Few men could reasonably claim to have graced the elite level of football with quite the same style and calm as Andrea Pirlo.
Champions League finals, World Cup finals, you name it: Pirlo has been cool in all of them.
His standing as one of the top midfielders of his generation has been widely accepted and admired since long before that delicately chipped panenka penalty over Joe Hart at Euro 2012.
By that point Pirlo had already been pulling the strings of top midfields across Italy for close to two decades, most notably with AC Milan and Juventus, and never with less than about two metres of space to operate in.
He's had no shortage of top class talent alongside him either, with little surprise that Milan dominate his lineup.
- The XI is made up of players who made the most appearances alongside our featured player or for our featured manager. We're not looking for an overall 'Best' XI, and the player/manager himself isn't in it.
- For a player, the appearance numbers are based on the time they spent on the pitch at the same time as our main man, factoring in both club and international level.
- This isn't necessarily the eleven players who've spent the most time on the pitch with/for him, just the eleven that would fit into a working team.
- We're not going to come up with a Garth Crooksesque formation, but we might name subs if we feel like it.
- All minutes played and appearances stats are courtesy of transfermarkt.co.uk.
- Don't get angry in the comments section.
Here's Andrea Pirlo's star-studded ultimate XI.
Appearances with Pirlo:252
Held on to his place in the lineup ahead of Pirlo's former Italy and Juventus teammate Gianluigi Buffon. Top class keeper in his day.
Appearances with Pirlo: 147
The best right-back of his generation. Possibly ever (despite what the picture suggests). Need we say more?
Centre-back: Alessandro Nesta
Appearances with Pirlo: 268
Joined Milan the season after Pirlo and was a mainstay in the club's spine throughout their glory period in the 90s.
Centre-back: Kakhaber Kaladze
Appearances with Pirlo: 202
Gets the nod over the more household names at Juventus having played a fraction more games. Can be thankful for his useful versatility. Now a politician.
Left-back: Paolo Maldini
Appearances with Pirlo: 210
The Don of defending.
Midfield: Gennaro Gattuso
Appearances with Pirlo: 340
With beauty often comes brutality. And in Milan's case with Pirlo often came Gattuso. The rough and ready Italian often did the dirty work so Pirlo didn't have to. They played more times together than with anyone else in their respective careers.
Midfield: Clarence Seedorf
Appearances with Pirlo: 309
Won four Champions League titles with three different clubs – two of which were for AC Milan. Also scored a hat-trick in Soccer Aid post-retirement. Which was harder?
Midfield: Massimo Ambrosini
Appearances with Pirlo: 250
One of the lesser revered of Mlan's great side from that era, but certainly no less crucial. Ambrosini skippered the side in Pirlo's final seasons at the San Siro.
Appearances with Pirlo: 226
The best player in the world once upon a time. Could dance through defences, and last seen doing so in Hackney.
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