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Andrea Pirlo a giant of his generation

Updated: October 25, 2011, 2:38 PM ET
By Michael Cox | Special to ESPN.com

In 2004, midway between Pep Guardiola leaving Barcelona as a player and joining it as coach, he described how his deep-lying, distribution-based midfield role was no longer wanted at the highest level. "The emphasis, as far as central midfielders are concerned, is all on defensive work," he told Gabriele Marcotti of The Times of London. "Players like me have become extinct."

"Twenty years ago, many clubs had guys with my characteristics," Guardiola said. There was just one ...

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