Football: Lampard and Villa welcome 'Maestro Pirlo' to New York

David Villa (right) welcoming Andrea Pirlo to Major League Soccer club, New York City FC. PHOTO: NEW YORK CITY FC/FACEBOOK

NEW YORK (AFP) - Italian great Andrea Pirlo announced his move to New York City FC on Monday and new teammates Frank Lampard and David Villa welcomed him to Major League Soccer's hottest club.

The 36-year-old midfielder enjoyed star turns at AC Milan, where he won two Champions League titles, and for the past four seasons at Juventus, where he won four Serie A crowns and lost in this year's Champions League final.

He also starred in Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph.

"Bienvenido Maestro," tweeted Spanish striker Villa.

"What a signing! Welcome to the club Andrea Pirlo!" said England's Lampard on Facebook.

Lampard, 37, and Villa, 33, previously two of the biggest names in England and Spain respectively, join Pirlo in bringing star power to a club co-owned by English Premier League side Manchester City and Major League Baseball's New York Yankees.

It is a star trio that football fans in New York have not seen since the 1970s heyday of the New York Cosmos, when Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia were among the players who gave the sport its first major US spark.

Said Pirlo on the New York City club's website: "I've been wanting this experience for a long time and now that the opportunity materialized I wanted to take it.

"This is a club on the rise and shares my same hunger to achieve important results in the league. I am hoping to win.

"I had several opportunities to play outside of Italy, but I never had a doubt in picking New York for the enthusiasm of the people that come watch the team."

NYCFC, who play in the famed Yankee Stadium, have won just five times and picked up just 20 points in 18 matches in the current MLS campaign, but they have won four of their past five league matches and will hope to get a boost from Lampard's arrival last week and Pirlo's now.

Pirlo will join the club on July 21 according to the team website, in time for him to make his debut five days later at home against fellow first-year club Orlando City.

Said NYCFC coach Jason Kreis: "Nobody could question that in Pirlo we are bringing one of the best in the world and one of the finest players to come to MLS.

"Like David Villa, his final game in Europe was the Champions League final, which demonstrates a player competing at the highest level of our sport. We are getting a player with a competitive spirit and a winning mentality."

Pirlo, who has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal, said he was impressed with the club after meeting with Kreis.

He noted: "He has well defined ideas in mind, and I am sure we will get on well and create a good relationship to train well and try to win together."

Claudio Reyna, New York City's sporting director, called Pirlo "one of the most recognized and influential players in world soccer" and added: "We are building something incredibly special in New York."

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