Italian midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo is hotly tipped to move state-side and join a star-studded line-up by signing for New York City FC.
Pirlo has one-year left on his Juventus contract but the New York Daily News are reporting the 36-year-old will soon be teaming up with Frank Lampard and David Villa as NYCFC step up their challenge for the league title.
The European transfer window opens on July 1 and Pirlo looks nailed on to join te Big Apple franchise having been spotted at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
The 2006 World Cup winner was seen with Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano watching NYCFC beat Toronto 2-0.
Soriano’s presence is noteworthy as Manchester City and New York City FC have the same owners and is being seen as evidence that it is they, and not NYCFC’s coach, who are deciding transfer policy.
The New York club had been linked with a move for Barcelona legend Xavi before coach Jason Kreis dismissed the speculation saying Xavi, at 35, was too old for his team before indicating his want for a younger, third designated player (DP).
” Kreis had a different opinion when asked last week about Pirlo,” reports the Daily News, adding: ” the fact that Kreis was pining for a younger DP is further evidence that the parent club, Manchester City, is running the show.”
Pirlo is expected to command between $5-$6 million per year – the same as 37-year-old Lampard and 33-year-old Villa, but massively more than his US teammates.
The Italian’s prowess with the ball as a free-kick specialist and assured game control as an influential but relatively inactive playmaker, suggests age will impact less on his abilities, especially as dynamic bursts of speed have never been a feature of his game.
The latest big name of past-their-prime players
If Pirlo does sign for NYCFC he will become the latest big name on an ever lengthening list of superstar players who end up playing for an MLS franchise.
David Beckham’s signing for LA Galaxy in 2007 heralded the second wave of past-their-prime players joining US soccer sides, the first having seen the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Girogio Chinaglia and Carlos Alberto joining Pele at the NY Cosmos in the 1970s.
The MLS will soon add 35-year-old Steven Gerrard to their illustrious roll-call, and the former Liverpool captain will be starting alongside Robbie Keane – who’ll be 35 on July 8 – for the Galaxy this summer as the LA side defend their title.
Whether Pirlo – if he signs for NYCFC – can add to the championship he’s just won with Juventus is still too early to call. The New Yorkers endured a difficult start to the season but recent form suggests they may have turned the corner and are currently on a three game unbeaten run – including the win over Toronto thanks to two-goals from David Villa.
Saturday’s Big Apple derby against NY Red Bulls has extra spice with both teams on level on points near the top of the table.