Giorgio Chiellini insists “I’m not irreplaceable” for Italy - though he is the top-scorer in the current squad.
The centre-back appeared to call time on his international career after the play-off defeat to Sweden, but he’s back in the squad and will win his 100th cap tomorrow.
“It’s a dream I’ve had since I was a kid,” Chiellini said in the Press conference ahead of the Portugal match.
“I’m sorry though, I’m only thinking about the game. I’ll enjoy the statistics from the 95th minute onward.
“I’m not irreplaceable, no-one is. It’s beautiful to come here, because everyone is involved. Compared to a club it’s harder to say who will play and who won’t.
“For the ‘old players’ like me and Leo [Bonucci] it’s nice to be able to steal this lightheartedness and cheerfulness.
“No-one is indispensible, and I think the Coach agrees with that.”
Chiellini is actually the top-scorer in the current squad, with eight goals in his 99 caps, with Ciro Immobile next on seven.
“It’s easier for me to talk about defenders [than strikers], because I know the role. Rather than looking back, we’re trying to move forward.
“There are players who are growing, I hope I won’t be the top-scorer of this squad anymore.”
The second leg of the Italy-Sweden play-off, where the Azzurri failed to make the World Cup, was a year ago this week.
“It was the lowest point of my career in the national team, a huge disappointment for all of us,” Chiellini reflected.
“We were convinced we’d snatch a place in the World Cup right up to the end. In my opinion the worst point was in June.
“The others went to the World Cup and we went on holiday… it wasn’t an easy month.
“I don’t usually have regrets, but I didn’t take part in my last World Cup. At the World Cup in 2010 and 2014 we didn’t go beyond the groups, and in 2006 I was too young.”