It’s set to be the biggest football event of the year — but surely if there’s no Andrea Pirlo, there’s no party?
That’s the saying which fans of the hugely admired midfield maestro love to quote whenever their favorite player is in the thick of the action.
However, the 36-year-old, known as much for his magnificent beard as his exquisite passing ability, must convince Italy coach Antonio Conte he is still worthy of a place in June and July’s European Championship finals after leaving Serie A last year to play for New York City in the MLS.
“I haven’t ruled it out,” Pirlo told CNN when asked if he had given up on featuring in Italy’s Euro 2016 challenge.
“It is one of my objectives to have a chance to play in the European Championships.
“However, it all depends on how things go on the field here. I will do everything I can to make it possible. But then, we’ll see.”
Coolness personified, Pirlo is one of the planet’s most popular players.
And one of the most successful, with 116 national caps – the fourth most-capped Italian player – and a World Cup winner in 2006.
After enjoying a successful career with AC Milan and Juventus in which he won six Italian Serie A titles and two Champions League crowns, Pirlo made the move across the Atlantic in July.
Among his New York City teammates are David Villa, the former Barcelona striker, and Frank Lampard, one of the English Premier League’s most successful players. Steven Gerrard, the former England and Liverpool star, is at Los Angeles Galaxy along with Mexico star Giovani Dos Santos.
Pirlo says he has been surprised at the level of quality in the MLS, and hopes some of Europe’s biggest names will follow in his footsteps.
The impression is much better than I thought,” he said.
“There’s a lot of strong players. Physically strong players. And therefore there is a very good basis.
“I hope there can be a catalyst which brings more great players into the United States.”
New York City begins their MLS campaign against Chicago Fire on March 6.