Congratulations on winning the ‘Scudetto’ with Juventus. Are you still as hungry for success as when you were younger?
Eventually after 38 matches this championship has come to an end. I say ‘eventually’ because after 38 matches, so much effort and adrenalin – and it was such a long journey! – I think winning the Scudetto after all is a great reward, for both players and our supporters, because we all want to keep writing important pages in our football history. We took the pen after many years and started writing again. And we will have the chance to write new pages soon (Coppa Italia and the Euro Cup ed) and none of us want to stop yet.
Italy will play the World and European Champions Spain in the group stage. Do you consider them to be as strong as they were two years ago?
Spain remains the team to be beaten. The same team, the same hunger of victories, just more experience. They are a great group, young and brave, but we have no reason to be afraid of them. The Azzuri victory against Spain in Bari has been the proof and we absolutely showed our potential (Italy won against Spain 2-1, in Bari, August 10th 2011 ed).
What would you consider to be a successful tournament for Italy?
Behave better than last time won’t be difficult! (laughing) We are a proud nation and we trust in our qualities. Mr Prandelli’s team has been renewed and it is finding its new own identity. With our supporters we all want to go far, keep believing, and never give up.
You were a key part of the Italy team that won the World Cup 6 years ago. What is the difference between the current team and the squad from back then?
The team has changed a lot, there are just four of us remaining from Berlin’s night (De Rossi, Barzagli, Pirlo, and Buffon, ed). However all new team mates have the same passion as we had that time. Now it is their time, it is our time. Prandelli’s group has quality and the desire to conquer something, you really can feel that. Now they are on pitch, it is their turn. Let’s bring Azzurro back into the Italian hearts.
Who do you consider to be some of the potential stars of the tournament? Who are you looking out for?
It will be definitely Balotelli’s Euro Cup. Mario is a winner; he was great in the epic final game in this year’s Premier League and he matured a lot over this last year. He has all our support. If he starts behaving like the leader he can be, he will carry the team and make the difference.
What would winning this tournament mean to you?
For me it would be writing down another page, the most important page of this season. You know – when you play for your national team, you have something more to give. You got a whole nation’s support, the team knows that. Wearing the Italian jersey is at the same time an incredible honor and responsibility too, being the team captain this gives me an amazing motivation.
Italian fans are so passionate, do you feel pressure to perform well because of this or does it motivate and inspire you?
As I said, we are a proud nation, we don’t sign up for the second position. I assure you that we all want to show great things in this Euro Cup. Fans sometimes make the difference – their support and passion on 2006 helped us walking together straight to the final. We need the same energy and atmosphere, and we will give everything.
If Italy doesn't win, who would be your prediction to lift the trophy?
My best wishes goes to Trapattoni’s Ireland! After our match against them though, of course. I think Spain and Netherlands are still on top, but also Germany is a young and strong team, which desires to amaze.