NEW YORK -- How do you say no to Andrea Pirlo?
New York City FC leadership might have pondered that question at some point, and even head coach Jason Kreis might have toyed with the idea of passing on the chance to bring in the Italian World Cup winner. After all, with Frank Lampard on his way next month and U.S. national team midfielder Mix Diskerud and two-time MLS Cup-winner Ned Grabavoy already on the roster, there was an argument for NYCFC having other needs.
As true as that may have been, you still would have found it tough to turn down a chance at a legendary midfielder who still plays at a very high level, and one who is still revered as the type of marketable international star capable of moving the needle in a tough town like New York City.
But what about the money?
Sources told Goal USA two weeks ago that the Juventus star's arrival seemed unlikely because of high salary demands. It is probably tough for some at the MLS headquarters to sign off on a big-money contract for a player of Pirlo's age (36), but there are too many factors that would make it worth every penny. Not only would Pirlo increase the jersey and ticket sales, he could also help the team in its push for a new stadium . Put those factors together, and suddenly spending millions for a player in the twilight of his career doesn't seem so crazy.
But what about the stigma that MLS is a retirement league? Won't signing Pirlo to a multi-million dollar deal only serve to make MLS look more like a nursing home than a league with lofty aspirations? This label isn't really something MLS or NYCFC need to worry about. What matters most is improving the quality on the field, and signing a player like Pirlo, who could start for most teams around the world, does just that.
If there is a cause for concern in this whole Pirlo scenario it is the possibility that NYCFC's technical staff is being overruled by parent company City Football Group. It wouldn't be good to have the team's coaching staff being undermined by ownership. But at the same time, Kreis had to know what he was getting himself into when he took over a team owned by Manchester City's ownership group.
Another issue will be providing Pirlo with the necessary support in midfield. As magical as he is on the ball, Pirlo doesn't cover ground like he used to, and his recent success at Juventus was aided by the considerable work teammates like Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba put in. If NYCFC can sign Pirlo, it will be up to Kreis to make everything work. He will need to figure out a way to provide the defensive cover having a tandem of Lampard and Pirlo in central midfield will require. If he can strike the right balance, NYCFC is more than capable of being a playoff team in the wide-open Eastern Conference.
There are far more reasons to sign Pirlo than there are reasons not to sign him. It's tough to think of too many negatives. Would NYCFC have a logjam in midfield? Would Kreis have to potentially make a trade to balance out his squad and accommodate the Italian star? Perhaps, but being able to trot out a lineup with David Villa, Lampard and Pirlo would not only make NYCFC a playoff-caliber team in MLS, it would also give the club the star power to help fill Yankee Stadium and potentially convince locals that an NYCFC stadium would be a project worth backing.
NYCFC ownership surely knows all this, which is why, at this point, it is difficult to see talks with Pirlo ending with anything but a signed contract and the arrival of MLS' latest star attraction, a player who is simply too good to pass up.
Riposo,Vacanza e Sport! pic.twitter.com/VpU1XWIUWV— Andrea Pirlo (@Pirlo_official) June 21, 2015