One of Italy’s most iconic goalkeepers, Gianluca Pagliuca holds an incredible record in Milan derbies: he’s never lost one in his career. With 592 Serie A appearances to his name, the 53-year-old has made the fifth most appearances in the Italian top flight.
“I know how important the derby is in Milan and I am pleased I didn’t lose any of them,” he exclusively tells Football Italia.
"We prepared all the games in the same way, I don’t remember strange episodes before a derby, I prepared them all in the same way. I felt it a lot, it was an important game, we all knew that. There were 80,000 fans at San Siro but there were no differences in the way we prepared the game.
“I did have some superstitions though. I used to wear the same gloves and boots from the Sunday before if we had won.
Which one of your teammates felt the derby the most?
“The one who felt it the most was [Beppe] Bergomi, he felt it so much. He grew up in the youth teams of Inter and was always very, very tense before every derby. As for the others, we all felt it in a professional way. We knew it was an important occasion, but it meant the most to him."
Is there a specific derby clash you remember with affection?
“Any derby I won especially the ones in which I was one of the main men. There were several derby wins in which I was made big saves. They’re the ones that give me satisfaction.”
Let’s move to the upcoming derby. Who gets there better?
"Milan are at the top of the table, They’ll have Ibra who is a very important player for them. Inter have six players positive for Covid. I see it 50-50. The derby is special there are no favourites. Inter have not lost a derby in Serie A in four years, I would be very careful because the law of averages says, sooner or later, it must come. Of course, I hope that Inter will win it but they’re not going into it at their best.”
Do Milan have any weak point in your opinion?
“They don’t have many. Maybe they are missing a strong back-up striker to [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic who will play but is not 100 per cent fit. There would be [Ante] Rebic but he is still injured. Maybe they are not fully stocked up front but they have a great team and [Stefano] Pioli has done a great job. You have to give credit to [Paolo] Maldini, they put a good team together without spending too much money.”
You are one of Inter’s best goalkeepers ever, what do you think of Samir Handanovic’s performances of late?
“I think he had a drop in performance after the lockdown. Before he was almost unbeatable. After that, he had some lows and looked more vulnerable. This is not the real Handanovic yet, but he can get back to his usual standards.”
What do you enjoy of Antonio Conte’s Inter and what do you think he should do better?
“Last year he came close to having a great season. Unfortunately, he lost the Europa League in the final but he had a very good season. He missed the icing on the cake with the cup but for me Inter are the number one candidate to win the title this season. They have a strong, complete team, with no weaknesses and players of great experience. For me, they are the favourites to win the title this season.”
Why do you think Eriksen is struggling so much to be a regular starter?
“He arrived in January and probably Conte didn’t consider him suitable in that moment. Eriksen used to play in the Premier League, a different league from Serie A. Certainly, Conte wanted to have a more balanced team last season and he threw Eriksen in in the last 30 minutes when the opponents were a little more tired. You know, at the end of the day it is Conte who always sees him and it is Conte who must judge him.”
If you had to play on Saturday, what would you shout at your defenders?
“Close them down and don’t let them shoot! Seriously, Milan have a strong team and Inter know it but if you want to win the title you need to go ahead regardless of anyone and give your best in every game. In my opinion Inter are the best team and have everything to win the title.”