The Italy coach, Roberto Mancini, stated this Tuesday, on the eve of his team’s Finalissima against Argentina, that Lionel Messi is still “the best in football” and the man to watch closely because he can “change a game in a second”.
“In Italy we lived many years with (Diego) Maradona and Messi is like him, one of the best of all time,” Mancini estimated at the press conference prior to training for his Nazionale at Wembley Stadium.
“This season he may not score as many goals because he changed teams (from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain) and country, maybe you need a little more time. But I think he is the best. Tomorrow we will have to be very attentive with him because he can change a match in a second”, he explained.
Leonardo Bonucci also expressed himself in glowing terms about Messi, one of the men who will have the mission of stopping the Albiceleste star, who less than a year ago led his team to the title in the Copa América.
“I have been lucky enough to play against Messi many times. He has won the Ballon d’Or many times, he has shown it… It is difficult to put adjectives at his level, continues to be, together with Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best. We must respect him and be prepared to stop him and to stop the Argentine team,” said the experienced Juventus defender.
Both Mancini and Bonucci stressed on several occasions how strong they see Argentina and the added importance that he has for the Azzurra in this match after not having been able to qualify for the Qatar-2022 World Cup.
“It’s good to be able to play this match. Italy and Argentina, it’s a classic of world football. It’s going to be a great game,” predicted Mancini.
“It’s a great team, full of champions. He plays at a very technical level and it’s not going to be easy, I’m curious to see how the game develops,” said the former Manchester City and Inter Milan manager.
– Emotional return to Wembley –
Bonucci considered for his part that the Argentina of Lionel Scaloni is now “one of the best teams in the world”.
“He has gone 31 games without losing. That is something important, no matter what rivals you have had because in any case you have to win or get a positive result. It is rare in the history of football to have such a streak,” he said.
Mancini indicated that in Wednesday’s game he will use the base of the players who won the European Championship last year, by way of recognition, and that in the following games of the month, corresponding to the League of Nations, will make changes and give more opportunities to young people or new faces, thinking about the reconstruction of his project after the World Cup fiasco.
“Tomorrow is the end of a cycle, but that does not mean that fifteen or twenty players will disappear. After tomorrow’s game some youngsters are going to come in because we need them to play,” Mancini said.
The Azzurra coach admitted that it was “exciting” to return to Wembley, the place where his team won the European Championship in July 2021.
“Wembley is an impressive stadium, especially for us. A year ago we were here celebrating for having been European champions. Those memories move us a lot,” he said.
Bonucci admitted that not qualifying for the World Cup “still hurts a lot” but that now it is not time to think about it but to “give a show and win this tournament” of the Finalissima.