Andrea Pirlo has admitted to stealing “secrets” from David Beckham to help improve his already world-class ability on free-kicks.
The former Italy international is heading into retirement at the end of his New York City FC contract and is now in a position to reflect on his remarkable career.
Widely regarded as one of the finest midfielders on the planet while at the peak of his powers, the ex-Juventus and AC Milan star won just about everything at the top of the game – including the 2006 World Cup.
His vision and passing made him a cut above most, but he was also among the finest performers on the planet over a set-piece – boasting an unerring ability to hit his target, be that a team-mate or the back of the net.
Pressed by L’Equipe on how he honed those skills, Pirlo said: “When I was a kid I’d take a small foam ball and try to get my shot over the couch so it would finish in the corner of the window.
“At Milan we had [David] Beckham, Ronaldinho, [Clarence] Seedorf… a lot of good kickers. We talked to each other, we watched each other and we stole each other’s secrets.
“I used to watch Juninho’s free-kicks without being able to figure out how he hit them. I tried and tried, until eventually I came up with my own way to strike them.
“I was by myself trying all types of free-kicks.”
Pirlo only spent two brief spells working with Beckham, during loan stints in Italy for the latter, but he was able to pick the brain of a man who boasted a similar reputation over dead balls.
Pirlo is one of a few players who can claim to boast a similar skill-set, with an iconic figure of the modern era admitting that he had unwavering belief in his ability to produce.
Asked for his free-kick secrets, the 38-year-old said: “I’d tell myself it was impossible not to score.
“It was enough just to get the ball over the wall and it was a goal. In football, like in life, there are always millimetres which can change things, the course of a goal, or of a life.
“It’s a sign of destiny, a natural talent which my parents gave me. To come in front of the ball, find the right position… it always seemed so simple to me, but it might not be for others.
“It’s completely natural, I’d do it without even thinking about it.
“I had to prepare the moment perfectly. I didn’t want the ball to be dirty. I wanted it to be clean, beautiful. So I cleaned it before I shot.
“I didn’t quite hit it with my instep, or even the inside of my foot, it was more the two toes at the tip of the foot.
“I was often ready to celebrate before the ball had gone into the goal. By judging the trajectory of the ball, I knew intuitively whether or not it would be a goal.”