Midfielder Extraordinaire Thanks New York City FC Fans, Says Experience In Big Apple Was Second To None

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — He is one of the greatest players to ever put on cleats.

Andrea Pirlo, who built a legendary career in Serie A and with the Italian national team before coming over to Major League Soccer in 2015, officially retired from professional soccer on Monday, just hours after his team, New York City FC, was eliminated from the playoffs.

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“I want to thank everybody for the kindness and support they have shown me in this incredible city,” Pirlo said in a statement. “Thank you to the amazing supporters, thank you to the coaching staff and everybody that work behind the scene, thank you to my teammates.”

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NYCFC's Andrea Pirlo

NYCFC’s Andrea Pirlo (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

Pirlo, 38, played professionally for 22 years. He won numerous championships and individual awards with club teams Milan and Juventus, as well as the 2006 World Cup with Italy. He will be remembered as one of the greatest playmaking midfielders of all time.

“Not only my adventure in New York comes to an end but my journey as a football player as well. That is why I would like to take the opportunity to thank my family and my children for the support and love they always give me, every team that I had the honor to play for, every teammate I have been pleased to play alongside, (and) all the people that made my career so incredible,” Pirlo said.

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“Last but not least, all the fans around the world that always showed me support. You will always be on my side and in my heart.”

Pirlo joined NYCFC in 2015 and helped the Boys in Blue make the playoffs the following year, just their second season of existence. His playing time decreased this season as City opted to go with a more youthful approach in the midfield. He made 15 appearances in 2017, registering two assists.

Pirlo was brought on late during Sunday night’s 2-0 win over Columbus in Leg 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, as City pushed for a goal that would have sent them into the finals on aggregate scoring.

That goal never came, but “Il Maestro,” as he is known to footballers all over the world, got to say goodbye to the fans where he has always belonged — on the pitch.

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Pirlo finished his career with 60 appearances for NYCFC and 116 appearances for the Italian national team. He also competed in three World Cups.