Belfast Telegraph

Pirlo's the perfect guy ... pity you won't find a bloke like him at home

By Gail Walker

Up until England's ill-fated match against Italy in the Euro 2012 championship, which ended at the weekend, I'd never heard of Andrea Pirlo. There's not much surprise there, as association football holds as much appeal for me as Peruvian politics or llama cheese.

What drew my attention to this gentleman, though, was his tightening grip on the affections of otherwise orthodox chaps, not least my Significant Other.

Against England, his every touch of the ball drew howls of delight. I was dragged to the screen to watch supposedly perfect passes - which indeed did seem to travel quite a distance before dropping neatly on the toes of a colleague.

He was, I was assured, an "architect", a "magician", at one point even a "philosopher". Strings were pulled, games were halved, there was a maestro in the midfield.

All I saw was a thin, angular man around 34 but going on 60, who didn't seem to be running around as much as all the other people on the pitch, including the referee. He was out for a walk.

But it was only when one commentator remarked that Pirlo was so good he was "playing in his slippers" that the penny dropped.

For men thickening at the waist and thinning at the crown, Pirlo is the football equivalent of Gary Barlow. It's not hope, because not even men are stupid enough to think they could still be a world-class footballer from scratch. It's not even envy, of the stamina and grace of an experienced artisan who has taught his juniors all they know but not all he knows.

No. It's actually much more simple than that. It's gratitude. Pure and simple. Gratitude that there is still someone around who embodies in their person everything a man should be. Tough, enduring, attractive to women, rugged but slender, with no scandal attached, no downside whatsoever, someone still alive and literally kicking. Just skill, delicacy and the power to dismantle bigger, stronger, clumsier men.

Pirlo is the man they all see in the bathroom mirror. Look him up on Google, ladies.

Because that's the only place you'll see him.

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