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Pirlo was a gift to football... from Brescia to Juventus, his three ages lit up the game and fans were lucky to be able to watch him

'The Three Ages of Man' is a painting by renaissance artist Titian. At the start of this week, another Italian maestro, Andrea Pirlo, retired from football. The midfielder, born 400 years after Titian's death, lit up the world in a 22-year career which unfolded in three fascinating stages.

Each 'Pirlo era' brought an increase in adulation and silverware. The 38-year-old ends his career as a global icon and poster boy for his position. But, intriguingly, around two decades ago his compatriots were still working out where to put him.

In his early days with local side Brescia, Pirlo was a 'trequartista' – the schemer behind the strikers that we call the 'number ten' in Britain. But as he graduated into first team football that slot didn't bring out his best.

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