Andrea Pirlo of Italy plays during the International Friendly match between Italy and Cameroon at Louis II Stadium on March 3, 2010, in Monaco. ((Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images) )

Andrea Pirlo    

Born: May 5, 1979, in Flero, Italy  

Position: Midfield

Nickname: Metronomo (The Metronome)  

Clubs Played for: Pirlo came through Brescia’s youth teams and made his fist professional appearance with the Biancoazzurri (white-blues) in 1995. Inter Milan signed him in 1998, but the prodigy could not break into the fist team and was sent out on loan to Reggina and then Brescia (again). In 2001, AC Milan paid $24 million for Pirlo and began grooming him to become the team’s midfield commander. Milan’s domestic and European success of the last decade is due in large part to Pirlo’s brilliance.  

International career: With 65 appearances, Pirlo’s importance to the Azzurri has grown since Euro 2004. He is nearly always the first name in Italy’s midfield, and whenever Italy goes forward, he is the man who sets the tempo.  

Why is he so special? The 31-year-old plays like a man who sees the game from a bird's-eye view. He anticipates the run of play and moves the ball to areas where players should be; perpetually looking for any size of open space that can offer a teammate a chance to attack.

His most famous moment: In the 2006 World Cup semifinal, Pirlo took the ball from an Alessandro Del Piero corner and drew four Germans to him — allowing Fabio Grosso to accept a pass in open space. Grosso's shot curled into the net and took Italy to the final.   

He said it: "When the final whistle blew, I'd already begun crying tears of joy, because it had been my dream since I was a boy to compete in the World Cup and win it. I'd managed to realize my dream, so it couldn't get any better than that."

What they’re saying about him: "With the national team, Pirlo plays a great game, playing differently than here at Milan … Andrea can cover many roles." — Leonardo, former AC Milan manager.

Here is an interesting fact: Last summer, on the day when Carlo Ancelotti became Chelsea’s manager he announced that Andrea Pirlo had also signed with The Blues. After a moment of shocked silence, Ancelotti smiled: "You know I like to joke around."