some of us ended up missing games because of Rino's fork attacks"

Rino's always been my favourite target, top of the table by some distance. This despite the fact that on several occasions he's tried to kill me with a fork. During meal times at Milanello, we'd invent all sorts to torment him and put him on the spot. When he got his verbs wrong (pretty much the whole time), we'd jump on him immediately. And then when he actually got them right, we'd make out that it was still wrong just to wind him up even more. Me, Ambrosini, Nesta, Inzaghi, Abbiati, Oddo: that was the group of bast***s right there.

"Rino, how are you?"

"Bad. We got beat yesterday. I was better if we won."

"Rino, try again. It's: 'I'd be better if we'd won.'"

“But it's the same thing."

"Not exactly, Rino."

"Fine then. I'd be better if we'd won."

"Rino, just how ignorant are you? 'I was better if we won.' That's how you say it."

"But that's what I said before."

"What, Rino?"

"That thing about winning."

"What thing, Rino? Can you repeat it?"

You could see the red mist coming down and he just wasn't able to hide it. We could tell what was coming and so we'd commandeer all the knives. Gattuso would grab a fork and try to stick it in us. On more than one occasion, he struck his intended target and the fork sank into our skin. We were as soft as tuna; the kind you can cut with a breadstick. Some of us ended up missing games because of one of Rino's fork attacks, even if the official explanation from the club was one of “muscle fatigue”.

We'd get out of his way when he got mad but once he'd calmed down and gone to his room, we'd come back out, pile up the sofas in front of the door and block his exit.

"Let me out – training starts in a while."

"Deal with it, terrone."

He'd then go crazy again, smashing up everything in sight. But even when he was angry, he was one of the good guys.

Amongst other things, I've seen Rino catch and eat live snails for a bet. He really does belong in a film.



'I think therefore I play', by Andrea Pirlo, is available to buy now in English in paperback and ebook.
For more information, visit www.backpagepress.co.uk

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