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On the eve of the Confederations cup match between Brazil & Italy, Globoesporte.Com spoke to Paolo Maldini over the phone.
The AC Milan legend gave an insightful interview where he discussed the state of world football and Thiago Silva. Makes you wonder once again why such a knowledgable person like him is not being given an official role by the Milan Management.
Have you been following the Confederations Cup?
Yes, I have seen some games. Of Italy and Brazil mainly.
What do you think of the two teams?
Well for now, I’ve liked most of what i saw of Italy. The team is a little tired, the players are a bit stressed but they are a real team. As for Brazil, I have seen good performances but still no single team performance. They Lack rapport. I think Brazil will correct some errors and will be stronger in the next year’s World Cup.
In 1994, you lost the Cup to Brazil. Do you think there could be a Brazil vs Italy Final next year?
It is too early to talk about the World Cup. The Confederations Cup has nothing to do with the World Cup. But today, Spain has without a doubt the strongest team. Vicente del Bosque has managed to keep playing in the style of Barcelona and he remains faithful to the same lineup. Their level is still very high and superior compared to the others.
Which Brazilian player has surprised you the most during this tournament?
Neymar. Everyone is very anxious to see him play in Europe. Until now, we heard of Neymar and we only saw pieces of games, dribbles & goals but little else. I really wanted to watch a full match of the new Barcelona player. I think he made a perfect choice to go to Barcelona.
Do You think he will find it difficult to play with Messi?
Players who go to Barcelona must have a team mentality and Neymar has that. He knows how to play at first touch. He’s not just a player who dribbles and scores goals. I do not think he will have problems because Barcelona are a team that dominates games. He chose a team that can adapt to his characteristics.
Is Neymar more important for Brazil or Balotelli for Italy?
Both of them are two great players but both are also too young to take on the responsibility alone. I don’t think that Brazil or Italy should depend on these players alone to win a competition. That will not work. They will have many ups and downs at this early stage and they must be surrounded by experienced people who can help them grow and share responsibilities.
For Italy, Have Buffon and Pirlo assumed this role for Balotelli?
Yes, but Balotelli must grow as well. His behavior is not appropriate for a player of his level.
Do you think he has improved at Milan?
I’m not aware of the inner workings of the Milan of today. But in my time, Milan was a club where great players and men were formed.
Who was the strongest Brazilian player you faced in your career?
Ronaldo while he was at Inter and with the Azzuri it was Romario. They are different players, but in the penalty area Romario was amazing.
In your last year at Milan, you trained with the current captain of the Brazilian team. When you saw Thiago Silva for the first time did you think he’d reach this level?
When he arrived at Milan, He just trained during the first six months and did not play any matches. He Had a good touch but had no sense of teamwork. Gradually he improved his rapport with the team and with others in the defense.
Today, I can say that Thiago Silva has no rival in his position. He is by far the best defender in the world. Sergio Ramos is physically very strong but Thiago Silva is better and much more decisive.
Of all the Defenders today, Does Thiago Silva most resembles your style?
I do not know. Each defender has his own characteristics. I started as a fullback and finished as a central defender. It’s a compliment for me to be compared to him. Especially the way he plays in the area. He is an exceptional player.
What do you think of the central defense pairing of David Luiz and Thiago Silva?
I have my doubts. Scolari has much work to do with the Brazilian defense. I think he still does not have a clear idea and will probably change the team and the defense for the World Cup.
In my opinion, the central defense pairing have to be focused on defense. Thiago Silva knows how to start an attack but above all he is a great defender. His partner in defense must have the same characteristics. In this position, it is very important to have a great understanding between the two, otherwise it can be a disaster.
But Thiago Silva and David Luiz have demonstrated a good relationship..
I do not know, honestly. We need to wait a bit more to assess them, It is too early right now. However, David Luiz needs to greatly improve his focus on defense. Distractions in the World Cup are paid for dearly. He spent half a season playing in the midfield and that does not help you to improve as a Defender.
In the duel between the two defenses on Saturday, Do You prefer Italy or Brazil ?
At first thought Brazil, because they have Thiago Silva who is absolutely the best. But in general, Nobody knows defending better than Italy. Their defensive line is more compact and so is the the midfield. Despite the fatigue, Barzagli is the best Italian defender in recent years.
In your time, you played alongside Baresi, Costacurta & Cannavarro. That defense was feared by all. Today the Italian defense is no longer at the same level, why?
Today, It’s a different kind of defensive lineup. Every age has its own style and the current players simply have different features. However there’s a prevailing trend in world football. Currently, it is difficult to find defenders of high level because everyone thinks of attack and not so much about defense. In Europe, there are no quality defenders anymore. Now teams are only evaluated by their midfield or the attack but the most important thing is to defend.
Brazil play with two offensive full backs: Daniel Alves and Marcelo. Do you agree with the choice?
They are also very strong in midfield and in attack.If Brazil dominate the ball like Barcelona then they have no need to defend. What I can say though, is that in the World Cup, especially after the group stage get over, the tempo is very high. If a team has a hole, then the opponent will attack there. I remember perfectly that the hardest thing was to defend, not to attack. A defensive line must consists of four defenders who know how to defend before thinking of attack.