New York was always the ideal place for Andrea Pirlo if he ever wanted to stray from his Southern European nest, a soccer-mad region in which his fame is basically on par with that of the Pope.
‘‘Just being able to go out to dinner at the trendiest restaurants," he told the New York Times Magazine's Jeff Oloizia. "In Italy, I can’t do that."
Let's face it: for overseas soccer stars so accustomed to getting mobbed on the street, New York has built-in perks that no other city can match.
Indeed, compared to his days bossing midfields for nearly two decades in Serie A, it's as if Pirlo is breathing fresh air for the first time. ‘‘There were times we were kept in our dressing room until late at night because it wasn’t safe to go home,’’ he recalls of his time with AC Milan and Juventus. ‘‘Our bus would get attacked, the tires slit."
As Loizia writes:
Whereas [David] Beckham drove through Los Angeles in a customized Escalade with his jersey number emblazoned on the grille, Pirlo prefers getting around Manhattan by foot. In the evenings, he strolls along the High Line or goes golfing in the Bronx. In October, he took his girlfriend to an Alberto Burri exhibition at the Guggenheim, where they were free to explore, undisturbed. Occasionally, he’ll stop by Felidia, the homey Italian restaurant owned by a friend’s mother, for a glass of wine.
On the High Line?
This kind of freedom -- and that's what this is, freedom -- is rare earth for such a massive, world-renowned personage. With Pirlo's contract with NYCFC running through 2017, is there a chance that Il Professore, his body willing, could play ball in the Five Boroughs even longer? Until he's 40?
‘‘I don’t rule out the idea of staying here," Pirlo muses. "That could be something interesting.’’
You're damn right: