“My Football” by Andrea Pirlo


The founding idea of my football is based on the will of a football that is purposeful, possessive and attacking . I would like to play total and collective football, with 11 active players in the offensive and defensive phase.

By manipulating spaces and times, we have the ambition to command the play in both phases. The “game” must be the leitmotif of my team. Meaning for “game” that common thread composed of principles, positions and emotions between the players themselves. A game based on the collective but that is able to enhance the strongest individualities.

The two key principles of my idea of football are related to the ball :we want and must keep it as long as possible until we attack and we must have a strong competitive ferocity to go it to recover immediately once lost.

In modern football the game module is now changing its own function. From a static disposition of the players one stands arriving at a dynamic occupation of the positions functional to principles of the game model. An arrangement that varies in the two phases (offensive and defensive) and emotional moments that alternate in game.

We will therefore be looking for technical and dynamic players, giving importance one-on-one especially for external players. Through the tutorials we want to help players recognize situations and adapt to the increasingly liquid context of matches.

The definition and creation of the ideal CONTEXT (tactical, technical, physical-athletic and emotional) to make our players express their best, it will be our most important challenge. I would also like to mention the teams that inspired me in formation of my idea of football. Teams and coaches I have admired as a fan and others with whom I was lucky enough to play together or against: Cruijff’s Barcelona and then Guardiola’s, Van Gaal’s Ajax, Ancelotti’s Milan up to Conte’s Juventus.



As we will see later, in modern football the meaning of role is changing. It is no longer a fixed position that identifies the characteristics of a player, but more and more are the different functions and therefore the tasks that a player performs in the competition identify it. Therefore the characteristics of the players are enhanced through the tasks he is called upon to perform. However we quickly see the main qualities of top players level in modern football through classic roles.


In addition to the classic characteristics of the goalkeeper in defending the goal, a modern goalkeeper cannot fail to have quality in the defense of space forward and in the game in possession of the ball. The defense of space in forward becomes essential to cover the spaces with a line that is high defensive and aggressive. In ball possession, the goalkeeper is also a construction player able to choose the most effective solution, to lead the ball and find a pass.


Together with the goalkeeper, the role of the central defender is what most changed in the last 30 years, both in defensive and in offensive phases. First there was the defender only concerned with his direct opponent, then with the advent of the area there was the defender of the department able to read spaces and situations. Now the defender must be able to mix these two skills as well to cover large spaces if we want to have an offensive team that attacks with many players. 

In possession the defenders have became the first directors of the team, often taking on the task of set saw the numerous man markings to which they come subjected the play. Now the “key passes” (ball transmission that overcomes an opposing pressure line) of the central defenders stand numerically reaching those of the central midfielders.


It is a very flexible role, there are external defenders with characteristics very different from each other but modern football systems allows to be able to exploit them by assigning their various functions. The push back is very good at pushing will be deputed to ensure amplitude in attack, the one who is best at defending can often become a third central, the technically and tactically good one we can use him as an added midfielder in possession. Surely their importance has increased dramatically since the start of the maneuver, in fact in some cases we can talk about full backs.


The football of the last 20 years, with Ancelotti’s Milan, Barcelona’s Guardiola up to Zidane’s Real showed that it can’t do without the technique of their midfielders. After a period historical dominated by physical midfielders (90 ‘), has rediscovered the effectiveness of technical players and with great game vision in between the field. Obviously, a good dose must be added to these qualities mobility in order to perform multiple functions (construction and finishing for example) and an especially mental predisposition to the phase defensive with immediate re-aggression in case of loss of the ball.


As with the outside defenders, the outside midfielders are also roles with greater flexibility. Based on characteristics, you can decide to isolate the player in amplitude strong in 1vs1 (key feature in high-level football), or to bring in the wing in the finishing area on the inverted foot if we have a technical player who can perform assists and unmarked passes. Here, too, the lost ball re-attack represents a fundamental characteristic as for all footballers acting in the offensive half.


Attackers are often among the most talented players with own particular characteristics. Talent and characteristics that range, enhanced within a collective capable of bringing out the best individuality. In my game model, the attack of depth (even short) is a very important element and often it is proper the attacker who deals with them continuously (even if they can be attacks in space by midfielders or fullbacks are lethal). In an attacking football with many offensive players (including attacking midfielders and wings), it is also necessary that the attacker be able to communicate with technique and intelligence with their companions to facilitate the insertions of themselves.



We think that a clean ball exit is essential for good action development. We will therefore always try to build the game from behind organizing the construction phase according to pressure from the opponent. We believe that there are three basic options for our player under construction with the ball:

– To conduct

– Filter

– Increase with ball possession (also lateral or returning back) the space and time needed to move forward through one of the two previous principles

We will try with particular attention to overcome the pressing opponent using a vertex (like third man) to create that which we define the ball “as open as possible”. In zone 1 we will thus have a limited numerical superiority (+1) for non wasting other men under the ball line. Very important at this stage

it will be the use of the goalkeeper especially against teams that press us high. The modern goalkeeper, as already mentioned, at a high level (but not only) must play with courage in advanced positions, abandoning its goal mirror and the penalty area. Must be able to find the through ball (“crux”) and lead to provoke an opponent’s exit under pressure.

We try to build internally for several reasons:

– make opponent pressing more complicated

– to bring out a ball that is cleaner and more difficult for opponents to read. From the center, the possibilities of being dangerous increase and the defensive line is kept more busy.

My idea of the construction is to go up compact, overcoming one line of pressure at a time without forcing verticalizations or launches. This principle allows us not to lose our structure and thus be more ready for the defensive transition phase once the ball has been lost, there should be immediate re-attack.

We want to attack well, to defend well . We will attack trying to bring many players to the ball zone, we could like this retake a turnover and delay the opponent’s transition for thus being able to rearrange ourselves for our defensive phase. Through rotations and exchanges we want ball possession to be dynamic capable of disorganizing opponents by making them get out of their positions.

Our offensive development will be at two speeds: behind it will be waiting and of preparation, in front instead fast and directed towards the door after the key pass that frees a player between the lines. (The transmission ball will always be dry and strong). It is clear, however, that our opponents will determine ours choices during construction: greater pressure and greater number of men will bring in our half court to press us, major spaces will leave us to attack them.

Starting from the concept that the ball is always faster than man, we want to build our advantage through continuous and dynamic movement ( “without haste but without pauses” ), with the purpose to create space for us to advance. It will be essential that ours players do not just perform but understand to choose the most advantageous option allowed by the opponent.

The most important under construction principles but more in general of our possession are:

1) Creating the dribble rhombus around the ball carrier: support, lateral supports and vertex (the latter possibly

behind the pressure line). Regardless of the role, players close to the ball must continually rebuild this rumble around the ball. If a rumble player is marked tight, it can move to go and go and its place it will be occupied by a partner.

2) Creation and occupation of free spaces : behind the line of pressure free players wait for the ball, correcting continuously the position (equal distance from the opponents) posture; on the contrary the marked players move and create one space, a companion can occupy that free space and can be served quickly. If it is marked, it will move again recreating the process for creating the spaces.

3) It is necessary to recognize the game codes : if the ball carrier is free with the ball open the teammates move away / unmark in finishing / attack depth. If vice versa the bearer ball is under pressure and / or in difficulty, teammates are approaching to help him and advance possession.

4) In our football (“position game”) the most important aspect is precisely the positions . The positions of the play structure waiting for the ball to arrive by the player and not the other way around.

Other important sub principles:

– a) if I have space I carry the ball until an opponent comes out (in this case our top prepares for a 1-2)

– b) if free, the partner must be served beyond the opponent’s line (not always because it depends on whether we have positional superiority /qualitative)

– c) ball above ball below

– d) ball inside ball out

– e) I play right to go left

– f) I play on who I see

– g) I play and move

– h) playing mainly the ball on the ground

– i) always and continuously stand in the light area

– m) look for diagonal passages

 n) search for the third man

“The third man is impossible to defend”

(quote by Xavi)



In the offensive phase we do not have a fixed module but the positioning and the movements of the players on the field are required by the search for achievement of our principles.

“The role in modern football is no longer a position, but one function” (quote by A. Gagliardi)

In particular, the three fundamental macro principles for attacking in a way effective the opposing defensive line are:

• maximum and double WIDTH

• continuous search for FINISHING

• frequent attacks on the DEPTH

These three macro principles should be thought of as containers that must always be full. They are also areas that must therefore always be filled, no matter by whom … even better if with continuous rotations by the players. The goal is to continuously refill these three containers to “Stress” the opponent’s defensive line.


We want one player, and only one, to always be wide and sharp to ensure the maximum width of the field in each action is a right than left. This will allow us to force the opposing full backs to make a choice: remain wide and allow spaces in the center, or tighten and they will always be late on our game changes and our external cuts. The amplitude will be guaranteed by players used to playing from pure wings, technical, fast and good at playing one on one.

The strikers or midfielders can change the game “with their eyes closed”, the opposite exterior will always be wide and high. We drift to the right to attack on the left . The OPPOSITE amplitude in fact must be constant and frequently sought.

The width will be occupied by one player per band, in fact just one only player to widen the opponent’s defensive line, so that for remaining players it will be possible to place them in the central areas of the field


The main objective of our offensive phase is to find a player in the finishing area. At least two interns will be stationed constantly in this mobile area between the defense and the midfield of the opponents and, frequently, other players will join them.

With the ball open and facing the goal in the finishing area at least two players have to attack the depth. Players positioned between the opposing lines must insistently move so that you always have a free passing line. They must be able to stay out of the shadow zone of the opponents.


The depth will have to be constantly attacked above all when we are closer to the opponent’s goal. The attacker takes turns the outside and inside will have to attack the defensive line with cuts and insertions. There are several reasons:

– lengthen the opposing team by lowering the defense,thus freeing up the spaces necessary for our finishing

– keep the opposing defenders “mentally” engaged

– attack the space, receive the ball … and score!

Depending on the characteristics of the players we can play with a only central striker or with two strikers, in this case the game of opposites (one comes the other goes, one short and one long …). If our only attacker comes to meet or parades in the area of finishing, the outside of the weak side attacks the depth (the container must always be full).

Even short depth is attached to the “open ball” code. In possession the team must be sufficiently staggered both horizontally, on different lines, and vertically, on different bands.

Especially on the occasion of the attack on the defensive line, the 4/5/6 predisposed players will have to divide vertically along the field to attack the line in all its width (the two vertical bands, the half-spaces and the central area).

Regardless of the form we can see how we could go to occupy the offensive positions necessary to achieve the objectives of the attack phase. The tip attack the depth, the wings spread out in breadth. The insides go up in the finishing area and the full backs come in construction phase. The central midfield player dances between the two defenders reading the situation (one or two opponents pressing).

We will therefore go to position ourselves on the field with a 325 or 235 in offensive phase. But the movements are not fixed. Based on the characteristics of the players and the context, there will be different rotations: the left-back can raise in breadth, the exterior come into the finishing area and therefore the interior sets back under construction.


You have to attack the opposing line with at least 5 players (the two externals and the three central players), often they can become 6 or 7 players in line attack.

We can simplify the line attack in 3 main situations:

– man in the finishing area and searching for a personal solution (one-two and wall entry, shot from outside, 1vs1, veil and combinations)

– man in the area of finishing and depth search (cuts attacker and winger, insertion of interior)

– width with 1vs1 and crosses / crosses. (especially from the fascias we will either try to cross or go to the bottom for a ball back on the disk).

The direct attack that will be used on the occasion of defensive lines particularly high or weak in the defensive reading of this situation.

Trying to vary the game and make ourselves as unpredictable as possible, we could therefore alternate the short game from below with a sudden attack of depth even from zone 1 or 2 (“attack directly”).

However, we will try to get as much as possible in the finishing area in maneuvered manner. With the ball open and facing the goal in the finishing area at least two players have to attack the depth. The defensive line must be constantly attacked with cuts and insertions even out of time. In general we will ask our players, in an offensive position, to attack the goal and fill the penalty area. We want to fill the penalty area with at least 3-4 players, with special attention also to the opposite exterior which often can successfully close on the second post.

Within a football of principles and spaces, it is still important being able to add plays and movements encoded in the last 30 meters to guarantee greater possibilities and safety for our players.

Play and movements thought and prepared trying to enhance ours features. However I believe that in the last 30 meters the creativity and the individual talent should be the master, with the players free to express themselves by looking for decisive bets.

The organization and the game structure with our principles will be thus of fundamental importance in allowing to reach the last 30 meters with players and positioning able to disorganize the opposing defense and thus favoring the decisive plays of our most important offensive players.



The objectives in the defensive phase are two:

– do not take goals

– recover ball the fastest and the highest possible

Starting from this important concept, I would like to organize a phase defensive that does not therefore have the sole purpose of protecting our goal but also a means to recover the ball in areas of field dangerous for the opponents. Recovering the ball in the offensive half also has a huge mental and emotional value in the performance of the race: limits the courage and self-esteem of our opponents and increases ours, thus helping us to get closer to that technical and mental domain of field and game that our main goal.

Re-aggression : We want to retake a turnover to recover possession of the ball immediately, and we implement preventive cover and supervision of the area to continue to occupy the offensive and non-offensive half run backwards. Defending team by running forward. On the turnover the player closest to the ball starts the re-attack but the primary goal of the first player will not have to be that of the ball recovery (too risky to get jumped) but of cover the ball and mislead the opposing goalkeeper.

Some studies carried out with my staff show that the top team re-attacks around 30-35 times per game with 70% of success (immediate recovery of the ball). The average duration of these positive re-aggression lasts about 5 seconds and is involved on average 2.5 players.

They are mainly the midfielders. obviously, the more involved players undergoing re-aggression and the top players in this fundamental process, they complete more than 12 reaggressions per game.

The areas in which more re-aggressions occur are the half-spaces and the side lines. More difficult to re-attack in the central area (the opponents have more chances to get out) and in the opponent’s penalty area where, even if the ball is recovered, it is often immediately kicked away.

The team will implement two different ways of defending depending on the game situation and situational context. With ball in the middle offensive field we will implement a high pressure, with the ball in ours half court we will be more on the waiting line.

We press high the opposing construction from behind, studying and preparing the contrast, climbing forward and isolating one or two opposing players on the weak side. The defensive line plays high and aggressive and the goalkeeper is essential in ensuring coverage for the central and cover the depth. Ball recovered in the trocar offensive, we attack the opponent’s goal quickly (5-10 seconds, if it does not materialize we keep possession and take back ours positional structure). We try to isolate the opponent by bringing him towards the lateral line. The attacker gives the signal to press by marking the first exhaust, however forward downshifts are called, players positioned behind that go up on the references allowing the advanced players to climb forward.

From the postponement of the fund we implement a pressing by invitation: trying to direct the opponent’s bets towards a field area or a specific player we want to attack.

Also in this case we have carried out specific studies : the big teams in Europe perform about 45 pressing actions a match for a total of 12-14 minutes of actual play passed defending forward. About 60% of these actions lead to a ball recovery and only 10-15% of the time a great team in pressure is beaten by the opponent’s construction. However in the times when high pressing is beaten the chances of conceding a dangerous action increases considerably.


With the ball in our half, we reposition ourselves in the positions of departure and we are careful to cover. From marco-marco (pressing) let’s move on to the Marco-Copro. We don’t want to concede key and filter passages in the finishing area (reduced to a maximum with high line and near midfield).

We slide a lot in the ball zone. If an offensive winger, in the last 30 meters, sliding towards the center of the court in the ball zone finds a free opponent between him and the part midfielder, he positions himself internally then towards the ball area.

The team will have to be tight and short, especially the forwards, they must work connected and ready to recover the balls that come out from our last game back. Often the waiting line in their own half is swapped for a passive defensive phase.

More and more, however, in modern football we see teams that also, when they defend low they adopt attitudes and mentalities similar to those used in the opposing half during the pressing phase.

Intensity is almost always associated with a great physical performance, obviously an aspect not to be underestimated, but the the real big difference in the big teams is the intensity mentally, from that ferocious desire to recover the ball regardless of whether we are pressing or waiting.


Defensive line 4 that works in the department but in relation to opponents. High and aggressive forward on the ascents with particular, pays attention to the position of the goalkeeper. Even in the defensive phase, as well as the offensive one, the role of thegoalkeeper has completely changed in the past 20 years.

In fact, until a few years ago this role was almost exclusively based on skill and attention in the “defense of the goal”. In modern football has become indispensable for goalkeepers and their coaches also pay maniacal attention to the “game with i feet “(as we have seen in the chapters of the offensive phase) and of “Defense of space”.

The goalkeeper is tied to his own defensive line if our line goes up up to halfway because it accompanies our offensive pressing the goalkeeper must also go up to the edge of the area and beyond ready to give defenders cover on any attacks from depth.

Other important concepts of our defensive line:

Advance scoring and exploitation of 2vs1 with a defender in front and another in cover. An interesting solution with the ball in the last 30 meters could be be that of our central midfielder entering the defensive line to compose a line to 5 fundamental to defend the better in breadth and be aggressive centrally.

Here too the characteristics of our midfielder and therefore of the context determine this choice. We avoid doubling especially those too close to the opponent. Against particular players we set up a second line of close coverage (5mt) in case of 1vs1.

In a side ball situation we will position ourselves as a man in the area. Within the area of competence the defender will report to the opponent without catching him in tight but loose marking (for try to overcome counter-movements).

We have divided the area into six zones. On the side ball from the right the central defender is the first to move and is positioned shortly ahead of the pole (height that varies) to go cover towards the zone  1. The defender in zone 1 must avoid advances on the near post and act as the first screen for the crossers and balls behind. The second central defender is stationed in zone 2. The opposite full-back lightly opposite diagonal deals with zone 3 and / or 6. Each inside of his area relates to any opponent. Reason why the opposite full-back can also come to central areas (2 and 5) if we were in inferiority. 

The central midfielder runs towards the spot and it relates to the opponents of zone 5, in fact, and zone 4. The mezzala opposite tries to return to zone 5 also relating to zone 6. If we have the mezzala on the part, he relates to companions and opponents in the 4-5-6 zone.



By now in modern football, transitions have taken on an importance basic. No more and not just a quick counterattack tool but also and above all connection between the two phases of the game and therefore often between two different formats and modules.

Trying to speed up this transitional phase as much as possible is a reason of great study and possible key element between a good performance and bad performance.

In exposing our offensive and defensive ideas we already have widely spoken about situations that can be aggregated to transition phase, this is because the cycle of the game is unique and indivisible and only for convenience we have summarized it here by points.


Offensive transitions are one of the game situations where characteristics of the players available can and must influence the coach’s ideas and principles. Having midfielders, forwards and leg strikers allows you to restartfast on offense; on the contrary, having dribble midfielders and forwards maneuvering advises to consolidate the ball without overturn the game front and then start the action with a positional attack.

Another variant that must necessarily be analyzed is the area of field where the ball is recovered: in the offensive half is preferable to try to counterattack to surprise the defense opponent.

In the idea of the continuous and indivisible game cycle, the game prior becomes critical for both transitions either offensive and defensive ones.

By preventive play we mean those movements and those attitudes that some players, no longer useful to the game stage than we are playing, they implement anticipating the transition phase. In offensive transitions for example, the preventive play of some attackers when we defend low in positional defense, it can foresee some out-of-line markings maybe lateral behind an opponent full-back who pushed forward. This will allow him to be found free to be able to leave at the moment we recover the ball. In case the opponent central defender came out sideways on him in marking, we would have messed up their deployment with the possibility of exploiting the spaces freed from these movements.

Also from our studies it emerges as the average dangerous transition lasts about 10-12 seconds, with an average of 2 passes per action to arrive at the goal and involves almost three players.



One of our main weapons in defensive transitions is the immediate re-attack with lost ball, an argument that we have already widely treated.

Even in defensive transitions, however, it assumes a notable preventive play is important : when we are on offense position the defenders who are no longer useful in the offensive phase must already think about the possible defensive transition, marking the attackers opponents thus preventing the opponent  team from restarting quickly.

The so-called preventive markings and coverages are also linked in our re-aggression phase, the players near the ball shorten quickly towards the ball and the opponents nearby while ours defenders are in pre-marking on the attackers trying not to get them easily received.

Especially in the preventive marking of the central attacker we try to exploit a possible 2vs1 of our power plants by forcing the advance, but more generally also here the study of the characteristics ours and that of our opponents becomes fundamental.

Against structured attackers good at defending the ball, marking preventive will be more focused on finding the advance even in the case of an individual duel; on the contrary against opponents with maybe externals very good at speed, the privileged choice will be that of a preventive coverage more attentive to the coverage of spaces behind.


I tried to expose and synthesize the football I have in mind. A football that comes from my career as a player and from my studies carried out once the shoes are hung.

I believe that a purposeful, attacking and quality football can give great benefits. More enthusiasm in the environment, more involvement from players and staff. Dynamics, these, necessary to be able to create that empathy that is the basis of successful teams. I am also convinced that looking for this type of football can give more chances to then get to the final victory.

Football is a very limited scoring sport unlike other major sports (from basketball to volleyball). This “Small but big” difference determines that sometimes it is not the team that deserved to win to bring home the final result.

However, numerous researches have shown that in the medium to long term performance tends to align with results, which is another reason to immediately search for a quality game that produces many scoring opportunities and that over time will lead us to victory!

I would like to thank my colleagues and the course teachers for this journey together, a stimulating journey especially for comparison.

Thanks also to my staff with whom I shared the ideas ofmy football project.


Finally, a reminder to the career companions who accompanied me during my career and to all the technicians I have had, each of them left me something:

Moro, Reja, Materazzi, Hodgson, Lucescu, Simoni, Colomba, Mazzone, Ancelotti, Leonardo, Conte, Allegri, Viera. And in the national team: Tardelli, Gentile, Trapattoni, Lippi, Donadoni and Prandelli.

A kiss and a big hug to my family are my affections, greatest and the first and last thoughts of my days.

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