The architect is here. The maestro of the midfield, the World Cup champion, and alleged “most interesting man in the world” Andrea Pirlo has officially joined NYCFC and the marketing buzz has been spectacular. How significant is this signing for NYCFC, the expansion side that is only four months old?
The answer is two-fold. From a critical standpoint, Pirlo is 36 years old and not getting any younger. In addition to his age, he joins a lineup of aging superstars including 33 year old Spaniard David Villa, and 37 year old British playmaker Frank Lampard. To put this in perspective, DC United head coach Ben Olsen is 38, and NYFC head coach Jason Kreis is 42 (with far less decorated careers). This does not help to diminish Major League Soccer’s reputation as a “retirement league.” Furthermore, these aging stars come with a big price tag as according to Deadspin, Pirlo will be paid $9 million per year, and the team will now have a $20 million payroll, making it the highest payroll in MLS history.
On the other hand, it’s Andrea Pirlo. The man has already won almost everything he could possibly win on the global stage, and comes to the team directly after leading Juventus to the UEFA Champions League Final. He has a reputation for his skill, and despite his age, he was included in Italy’s last World Cup roster because of how valuable his talents are in the midfield. He is now moving to a city which according to the NYC Mayor’s Office has over 39,076 Italian language speakers in it’s population, and a state with just under 3 million Italian Americans according to The US Census, many of whom witnessed Pirlo lift a World Cup trophy in 2006. For a marketing ploy, this is a gold mine.
Now adding Pirlo to the fold, one could reasonably argue that starting in August, NYCFC can become their stadium counterpart Yankees of soccer. A team with David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo is not just newsworthy in New York, but would also raise some eyebrows in Europe. Time will tell if these three stars can become the dream team that we all expect.
While it is not know whether or not NYCFC strategically chose to make the announcement directly after the signing or the two events are correlated, the team announced that it already has sold an impressive 17,000 season tickets in its first season of existence, with just 1,500 more available to the public. If these remaining season tickets are sold before Pirlo’s first game near the end of July, there is a clear success story at work in the Bronx.