Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini puts his success down to hard work - “I knew a lot of talents who didn’t make sacrifices to become the champions they could have been”.
The centre-back has made 96 appearances for Italy, as well as playing over 400 games for the Bianconeri, and he readily admits he’s never been the most naturally gifted player.
“Ten years ago I was faster, more explosive than today,” Chiellini said at a Randstad event at Juventus Stadium.
“I was infinitely weaker though. I played in the regional selects, from the Italy Under-21s to the first team, and I was always considered the ugliest: ungraceful, uncoordinated, raw.
“Then I improved throughout the years, also thanks to the Coaches who believed in me.
“It was difficult when I was 17 and my friends were going out and I just had to think about the ball, but if you do it with passion it’s easier.
“I knew a lot of talents who, at 17 or 18, didn’t make sacrifices and didn’t become the champions they could have been.
“The important thing is always to give your best, at my age I can still improve, these days my brain compensates for what I’ve lost on a physical level.”
Despite his hard man reputation on the pitch, Chiellini is something of a scholar off it and he has a degree in economics from the University of Turin.
“I’d always thought about going to University, and I was prepared to do so. I had scheduled tests, recovery and a lot of will, and the many difficulties didn’t stop me leaving with a 92/100.
“I chose economics at University, but if I hadn’t been a player I might have studied medicine because my dad was an orthopedist. Obviously I always gave priority to football though so I set my studies to one side.
“I was already a professional, between Serie B at Livorno and Fiorentina, I just got an exam so I could skip military service [compulsory military service in Italy was ended in 2005]...
“When I arrived in Turin I realised I had a lot of free time in the afternoon or after training. I preferred studying to playing the Playstation or watching a movie.
“I pursued my three year course in no time, I graduated after a European Championship and a World Cup…
“I always did it for the present, not thinking about when I stop playing. Also, above all, to have a different and better perspective in my sporting career.
“Of course, specialising in business administration could also help me in the future.
“At the same time, I’m 33 now and it’s normal to start thinking about when I’ll hang up my boots, trying to open a new path.
“I don’t know what I’ll do in the future, but I don’t want to spend too much time away from my family. In short, I could stay in football but I don’t want to spend 200 days a year away from home.
“Now I’m focused on this world, it’s not easy to find other areas to work with the same excellence I’ve experienced in sport and with Juventus.”