“Loud” in defence, “quiet” elsewhere

“I think the Italian league remains one of the toughest in the world. Elsewhere in Europe, substantial foreign capital has allowed some teams to have significant resources in the market. But football is a strange sport: not everyone who spends the most wins in the end,” Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini tells Ayon Sengupta in this email interview.

The Azzuri, under current coach Cesare Prandelli (he took over after the World Cup in 2010), has been a revelation, opting for an adventurous, attacking style of play — a complete breakaway from the age-old Italian tradition of stoic, defence-oriented pragmatic football. Bringing back in vogue the three-man back line, Prandelli took a risk, which has since paid off — Italy reached the final of EURO 2012 and lost to Spain (7-6 on penalties) in the semi-finals of this year’s Confederation’s Cup.

Prandelli’s experiment has been largely successful because of Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini. The 29-year-old, though clumsy at times, is very effective and brings in a fierce intensity on the pitch.

Never shy of clattering on to opponents, he however, is a rare breed, a footballer who also has managed to find time to pursue a University degree. The fan-favourite of Turin gives Sportstar a rare insight into his world.

Question: Juventus is going strong in Serie A, this season, too. What are the reasons behind the club’s consistency in Italy over the past few years?

Answer: Juventus has been able to revive after a difficult period. And we did it because of a very capable managerial setup. They rediscovered the Juventus style, and took time to understand the needs of each individual player. So, now, we have a group of strong-willed and determined players who are at the complete disposal of the coach.

As a senior player, what are your expectations from the current campaign?

Our primary goal is to repeat our success in Italy. Winning the title, third time in a row, would be a major achievement. We could not achieve our aim of qualifying for the Champions League round of 16, and we have to take the responsibility for that. Our journey depended on us and we failed.

Are you looking forward to playing in the less-fancied Europa League?

We must be motivated to win it, like Chelsea did last year when they were eliminated and then went on to win the Europa League. It’s too early to talk about the final in Turin, but we will treat the Europa League with the right mentality and the right concentration.

You had some injury problems this season and have just made your return. How difficult was the recovery period and are you fully fit now?

Well, luckily my injuries are a thing of the past. I was able to get the right treatment and quickly resume my place in the group, thanks to the work of our medical staff.

Have Italian clubs fallen behind in comparison to teams from Spain, England and Germany?

I think the Italian league remains one of the toughest in the world. Elsewhere in Europe, substantial foreign capital has allowed some teams to have significant resources in the market. But football is a strange sport: not everyone who spends the most wins in the end.

You have played in all the defensive positions. Where you are most comfortable — central defence or left back?

I’ve always said that my favourite position is central defence in a four-man back line; it brings out the best features of my game. However, this does not mean, that I do not feel comfortable in other roles. To date, Juventus, plays mostly with three defenders and I play on the left. I have got used to this by now and I think I am doing rather well.

Even Italy plays with a three-man defence. Tactically what advantages does it offer?

Each team adopts and puts into practice a form of play that suits them the best. Juventus have started to play three in defence because then we can appreciate the great quality of our midfielders and because, according to the coach, this type of module allows us to play an offensive brand of soccer. The Juve coach likes attacking football and it’s the same with the national team.

Italy has a great tradition of defenders — Gentile, Baresi, Cannavaro, Nesta, Maldini. Have you modelled your game after any of them?

Maldini has always been my point of reference. He is a great champion and I have always watched his games carefully to discover his secrets and make them my own.

How difficult will be Brazil 2014 for the national side? Who are your favourites to win the title?

The favourites at the worlds are always the same: Brazil, which will play at home, Spain, France, Germany and Argentina. Italy is a very good team and we will embarrass many an opponent there. We would like to foremost play well and then try to win.

There is an opinion that the EURO is more competitive compared to the World Cup. Do you subscribe to this theory?

I honestly do not know about this theory. The World, as well as the European Championships, are difficult tournaments. They are lengthy in nature and demand utmost determination and physical toughness from every team competing.

Who should the world watch out for from the Italian team at Brazil 2014?

I believe very much in (Danielle) De Rossi and Mattia De Sciglio.

How will you describe yourself as a footballer and an individual?

I am a defender, at times a bit loud but at least I am good at what I do. As a person, instead I am very quiet. I’m graduating college and in my free time I do what many of my peers do too… Movies, books, music...

What prompted you to go for a degree in company management from the University of Turin?

I am very pleased to have achieved a degree. I am completing my studies and I hope one day I will be able to put my knowledge into practice. I had always intended to continue with studies but, given that I had begun to play football professionally, I ran out of time. So I picked a degree course that does not oblige me to attend all the lectures and I will see where it takes me.

What has been the proudest moment on a football pitch?

Winning the championship two years ago! I was filled with pride because it was unexpected. It was a memorable season as we finished unbeaten.

* * * FAVOURITES Attire: Casual and Sporty. Ground: (Any) football pitch. Holiday Destination: At my house in Livorno.

Movie: Gli Intoccabili (The Untouchables) and Ovosodo (Hard-boiled Egg, a 1997 Italian comedy film, written and directed by Paolo Virzi).

Car: Ferrari.

Book: La regola di Macchiavelli (The rule of Machiavelli) by Allan Folsom.

Cuisine: Too easy, Italian. Music: Rock.

Cartoon Character: Holly and Benji (Characters from a Japanese football cartoon).