ROME — Tributes poured in for Andrea Pirlo after Italy’s midfield maestro retired.

The 38-year-old passing wizard played his final match on Sunday when New York City FC lost in the Major League Soccer playoffs.

Pirlo went on in the 90th minute and was greeted with affection by fans at Yankee Stadium.

While Pirlo played his final seasons in the United States, he made his name by helping AC Milan and Juventus win a combined six Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues for Milan and, above all, the 2006 World Cup for Italy.

“He spoke with his feet,” Marcello Lippi, Italy’s coach at the 2006 World Cup, said on Monday.

A free kick specialist, Pirlo also mesmerized defenders with his superb ball control. When he had possession it often seemed like the match was being played in slow motion as he picked out his passing receivers with uncanny acumen.

“Whoever has played with Andrea can understand the word ‘unique,'” Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon wrote on Instagram.

With his long, flowing hair and bushy beard, Pirlo looked more like a philosopher than a footballer. But he was a perfectionist on the pitch.

“A champion who comprised class, elegance and humility,” added Buffon, who also teamed with Pirlo at Juventus.

Recently retired Roma captain Francesco Totti, another teammate from the 2006 Italy side, tweeted, “It was an honor to play with you and against you, a champion with immense class.”

Pirlo posted a statement on Twitter thanking his family and every team he “had the honor to play for, every teammate I have been pleased to play alongside, all the people that made my career such incredible and last but not least, all the fans around the world that always showed me support. You will always be on my side and in my heart.”


Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf