2017. A tragic year for the footballing hipster which saw the likes of Philipp Lahm, Frank Lampard, Kaka and Francesco Totti announce their retirement from the beautiful game, and in doing so ending an era of footballing greats that the majority of us have grown up watching.
In addition to the aforementioned, three other icons of football have decided to hang up their boots; icons that have revolutionised and perhaps reinvented their position on the football pitch and undoubtedly left a legacy in the sport.
Xavi, Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso have all decided to call time on their illustrious careers this year, thus robbing the deep lying playmaker position of some of it's most precocious operators. Their absence from football will be sorely evident as many try and fail to live up to their legacy, begging the question, will we ever see others like them?
Give it a minute's thought. Who currently in the game is able to dictate the match as nonchalantly and as effortlessly as the aforementioned trio? A quick Google search simply querying 'The next Pirlo/Xavi/Alonso' will throw up all sorts of fraudulent suggestions. Marco Verratti features, as does Julian Weigl, so to does, erm, Eric Dier.
All good players in their own right, but good enough to draw comparisons to the trio in question? Please. How many players do you see nowadays that can sit just in front of the backline and dictate play, spray passes all over the pitch and look like they could do just that with their eyes closed?
Perhaps the deep lying playmaker role, the 'regista' role, is slowly becoming extinct. Perhaps it is a consequence of differing coaching standards instilled in the youth academies that followed the years of Xabi Alonso, Pirlo and Xavi's breakthrough in the game. Perhaps more influence has been put on a winning football style at all costs, potentially disregarding the bigger picture in favour of a negligent, short term structure at youth level.
Whatever the reason, football will seldom see another set of midfielders quite like those three. A rare handful of players who have made such an impression on the game that their names alone will forever be associated with their position. 'The Pirlo Role' only needs uttering once to spring up images of a cool, calm and collected individual orchestrating the midfield so competently that it looks merely second nature.
These players set the tone and played a leading role in their nation's golden period, a damning indication of what separates a great sportsman to a good one, and their legacy in the game will be almost eternal.
Xabi, Andrea and Xavi, thank you. You were and are a credit to the beautiful game and thoroughly deserve a peaceful retirement.