Maldini, Buffon and Baggio feature in star-studded farewell for Italy legend Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo celebrates with teammates at the end of his testimonial match. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Maldini, Buffon and Baggio feature in star-studded farewell for Italy legend Pirlo

  • Filippo Inzaghi scores hat-trick in 7-7 draw
  • Pirlo bows out having won 116 caps for his country

MILAN: Former Italy star Andrea Pirlo took to the pitch for the final time to say goodbye to football in a star-studded testimonial “Night of the Master” tournament at the San Siro on Monday.
Champions and former teammates from all over the world — from Paolo Maldini to Gianluigi Buffon, and Roberto Baggio to Frank Lampard — joined the retiring legend to celebrate the final act of a glittering career.
“I thank my friends and all the people who came to the stadium to enjoy a fantastic evening of entertainment, sport and charity,” the 39-year-old said as he received a standing ovation from 50,000 fans.
Towards the end of the match which finished 7-7 with a hat-trick from former AC Milan and Juventus striker Filippo Inzaghi, Pirlo gave his place to his 15-year-old son Nicolo, also a midfielder and who plays for Juventus’s youth team.
“He has fun and I’m happy, he must be happy to play football, it’s the best thing in the world, in the future we’ll see,” said Pirlo.
And there was no lack of coaching talent either on the bench with former AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti leading the ‘White Stars’ team and Juventus’s Massimiliano Allegri in charge of the ‘Blue Stars’.
Italian FA vice-commissioner Alessandro Costacurta, another former AC Milan player, and who has said Pirlo could have a future role in the federation, also took to the pitch.
Pirlo said he was considering coaching.
“I have time to think about what to do. I stopped recently, I don’t miss the pitch. In the future it could be coaching,” he said.
“All my ex-teammates didn’t want to become coaches, yet they’ve all done it.”
Capped 116 times for Italy, Pirlo called time on his illustrious career last November after winning the 2006 World Cup, two Champions League titles and six Serie A trophies.
Pirlo began his career at Brescia and also played for Inter, AC Milan and Juventus before moving to play in New York City FC in the MLS.
“I chose May 21 because 21 is my number and I made my debut in May,” said Pirlo.


Jorge Jesus warns Al-Hilal the hard work is only just beginning ahead of Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad

Updated 13 August 2018
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Jorge Jesus warns Al-Hilal the hard work is only just beginning ahead of Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad

  • New coach tells team they have to go up a gear it they are to beat Al-Ittihad in London this weekend.
  • Omar Abdulrahman set to make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup.

Al-Hilal have been told that they have to go up a gear if they are to have a chance of victory against Al-Ittihad in Saturday’s Super Cup in London.
The Riyadh giants kicked off the new season with a 1-0 victory over Oman’s Al-Shabab in the Arab Champions Cup on Sunday. But coach Jorge Jesus has told his players that only a much better display will allow them to get their hands on the Super Cup trophy at QPR’s Loftus Road stadium this week.  
Al-Shabab were beaten thanks to a goal from right-back Mohammed Al-Breik midway through the first-half. It gives Al-Hilal a slim advantage to take to the away leg in September as they bid to reach the last 16.
For Jesus, the match was another step toward being where he wants to be when the Saudi Pro League kicks off at the end of August.
“We were missing a number of players and when we are at full strength then we will be at a different level,” the Portuguese coach said.
“We can play better than this and we need to be more clinical in attack and take our chances.”
It was a hard-fought game against a committed and physical opponent who seemed to relish taking on the star-studded hosts.
“It was the kind of test that we needed at this stage,” added the former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss who was appointed in June.
“It was good to keep a clean sheet and we are now looking forward to the next game in London.”
The 64-year-old is expecting a tough test against domestic rivals Al-Ittihad in the British capital, not least because the Jeddah club’s new coach is Ramon Diaz. Even though he led Al-Hilal to last year’s AFC Champions League final, the Argentine was fired by the Riyadh club in February.
There is mixed news for Al-Hilal, however, as they prepare to defend their domestic title. Star midfielders Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed played no part against Al-Shabab and may miss the start of the league season. Otayf has picked up a knee injury that could keep the 25-year-old out of action for two or three weeks. Al-Abed, meanwhile, is struggling to recover from a series of injuries and niggles that have kept the playmaker out of action since last year. The 28-year-old will undergo a series of tests to determine whether surgery is needed. Salman Al-Faraj, another Saudi Arabia international, missed the game but should be fit for the trip to London.
Jesus surprised fans by pushing 19-year-old Nasser Al-Dawsari into the middle, and the teenager impressed with an assured display. It was enough to suggest that he could play a significant role in the team in the coming season as Al-Hilal look to challenge on multiple fronts at home, in Asia and in the Arab Champions Cup.
New signing Omar Abdulrahman did not play. But the 2016 Asian Player of the Year, who joined the club last week in a season-long deal that cost an estimated $17 million — the second most expensive loan signing in football history — was introduced to the crowd during half-time at the King Saud University Stadium. The United Arab Emirates playmaker received a rapturous reception as he returned to his boyhood club.
Jesus also revealed that there may be another addition to the squad before the Saudi Arabian summer transfer window closes on Aug. 23. “We are working on bringing in a new striker,” the coach said.
“If all goes well then the deal should be done soon.”
 Having faced King’s Cup winners Al-Ittihad at Loftus Road this Saturday, the Saudi Arabian champions will then return home for the start of their title defense on Aug. 31 against Al-Feiha.