In an exclusive interview with ShortList, the Italian maestro gave his top Premier League XI.
Manchester City are the side most represented with five players, while city rivals United have no players among Pirlo’s XI, wich uses a 4-5-1 formation. Arsenal have three, Chelsea have two and Liverpool have one.
Joe Hart defends Pirlo’s goal, as he knows the Man City goalkeeper has gotten a lot of praise from former team-mate and star at Juventus Gianluigi Buffon.
“There are many good goalkeepers in England, but I think Joe has proved what a leader he is as well. He gets a lot of praise from [Gianluigi] Buffon, and if you are getting praise from the greatest ever then you are doing something very right.”
The defence is made up of centre-backs Vincent Kompany and John Terry, with Pirlo comparing the Chelsea defender to a Milan legend.
“You get players like Maldini for Milan who are so much more than a man on the field, they are part of the club. These are the types of player that are impossible to replace.”
The Belgian’s absence from the Citizens’ squad has shown his importance to the team’s success, says Pirlo.
“Sometimes it takes a player not being there to realise how good he is. Manchester City’s vulnerability without their captain this seasons has been clear for all to see, it is so important they get him back.”
At the back positions, Pirlo surprisingly picks Branislav Ivanovic…
“He came under some criticism at the start of the season, but it wasn’t just him but Chelsea as a team who were not playing well. Now he looks back to his best, and that means one of the best full backs in Europe.”
…and Nacho Monreal.
“I like to watch Arsenal, and sometimes players don’t get the credit because you just expect them to always do a good job. Every time I have seen him play this season he has been faultless.”
Yaya Toure gets the 36-year-old’s vote in midfield, who he has told Juventus’ superstar and Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid target Paul Pogba all about.
“Maybe not as consistent as he once was, but can still dominate a game. I told Paul [Pogba] that Yaya and [Patrick] Vieira are the two players he should try and replicate, and he can.”
Next up is Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, with the Italian hailing his creativity and his importance to the Red’s success under coach Jurgen Klopp.
“Another player with so much vision and creativity, and I am sure there is so much more to come. He has the ability for Klopp to build his new Liverpool team around him.”
This should come as no surprise, as the maestro also shared some very kind words for Kevin De Bruyne, who he sees as a complete player. De Bruyne is currently out with an injury.
“Has been exceptional since joining England. Can score goals, can create goals, very competent at set pieces. He is already looking like the complete attacking player.”
The former Juventus and Milan star believes Mesut Ozil is the best playmaker in Europe, who’s currently leading the league with 16 assists. Now the Italian has heaped praise on the German, claiming that the 27-year-old has a better vision than any other player in Europe.
“Maybe the most creative player in Europe right now. Creates an unbelievable amount of chances for attackers playing ahead of him. He has vision like nobody else in Europe”, Pirlo said.
Pirlo is also lyrical about Alexis Sanchez, who has been the cornerstone of Arsenal’s success since his arrival from Barcelona. The veteran believes the Chilean has realised his true potential at the Emirates, having spent a few seasons in the shadow of Lionel Messi and Neymar.
“It is easy not to get the credit you deserve at Barcelona because of [Lionel] Messi, and now Neymar and [Luis] Suarez, but Sanchez has shown at Arsenal how good he is. They have made him the focal point of their attack and he is repaying their faith.”
If he has to choose one Premier League goal getter, Pirlo would pick Sergio Aguero. The Italian believes the Argentine striker could be the difference in what is set to be a close-run title race.
“Just one of the best strikers in the world, despite some injury problems. When he is fit and in the team, Manchester City look another class to everybody else in England.”
Had Pirlo, who won 116 caps for Italy, been picking an ‘all-time golden greats’ team he would surely have included Manchester United legend Paul Scholes.
He said of his fellow midfielder: “I have been so fortunate to have played with so many incredible players throughout my career, but if I could pick one that I never got the chance to play with, it would be Paul Scholes. One of the all-time greats. A genius on the field, but private – no circus around him off it. I have a lot of respect for him.”
The Italian is still going strong, having reaffirmed his commitment to New York City FC following speculation linking him with a loan move back to Serie A, namely to Inter.
Pirlo played 13 times for New York and scored twice as they finished eighth in the Eastern Conference at the end of their inaugural season. He arrived halfway through the season after reaching the Champions League final with Juventus, which the Old Lady lost against Barcelona.
Pirlo has selected this as the best Premier League XI according to him.. pic.twitter.com/4tNBLqkvBI
— The Football Café (@thefootballcafe) 6 februari 2016