Marco Verratti discusses his passion for the Azzurri and praises new Coach Giampiero Ventura: 'He's perfect for Italy'.
With the possible exception of Mario Balotelli, no other young Italian player commanded as much attention in recent years as the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder, who is now widely viewed as the Nazionale's greatest resource.
In spite of his considerable talent, the 23-year-old was forced to skip Euro 2016 due to a groin infection.
“That was incredibly tough, but I was also excited like never before when following Italy,” Verratti told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “You could tell that was a team that worked hard and put their heart into it.
“I believe their fighting spirit won back the hearts of the supporters. It's one of Conte's many merits. But they were all very good.”
Ventura will now have a tough job following up on Coach Antonio Conte's work, after the latter decided to return to club football by moving to Chelsea.
“Each Coach has his style and his method of working. Ventura is a great professional, a great worker, and he has a lot of experience in the world of football. Everybody speaks well of him.
“I think he's perfect for the national team, he can easily continue the work that Conte began.
“I'm ready to help the team. I don't like clichés like saying that I'm expected to 'lead Italy by the hand', that doesn't mean anything. We're a team and each of us always has to give his best.
“A player on his own is nothing without his teammates. Everybody must honour this shirt and try to win with the national team. Winning with Italy is priceless.
“It may not be easy, as these qualifying rounds aren't a given, but we'll give it our all.”
Verratti will be playing against his 'home away from home' in Ventura's first Italy game against France.
“Perhaps it's destiny that I start again by playing against the country I live in, and where I could have taken part in a special Euro tournament.
“It's going to be an exciting game, against many friends. But I worked hard in these months to regain a call-up and I'm ready to face anyone.”
Finally, the youngster also had some words for the victims of the earthquake in Italy, in favour of whom he made a conspicuous donation.
“I still have the memory of the earthquake seven years ago, so I try to help a little. But it's an enormous catastrophe. Many children died, and there are some people who lost everything. Sometimes it's hard even to find the right words.”