Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini calls Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos “the best centre-back in the world”…
The Bianconeri face the Spanish champions tomorrow night, having lost to them in last season’s Champions League final.
Ahead of the Quarter-Final meeting the veteran defender spoke to El Mundo, and heaped praise upon his fellow centre-back.
“You have to learn from the best, of course, but not supplant them,” Chiellini explained.
“I’ll never have the technical quality or the explosiveness of Sergio Ramos. He’s the best centre-back in the world and he knows how to play the matches that really matter.
“In Spain there’s also [Gerard] Pique, who had the good fortune to play alongside [Carles] Puyol and now forms a high-level partnership with [Samuel] Umtiti. [Ernesto]
Valverde has formed a defensive unit that Barcelona didn’t have before.
“Puyol was a player who went against the grain of the Barça of Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta, but he was a vital cog in their machine.”
Juventus have been to two Champions League finals in recent years, but they lost to first Barça and then Madrid…
“You never know if a one-off game is better or worse, but they’re all exciting matches. Losing finals is painful, but it’s nice to play in them.
“So the competitiveness is growing, we also have to lose to know how to win. This year we’re convinced we can do something exceptional.
“We feel convinced, but it’s undeniable that right now the Spaniards are always in this tournament.
“There are always four or five contenders for the trophy, but Barça and Real have something more and it’s not just because of Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Lionel] Messi.
“Those of us who have faced them can tell you, if you give Real Madrid chances they will bite you and they will kill you.”
Chiellini was on the end of a rather more literal bite at the 2014 World Cup, when Luis Suarez sank his teeth into him…
“I’ve met him on the pitch since and it’s a pleasure because he’s a great striker and so it’s always a great challenge.
“I’d like to swap shirts with him.
“His suspension, when he was banned from even entering the stadiums, seemed harsh to me. They were just making an example because of what the World Cup means.”
Italy won’t be at the World Cup this summer though.
“If there was only one reason it’d be easy to solve and we’d have solved it,” Chiellini warned.
“We have to change and restart, knowing what they have done abroad and change the way we develop young players, but without losing our identity.
“We’re Italian, we don’t need to adopt the models of others, but adapt them. I hope the next generation is rich in talent, but today we have to be humble and admit we’re inferior to teams like France, Spain or Germany.
“We no longer have [Francesco] Totti, [Alessandro] Del Piero, [Andrea] Pirlo, [Roberto] Baggio, [Filippo] Inzaghi…
we need to ask ourselves why that is, then find players like that again.”