Bewildered, can you give us an initial assessment of Italy seen in these first three games?
«I clearly saw the best team in the European Championship, but clearly, without a shadow of a doubt. Even if this means little, because in a short and intense tournament, with dry matches, you never know how it can end. We have to wait for the second round, the dry part, inside or out ».
What impressed you?
“I was impressed with two things. The speed with which the ball is regained, and it is a team recovery in which everyone participates, not just the department. This recovery – here’s the second thing – becomes the premise for our defense, hitherto impenetrable. The opponents don’t even get to shooting, this is a great merit of our national team ».
Who will play the eighth: Locatelli or Verratti?
«Locatelli is not an alternative to Verratti. If anything, it is Barella’s. But Verratti plays, he has to play, he is one of the 3-4 strongest midfiels in Europe. He is 28 years old and puts the ball where he wants, against Wales he played a sumptuous game. Watch the assist of seven to eight meters at a precise height for Pessina. It is now rare to see such a gesture. Sorry for Locatelli, but you can’t keep Barella out, let alone Verratti or Jorginho, of course ».
What doubts do you think Mancini has?
«The only doubt is the lower right winger. In three games they took turns in three. Florenzi, Di Lorenzo and Toloi. In my opinion the best is Di Lorenzo, but it also depends on the type of game he wants to play and I don’t think Mancini takes him into consideration, but maybe I’m wrong. It is clear that when you have Spinazzola very high on the left, Toloi is fine, who defends more ».
Against Wales Mancini has changed 8 out of 11. He seems to want to give satisfaction to everyone.
«Yes, it’s true, you can see that he cares a lot. That’s okay, even if in the exchange of Sirigu in place of Donnarumma I noticed a bit of coquetry on the part of Mancini. If it were over 1-1, open heaven! ».
What Austria awaits us in the eighth?
«He has some good players, Sabitzer and Arnautovic for example. However, Austria is better than Ukraine, which still seems to me to be more of a team. Austria must be respected, but they are not used to playing this type of match ».
How do you judge the reaction of Germany, which after the knockout with France made four of them against Portugal?
«Well, when I see two teams that make possession of the ball their center of the game and end up scoring so many goals – as we know Germany-Portugal ended 4-2 – it means that there is something structural that is not working. I believe that for Germany, as well as for many other teams, the problem is there in the middle of the defense. In this European Championship I see few good central players, as soon as you change sides inside the area you come out of the static nature of the central defender and ask for agility, huge gaps open up for you. Take Rudiger for example: if you keep him there in the middle you won’t pass, but if crosses from right and left start to arrive, then doors open wide ».
Is there any little-known player who has impressed you?
«I was struck by Isak, the Sweden striker who plays for Real Sociedad. But I see it’s already worth 40 million. And then it was my fault for not having noticed him earlier. But to tell the truth, in this initial phase of the tournament I was struck by two great old men ».
Who I am?
«Cristiano Ronaldo and Modric. For Cristiano I am not talking about performance but of absolute quality that no one has. Not even Mbappè. Cristiano is still the teacher, Mbappè the pupil. And then Modric, he is infinite, plays a definitive football ».
One last thing about Spain which is struggling. What impression did you get from it? It seems in the middle of a generational shift.
«Spain will wait for them later, when they will have an easy game and will be able to disband. It has a lot of quality, perhaps even too much. Rodri, Pedri, Olmo, there is so much pure talent in Spain. It is a team that can do anything in a single match. And the center forward has it, Morata is good. I would like to see Spain in a lucky game, to understand how they manage it. If it is unlocked, it can go far ».