Wednesday September 25 2013
Conte hails the class of Pirlo

Juventus boss Antonio Conte says Andrea Pirlo works harder on the field of play than people realise.

The Italian international is the inspiration behind the Old Lady’s play, but Conte has underlined his skills don’t just end with passing the ball.

“Players like Andrea are hard to find, because they have such extraordinary ball technique,” the tactician told Champions Matchday magazine.

“He brings calm to the team in possession and anticipates play. Adding those talents to an organised system where everybody knows what they have to do, his qualities come out even better.

“Andrea doesn't run any less than before. I have studied the statistics and he is in the top ten players who have run the most in the Champions League.

“Physical strength is not his talent, it's his brain and his feet. He makes the collective stand out.”

After winning the Scudetto over the last two seasons, the Old Lady are trying to win their first Champions League title since 1996 – a success which contained midfielder Conte.

“Although I had the occasion and talent to win a lot in my career, that 1996 victory against Ajax was the greatest one, my best satisfaction in football, because of the atmosphere, our way of getting there, the evening in general.

“The Champions League has something magical and every player, every Coach and every club would like to lift the trophy with the big ears at least once.”

Juve have made a stuttering start to a group that contains Real Madrid and Galatasaray given their 1-1 draw in Copenhagen.

“I said last season before the quarter-final that it was important to understand where we were along the path that started two years ago – Bayern Munich gave us a lot of answers,” he added.

“This season the team have more experience and that's important. A lot of our players were playing in the Champions League for the first time last term.

“In Real Madrid we are facing one of the most ambitious teams, because of their history, their investments and their hunt for a tenth title.

“It will be a nice challenge – and an indicator of how we are developing.”

Real are bossed by Carlo Ancelotti, a man who Conte worked under.

“It's quite a few years since Carlo coached me. I spent two years with him and they were wonderful, intense times. It was inevitable we'd meet again, Coach to Coach. That means he is getting old. Me too!”

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