Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero doesn’t believe their 3-0 comeback against Atletic Madrid was a big surprise, insisting ‘for those who know this was something that could happen.’
The former Bianconeri man sat down with Spanish paper Marca for a lengthy interview covering his time at Juve, ex-teammate Zinedine Zidane and the influence of Cristiano Roanldo.
Did you expect Juventus to eliminate Atletico Madrid after the 2-0 first leg result at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano?
“It wasn’t a big surprise for people like me who have known Juventus for some time. For those of us who know the club, the mentality and the players, this was something that could happen. It wasn’t unbelievable. It wasn’t easy, but they played a perfect match. They were good at specific situations and Atletico disappeared as the game went on.”
Was it especially impressive to do this against a Diego Simeone team?
“Yes, absolutely. Juventus prepared the match very well. They tried to find Atletico’s weaknesses and that’s not easy because they are strong in defence.”
VAR was involved quite a lot. Do you think the possible penalty on Angel Correa was similar to the one given to Lucas Vazquez during Juventus’ match against Real Madrid the previous season?
“In the first leg the referee almost gave Atletico a penalty and then was told by VAR that it was a foul outside the box. Then he ruled out an Alvaro Morata goal. Then the technology gave a goal to Ronaldo in Turin. Technology should help football. I don’t want to compare incidents. It already happened and in a couple of years everything will be perfect, without the essence of football being lost.”
And the comeback came courtesy of a Ronaldo hat-trick…
“That’s what Juventus bought him for. He is a champion who has won this title and who knows what it’s like to play these difficult matches, with good football and by scoring goals. He is focussed on the objective. Juventus signed him for this and the plan is going perfectly so far.”
Do you understand the criticism of Ronaldo when he doesn’t score?
“When you have a player who scores a goal per game on average and then has a match when he doesn’t score then something’s missing. It can happen. There isn’t a rule that says you have to score all the goals. For me, it’s part of the game and you should leave it because you’ll score again in a game or two.”
Were you surprised that Ronaldo signed for Juventus?
“Yes, a little, but not too much. Ronaldo could pick whatever team he wanted to go to in the world and it was a good piece of business that he picked Juventus.”
Who takes better freekicks? You or Ronaldo?
“Ronaldo is good at many things and maybe I’m not training so much anymore. I’m joking! Ronaldo is a very good freekick taker and has a great record. I’m happy that he does. Now he can make the Juventus fans happy and I hope he scores a lot of freekick goals, or other kinds of goals, as he has been doing.”
Would it be a failure if Juventus don’t win the Champions League?
“Failure is a really big word. I wouldn’t use it. The project is about winning the Champions League with Ronaldo and he signed for four years. If you can win it in the first year then even better.”
Juventus could face Manchester City in the semi-finals. What do you think of Guardiola?
“He is a genius. What he built at Barcelona, winning six titles in a year, is unique. Not just because of the victories, but also because of the way in which they played. They dominated play in each match and it was very nice to see them play. He’s trying to replicate that in other countries. He couldn’t win the Champions League with Bayern Munich, but now with Manchester City he has a great opportunity. He broke a number of records last year with great football.”
Would you have liked to have been coached by Guardiola?
“We faced on the pitch and it was tough! Yes, it would have been fun to have been coached by him.”
Could you see Lionel Messi playing in Italy?
“Messi could play wherever he wanted to and however he wanted to. A champion like him can do it anywhere.”
You know Zidane well. Did his return to Real Madrid surprise you?
“It surprised me a little, especially because he did so sooner than expected. Zidane loves Real Madrid and lives with his family there. He has a great link with the club. It wasn’t a big surprise, but it came very soon. I think Florentino Perez had a clear plan to bring Zidane, who won three Champions League titles in a row, back. It was an intelligent hire.”
Would you have liked Zidane to coach Juventus?
“Zidane is a friend and I’d like to see him anywhere, even to have a beer! Juventus already have a great coach and he is doing well. Now it’s already done. Zidane is at Real Madrid.”
Zidane is a Real Madrid idol, but you also were respected by the club. What do you remember about the day you were given a standing ovation at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu?
“It surprised me. We were going through a difficult moment, with many injuries, and we went there to see what would happen. We played a great game and I scored twice and, at the end when the coach took me off, I was really focussed. But at one point I asked myself, are the people applauding for me? It was a special moment, an incredible one. You play to win in football, but also to make fans happy. When these situations occur at an opponent’s stadium, it’s even better. Even more so away at Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. It was unique, like winning a trophy.”
You had the option to sign for Real Madrid, no?
“Various clubs tried to sign me during my career. In the end I opted to stay at Juventus and I am happy with my decisions.”
You won the World Cup in 2006 with Italy. What’s happening now with the team?
“We’re evolving. Historically we’ve believed that we need to have a great defensive structure. Even having one of the best defences doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve in attack. The mix of the two is a winning formula. For a nation like Italy to miss out on the World Cup is the fault of the system. We had problems and now we’re trying to fix them.”