Spain and Italy are historically used to meeting. Tonight they face each other in the semi-finals of the European Championship at Wembley. A clash that vindicates the work of Luis Enrique and also that of Mancini, who has imposed an idea since he arrived three years ago. Demetrio Albertini (Besana in Brianza, Lombardy, August 23, 1971) knows that a stage is opening in which many young people are going to mark the present and the future of a team that wants to continue in London until Sunday.
Who has played better during the Eurocup?
Italy. We are a tough team to crack, with a high level and with results that have helped the group’s confidence to grow. We reached the semifinals with a good feeling on the sporting level and with the conviction that we can go one step further.
What has Mancini brought to the national team?
The point of experience that a generation as young as this was missing. Your work is excellent. Mancini has won a lot during his career and his ideas have found their way into the Italian dressing room. It is a generous team, that has absorbed its message and that wants to enjoy when it plays. He wants to please everyone.
Who gives more meaning to that proposal?
Jorginho and Barella are the most representative footballers of this Italy although there are many other names. What a pity to have lost Spinazzola because he had a great European Championship.
Bonucci and Chiellini are not over …
They seem eternal. They have experience and have never lost quality. They are the owners of the locker room. Italy needs leaderships like that of these two centrals and that allows them to continue being important.
Has the cliché that you play defense in Italy ended?
We have our style and I know a lot of people don’t like it. But Italy has modernized, attacks and proposes more. Mancini has lived in different places and has learned from all of them.
Now they want the ball more than before.
Italy has become Europeanized. Some footballers went abroad and understood that there are other ways to play. Jorginho went to England or Verratti to France and that contributes to a better team. But they are not pioneers in this: my generation also tried other leagues. I played for Atlético de Madrid and Barça, like Zambrotta, or Cannavaro for Real Madrid. It is a positive ‘contamination’ of styles.
Does this Eurocup have to be a starting point?
Italy has a young team that can mark an important era like Spain or Germany did. I don’t want to compare because that team with Xavi, Iniesta and company was a treasure. Probably unrepeatable. But it is fortunate when you find good footballers, with room for improvement and a trained coach to develop them. If the level of the Serie A clubs rises, Italy will benefit.
Spain awaits in the semifinals. What kind of party do you imagine?
One that is fun. I look forward to two teams with talent, without fear and wanting to go after each other. I think we are going to see a tie that could be a good international announcement.
What is said in Italy about Luis Enrique’s team?
Which is in a stage of change but with a lot of quality. Spain started the European Championship with problems but they have known how to find the answers until they win the most important matches. Now it is better than during the first phase.
What do you like most about Spain?
The talent you have no matter how long time goes by. I have closely followed the first team but also the youth teams. The work that has been done in Spain in the last 20 years with the quarries is of great value.
For proof, Pedri.
I agree with what Capello has said. He has an unprecedented confidence with the ball. Luis Enrique is a brave coach because it is not easy to put an 18-year-old footballer in moments as important as this.
It will have helped him to play with Messi this year. You want them to stay together, right?
I hope that President Laporta will convince Leo to renew his contract. He is at home. It is an inseparable marriage. They have to finish talking about things but Messi has to stay at the Camp Nou.
He was talking to me about Luis Enrique. Do you know him?
We have met a couple of times. My friend Carles Puyol introduced it to me a long time ago and above all we talked about football. We faced each other on different occasions but we never got to play together. I have been told that he dies with his ideas. They told me that in his time in Rome he instilled a winning mentality even though he had some problems, but I like it.
Is Italy a favorite against Spain?
I do not believe it. Anything can happen in the semi-finals of a European Championship, like in the 2008 penalty shoot-out. Spain and Italy have the same experience. It is at 50% for each one.
Are they satisfied with having come this far?
At first you might think one thing but now the only thing you think of is reaching the final. Before the European Championship began, many thought that France would be the champion and there have been surprises. Italy has approached the tournament with a good attitude, physically they are in a wonderful moment and with a lot of confidence. Now we are not satisfied with anything.
Do you think it is the best Eurocup in a long time?
The Eurocup seems even more complicated than a World Cup. With the respect that Brazil or Argentina deserve, for example, but in the end the most important historically have been in Europe. With COVID, the coaches have had the opportunity to summon more footballers, there are more changes and a more cheerful version of the teams has been seen, which not only think about defending themselves.
How about Italian or Spanish fans not being able to travel to Wembley?
It’s a shame, but sanitary measures have to be above any sporting interest.
But there are VIP people who are exempt from quarantine.
Soccer has to belong to everyone and for everyone. In any case, I don’t really agree that England is going to have a big advantage. There are only four teams left and all four of us want to win. It does not matter to play at home than at home.