Del Piero talks Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala


Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero gave a long interview to Gazzetta dello Sport yesterday, on the 25th anniversary of his debut with Juventus. He started by recollecting the 1996 Champions League win: “It was truly an exhilarating season. It was a long road and we smashed every obstacle on our path. On a personal level, it was the year where I asserted myself. For the fans, it was a redemption year: we were finally the best in Europe.”

“Juventus certainly have one of the best rosters in Europe. It is hard to make comparisons, but I do not think they have reached the level of personality and confidence of Marcello Lippi’s first team, when we played fourth finals in a row. We still regret winning only one.”

“For this season, I still see Real Madrid as the favourites, even though they lost Cristiano Ronaldo. Juventus, City and PSG are the closest competitors, then Barcelona, Bayern and Liverpool. The Bianconeri are in it to win it, there are no half measures. Roma have big goals in mind because they proved to have the right mentality to become a sort of ‘Italian’ Liverpool, meaning a team that can exceed expectations in Europe. Napoli and Inter will measure themselves to see what their level is. I hope all four can get past the group stage, but I would like them to take on Europa League with the right mentality should they find themselves in that position.”

“You need a strong and united squad to win it, great self-confidence, the best physical and mental condition in big moments, from the round of eight and on. I don’t say that luck has to be on your side even though that is useful, but taking that into consideration is not part of a winning mentality.”

“Messi and Ronaldo will still give a lot, especially in Champions League. I am eager to see Kylian Mbappè. However, I think that we are overlooking Paulo Dybala too easily.”

On the coaching styles: “I do not see the tactics as an objective, but as a mean. I am fascinated by coaches who are flexible and pull off some stunts that impactsthe season, like Casemiro’s position at Real Madrid or Massimiliano Allegri using four forwards. Pep Guardiola has been able to evolve, he is not an integralist. Champions League will be fantastic for these very reasons.”

On Real Madrid: “Even if the credits of a coach in wins were superior to the players’ ones, I do not think that there is a manager who is more important than Ronaldo, even though I think Zinedine Zidane did an amazing job, outperforming every expectations.”

On Gianluigi Buffon joining PSG: “When I left Juventus, I had the chance to sign for Celtic Glasgow. I turned down their proposal because I had already decided to leave Europe. Juventus and Celtic faced each other in the round of 16 that year and I was relieved for not going there. It will be Gigi’s business if that happens. Jokes aside, I will follow him with affection but I will cheer against him if there will be Juventus-PSG.”

On Cristiano Ronaldo: “He is an incredible champion and he has the mentality only the great ones have. He will be able to make it contagious. I did not believe in the deal when I first heard of it, I thought it was fake news. Juventus needed it, also in order to grow all over the world. During our interview I was impressed by his remarks on having a winning mentality, on the obsessive preparation, on always setting new goals and being incredibly self-motivated. I saw myself in those words, they are the essence of sport and tell you why the champions have something more than the others.”

On Ronaldo’s ideal partner: “Right now Mario Mandzukic seems to be the favourite. When the team will be stouter, I think that Allegri will be more daring and use an offensive line-up, like two seasons ago. I insist that a player like Dybala will have to be essential.”

On Juventus’ main rival: “It is too early to tell, but not everything will be easy for them. I would not rule out Milan: maybe they are not ready for the leap, but I like them.”

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