Juventus and Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini admits playing for the latter means even more “because you’re representing your nation”.
The centre-back will win his 100th cap if he plays against Portugal or the U.S.A, only the seventh man in history ever to achieve that feat.
“It’s an honour, beyond any dream you could have as a child,” Chiellini confirmed to Sky.
“You dream of being a football, of playing in Serie A and for the national team, but getting 100 caps is something else.
“Of course I have natural qualities, but so much work has gone into reaching this. The Azzurri shirt is special, you don’t identify yourself by club, you’re representing your nation.
“You feel emotions, and you make the whole country feel them: that’s a sensation you can’t replicate in even the most important matches.
“And, coincidentally, my debut was November 17 and my 100th cap will be November 17.
“The captaincy? I think the armband is just a symbol, a team has a lot of captains and everyone must provide his ingredients to find the right alchemy.
“I’ll never be the same as Gigi [Buffon], or the other captains I was lucky enough to have like [Fabio] Cannavaro and [Alessandro] Del Piero, but I try to do what I can with my characteristics.
“With hard work you can improve even at 34, or for as long as you take the pitch. I’ve learned that from a lot of players, not least Buffon.
“The enthusiasm of us older players can be over and above a lot of the kids, and I think it’s good for them to see that.
“At my age you can’t make long-term plans, I want to live this experience like a novice and experience it call-up by call-up.”
Chiellini was then asked if he has any regrets from his international career.
“The World Cup is a regret I’ll always carry with me, because clearly I’ll never play another one.
“I was eliminated twice in the first round when we could have done so much more, then we failed to qualify.
“I have my regrets, but I’ll take so much with me from this fantastic adventure.”
It was thought the centre-back had retired from international football after the play-off defeat to Sweden, but he returned for the Nations League matches.
“I reflected for a really long time, but I concluded that you can’t turn down the national team, and it’s not up to you to decide whether to go or not.
“I have the utmost respect for those who see it differently, but I think that as long as the Coach of the national team calls you, you have a moral obligation to answer.
“The failure to qualify for the World Cup is always with us, it’s a hole that the older lads carry with us, but also the younger ones who didn’t participate in that failed expedition.
“The hope is that it can be useful for a medium to long-term project, which will lay the foundations to revive Italian football.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is there, it’s not as dark as before, although clearly the last two games don’t change everything.
“It won’t be a short process, but it’s one we need to undertake with security and confidence, which are two concepts Roberto Mancini always bets on.”
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