Tuesday October 18 2016
Juninho: ‘Pjanic is class’

Juninho Pernambucano believes Miralem Pjanic is “among the best” at free-kicks, and that Juventus can win the Champions League.

The Brazilian is regarded as one of the best free-kick takers of all time, and played alongside the Bosnian when they were both at Lyon, the club the Bianconeri face tonight.

“He had personality, talent and a desire to learn,” Juninho recalled in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

“He was already giving the impression that he would be one of the best in the world in his role. He’s versatile, and he has the quality to play three positions in midfield.

“For me though he’s more of a 10, and if necessary a second striker. He has the professionalism of the greats, so I’m not surprised he’s at a club like Juventus.

“Did I teach him to hit free-kicks? Everyone has his own style, and he’s always had a good strike. Mire’s ability is to hit them in different ways, with curve, with power and effect.

“The trajectories are unpredictable, when the ball comes off his foot it often changes direction and that makes it difficult for the goalkeeper.

“Given how young he is, he’s already among the best in that speciality.”

Juninho was then asked for his opinion on the Old Lady’s chances in this season’s Champions League.

“Of course they’re prepared to get to the final of the Champions League and, why not, win it. They have a secret: a core of Italian players who have made history.

“[Gigi] Buffon, [Giorgio] Chiellini, [Leonardo] Bonucci and [Andrea] Barzagli have that warrior spirit, so in difficult times and even when they’re not playing well, they win.

“There are better teams on a technical level, but Juve have great balance. They’re an example of stability, and for that reason they’re one of the favourites.

“Tonight’s game? This new Lyon is younger [than mine], but very talented. Of course Juve are favourites, but they’ll have to be very alert.

“[Nabil] Fakir is excellent, [Alexandre] Lacazette is a star, but one who has grown and is still growing and [Corentin] Tolisso is a real leader.

“Juve have champions everywhere, I’d say Buffon and Chiellini above everyone, they have talent, leadership and the desire to compete.

“[Paulo] Dybala is also not bad…”

Juninho’s free-kick style has been cited as an inspiration by Andrea Pirlo, another all-time great on set pieces.

“It was always an honour to know I’d inspired him,” the Brazilian acknowledged.

“Take the last Euros: his absence was felt. Anyone who loves the game can only have nostalgia for him, and admiration for his awesome class.

“Among other things, we resembled each other: not too fast, but with quick reading of the game and the ability to use both feet.”

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