Tuesday March 7 2017
Pirlo: ‘Verratti is Italy’s future’

Andrea Pirlo agrees that Marco Verratti is “the future of Italian and European football”.

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder is one of the best midfielders in Europe, and is seen as the heir to Pirlo.

“Verratti is a very good player,” the 37-year-old said in an interview with L’Équipe.

“He is and will be the future of Italian and European football for the next 20 years.

“He plays more or less in my position, but we’re very different in our style of play. He plays with more short passes, he dribbles more than me and he holds onto the ball more.

“He’s the best Italian player for now and the future. We had good times together with Italy.

“A lot of people say that good players can’t play together, but as long as everyone is involved then things work. Between us, it worked.

“We had a very good rapport, we still talk and we see each other sometimes. When we were with the national team, one would often go into the other’s room to speak.

“We spoke a few days ago for a TV show, right after his game against Barcelona I congratulated him by text. He told me my message was the one he most appreciated.

“So I replied: ‘Now you’ve become number one because I’m finishing my career’…”

With half the Champions League Last 16 second legs this week, Pirlo was asked about crying on the pitch when he lost the 2015 final with Juventus.

“I also cried on the pitch after the defeat with Milan against Liverpool in 2005. But once I was in the dressing room, there was so much bitterness and disillusionment that I couldn’t even cry.

“There was a surreal atmosphere after a surreal match. Losing in that way is something impossible to repeat, I wouldn’t wish that one anyone.

“The games this week? There’s always nostalgia when you see these great matches. The Champions League was a special event for me. The music, all the fans…

“You don’t see the Champions League atmosphere anywhere else. Seeing these games always brings a bit of melancholy.

“I’ve played in so many of these matches, I know what they’re all about.”

The opposite of that emotion, however, was the 2006 World Cup semi-final win over Germany, when he provided the crucial pass for Fabio Grosso to score in the 118th minute…

“Those were perhaps the most beautiful minutes of my career,” Pirlo confirmed.

“Fantastic, interminable minutes. I thought a century had gone by between the two goals, but in fact it was only a few minutes! It was indescribable.

“To qualify for a World Cup final by beating Germany at home, in Dortmund where they had never lost…

“Then there was the endless wait for the final. When you walk onto the pitch for the World Cup final, you can see that trophy there so close to you and you don’t know if you’ll be able to lift it.

“That night of the final was unforgettable, reality is always better than dreams. The dream, like in movies and cartoons would maybe have been to play Brazil in the final.

“But playing Italy-France and then lifting the cup… it was indescribable.”

Finally, Pirlo was asked if there is any truth to rumours he almost joined PSG in 2011.

“Yes, Leonardo called one day to find out if I’d go to PSG with him. But I’d signed for Juventus two days previously so I couldn’t do it. It would have been a great experience though.

“He didn’t have to say much to me, because I always had huge esteem for Leonardo. That’s whether we were playing together, he was one of the Milan directors or he was my Coach.

“If I hadn’t joined Juve? I don’t know. Probably. I’d have spoken to Leonardo and listened to his offer.”

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