Pirlo and Xavi are the ultimate team players doing everything in their power to assist their teammates who take all the glory. However, as both players are due to bow out at the top (Al-Sadd for Xavi and a possible MLS move for Pirlo) everyone has been tripping over their feet trying to bestow praise to the two of the greatest playmakers of all-time.
However, football is a competitive sport and two people cannot share the number spot. There has to be a winner, someone who is superior no matter how small the margins and in this article we will argue why the Italian will go down in the history books as the better player.
Click here for reasons why Xavi is better than Pirlo.
The Italian maestro has had to adapt to different formations and methods of playing. Whether it was under the free flowing football of Carlo Ancelotti at Milan or the more pragmatic styles Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri adopted at Juve, Pirlo has been a standout star in the majority of the combined 14 years he spent at both clubs.
Moreover, it is the way the Serie A star joined both clubs when they were on their knees and managed to change their fortunes that really signifies his qualities.
In 2001 he transferred to red side of Milan after they finished the 2000/01 season in sixth. He was not a regular in the 2001/02 season as they barely managed to qualify for the Champions League in fourth - 16 points behind champions Juve.
The following season Milan won the Champions League and the Coppa Italia whilst finishing third in Serie A. He led the categories in passes played (2589), ball possession (123 hours played and 39 minutes), successful balls (661), and successful passes (2093). Indeed, 2002/03 was the season the world got a taste of Pirlo's qualities and he was instrumental to the further triumphs Milan would have.
Likewise with the Turin club, they had finished seventh in the 2010/11 season. However the following season Pirlo, nicknamed the 'professor', inspired the club to go the whole Serie A season unbeaten as they romped to league success.
He provided the most assists in the Serie A that season, with 13. He also completed 2643 passes that season, with an 87% pass completion rate, completing 500 more passes than any other player in Serie A.
Since then Juventus have won three more Scudettos and a Coppa Italia and it has become apparent that success in Italy is synonymous with whoever employes Pirlo.
Central to this peak was the tiki-taka system created by Pep Guardiola which spawned the greatest club side in football history. Under Guardiola's reign Xavi won 14 of his 21 club trophies and the majority of his individual awards except for two - La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year (1999) and La Liga Spanish Player of the Year (2005).
Before tiki-taka Xavi was a talented player but he was hardly Barcelona's star player as Luis Figo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho all won Ballon d'Ors as proof of their mesmeric skills. Nor was he particularly influential in their successes as his lack of individual awards before 2008 allude to, especially when compared to the likes of Deco or Samuel Eto'o - often next in command if Ronaldinho did not step-up.
After the revolutionary system was withdrawn Xavi failed to replicate his performances between the golden years of 2008-2012. This is largely due to age but also because Barcelona have switched to a more direct style, a style that is at odds with the Spaniards slight frame and lack of athleticism.
It is telling that age has not inhibited Pirlo the way it has Xavi as such the Italian is still a regular in a Champions League final side, whilst the Spaniard is a squad rotation player at best despite being one year younger.
| || |
| || |
Likewise Xavi has assists in Euro 2008 semi-final and final vs Russia and Germany; 2009 Champions League final vs Manchester United; World Cup 2010 semi-final vs Germany. He also set a record by being the first person to have two assists in a European Championship final against Italy in 2012.
Clearly both players come alive in big matches but Pirlo has more in his armoury to make a direct impact himself whilst Xavi relies more on others to take advantage of the chances he creates for them.
Pirlo, also nicknamed 'Mozart', is prodigious at set-pieces. He has scored 45 free-kicks in his career and is one away from equalling Sinisa Mihajlovic's Serie A record.
Whilst Lionel Messi continues to miss penalties on a regular basis with Xavi watching on the sidelines, the Italian is the first person to step-up and take them for country and club alike.
Finally, Pirlo's collection of man of the match (MofM) awards in major games is mightily impressive. In World Cup 2006 the Italian had three MofM's against Ghana, Germany and France.
He also had three MofM's in Euro 2012 against Croatia, England and Germany, in addition to another one against Romania in Euro 2008.
Xavi himself has a MofM against Man United in the Champions League final in 2009 but this is a category Pirlo excels in simply because he has more game changing traits.
No matter what happens in the final between Barcelona and Juventus, Pirlo's legacy as his generation's greatest playmaker should be kept intact.
In fact, your money would be better spent on the Italian scoring from a set-piece than Xavi getting more than 30 minutes on the pitch.