Juventus are in the running for the treble. Can you tell us your feelings ahead of the Champions League final against Real Madrid?
Juventus is a strong, concrete and solid team. They have won Serie A for six consecutive years and now it’s time to take the final step also in Europe.
Do you think Allegri will leave Juventus if he wins the treble?
I think that with the treble in his hands he could actually think to leave Juventus and land to another team, in order to find new incentives. But I think we will know the final answer only after the Champions League final.
And what about Leonardo Bonucci? Do you think he could be tempted by the Premier League?
Honestly, I think he’s going to stay in Turin. I think finishing his career with Juventus is the right decision for him. He’s a great defender and he perfectly embodies the spirit of the club. I’d like to see him play in midfield; he has all the skills required to play there.
Are there any analogies between Allegri’s Juventus and Lippi’s one, which was also ‘your’ Juventus?
A strong character and personality, which are part of the Juventus style. Both teams want to fight and honour the jersey. Of course, we’ve won also in Europe (he laughs); maybe this year they’ll avenge our loss with Real Madrid in 1998. Frankly, I think we gained great results, winning three Scudetti and playing four European finals.
You played with the number seven on your jersey. Today, Juan Cuadrado wears it. Do you see any comparisons between you and him?
At the moment, he’s one of the best in the world in that position. I have to admit that he’s pretty much better than me. Maybe I was more adaptable, giving balance to the team and, without any arrogance, I was better in cross kicks. But he’s a better assist man. He’s similar to me for the the dedication he puts on the field.
What is the importance of a player like Sami Khedira?
Khedira is a complete midfielder. He gives quality and quantity. He helps in offensive and defensive plays, he scores… If he’s healty he has a great impact. Moreover, he has a lot of experience at the highest levels. He will be very useful in Cardiff.
Marcello Lippi and Massimiliano Allegri are both from Tuscany and both have taken Juventus to a Champions League final. Which one do you choose?
It’s easy to me, I choose Lippi! With him we grew up as a team and did a great job. Although, I want to underline the great improvement Juventus has had with Allegri.
Many players you played with (Conte, Inzaghi, Deschamps, Zidane) are now great coaches. Who’s the next one?
Massimo Carrera. Nobody notices him because he works in Russia, but this season he led Spartak Moscow to win the Russian League 16 years after their last time. Former Juventus players win everywhere, in every situation. Carrera learned a lot from Conte; he surprised me, but not so much as I know his skills.
And what about Zinedine Zidane?
He has been the greatest player I played with. Sometimes I hated him during training but he was a true leader, especially in the difficult moments. As a coach, he surprised me. I didn’t expect he could be so good with Real Madrid.
You played three Champions League finals with Juventus: you won the first, and lost the other two. Which loss was the worst – against Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid?
When you lose a final it is always sad and ugly. On both occasions we reached the final act not at the top of our physical condition. Moreover, when everybody says you are the favourite you lose. Football is incredible. But I have to say that against Borussia and Real we did not play our best games.
Tell me more about the Champions League final against Real Madrid…
Everybody thought we were the favourites, but we were not at our peak. We played a good first half, but when Mijatovic was offside and scored to make it 1-0, the game changed. Mistakes and errors are part of human nature, but on that occasion we played a balanced match. I have clear memories about that moment. Roberto Carlos’ shot was deflected, Mijatovic took the ball and scored…and was offside!
A season later you played a great match in Manchester, in the first leg of the semi-final that ended 1-1…
Well that one was for sure one of the most important nights of my life. We played against a great Manchester United team, with great and tough players. Rough but loyal.
During the second leg, Juventus took a 2-0 lead but Roy Keane’s goal re-opened the game and in the end Manchester United reached the final…
I’m sure that Manchester was the toughest team we’ve ever met. They had a great mix of roughness and talent; Keane, Beckham, Giggs… Every time we’ve met since then we’ve always treated each other with great respect.
You enjoyed revenge in England with Fiorentina when you defeated Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley…
That was another incredible night, not only for Fiorentina but for all of Italian football. We’ve been one of the few to win at Wembley, after a tough match and thanks to a great goal from Batistuta. Arsenal needed a draw to qualify but we were better and we won. Bati scored an amazing goal. I’ve had a great career and I’ve been lucky. I’ve lived many incredible nights, especially during the seasons with Juventus, but that night at Wembley with Fiorentina was special. Nobody thought we could defeat and eliminate Arsenal.
It wasn’t the first time you won at Wembley…
That’s correct. We won there with Italy against England thanks to Gianfranco Zola’s goal during qualifying for France ’98. Maybe I am the only Italian with two wins at Wembley.
In 1996 you played in England at the European Championship with Italy. Which stadium impressed you the most?
Old Trafford, no doubt about it, even though I played there in the game that eliminated us from the competition (0-0 against Germany). I was lucky as I played there several times. It’s special, it gives you incredible feelings and imparts you great strength. I’d like to have played there as my home ground, and I can say the same for Wembley.
Staying in London, do you think Conte could leave Chelsea for Inter?
Honestly, I don’t think Abramovich will allow him to go away after a title win and the great work he did.
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