I've been pessimistic about the prospect of New York City signing Andrea Pirlo. At times, brutally so. I'm not alone in thinking so, either.
The Pirlo-Lampard-Mix midfield……it's happening. I can see the 50-foot wide passing lanes and free runners into the box already. #NYCFC— Andy Edwards (@AndyEdMLS) June 21, 2015
This is sarcasm? Who's going to……like……run? And win the ball? https://t.co/z3PhCNAibI— Andy Edwards (@AndyEdMLS) June 22, 2015
But just because there's real reason to be pessimistic doesn't mean that there's no way this signing works out. Earlier today, I sketched out how a midfield with Pirlo, Lampard, and Mix Diskerud could feasibly work out. There would be precious little margin for error, but it could work out.
Let's face it, though. Signing Andrea Pirlo isn't about the product on the field. It's about everything else that signing Pirlo — or someone like him — brings to the table.
Even if he's not a *perfect* fit for this team, Pirlo makes NYCFC significantly better.— Ted Philipakos (@tphilipakos) June 22, 2015
And if you're thinking another DP, younger or not, would've been a better fit, you're probably overestimating the signability of another DP.— Ted Philipakos (@tphilipakos) June 22, 2015
Players of this caliber aren't necessarily running to MLS, no matter how much money you throw at them. We've seen that time and again.— Ted Philipakos (@tphilipakos) June 22, 2015
Pirlo is a no-brainer. He's a game-changer for the brand. He's a terrific asset for the team. You move heaven and earth to make this happen.— Ted Philipakos (@tphilipakos) June 22, 2015
Andrea Pirlo is the greatest Italian midfielder of his generation. I've mentioned his flaws — and Kreis will have to do superlative work to neutralize them, given the players he's got — but those flaws are accompanied by truly extraordinary skills.
On top of that, if you're looking for someone who encapsulates everything cool about soccer, there is no greater embodiment of cool than Andrea Pirlo. There's a reason that the phrase "No Pirlo, no party" has such cachet. If you're looking for a player for casual soccer fans to glom on to and follow, then Andrea Pirlo fits that billing better than anyone else on New York City's roster.
Andrea Pirlo, with his diversity of interests, his dark good looks, and cool, laid-back demeanor, is easily the most engaging player on the roster. For a team that is trying to capture the imagination not just of die-hard MLS fans like me, but casual soccer fans and even non-soccer fans, you simply can't do better than that.
I'm not the audience for Pirlo. Pirlo is there for your cousin who watches soccer every four years when the World Cup rolls around. That person isn't going to care if Pirlo gets burnt on the counterattack by some MLS lifer because they probably won't even be aware that it happened.
And that's okay! If it means that New York City continues to draw large crowds, if it means that more people fall in love with the sport I first started watching twenty-five years ago, if it means that some kid in East Harlem starts imitating what he sees Pirlo doing at Yankee Stadium and then winds up playing for New York City and the U.S. men's national team and becoming the American Pirlo, then guess what?
I am totally cool with Andrea Pirlo playing on this team.
Do I think that it will work out the way a lot of people think it will? I am, at best, unconvinced; but I'm open to it. But as I said before, teams and players don't exist in a vacuum. It's entirely possible that the Pirlo experiment is a glorious failure on the field and a spectacular success off it. And if that happens, it will be worth it.