Spain greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta are inspirational figures for Italy’s Nicolo Barella, although the Azzurri midfielder does not try to replicate their skill sets.
Barcelona legends Xavi and Iniesta formed a key part of the Spain side that won Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 – in which they thrashed Italy in the final – either side of lifting the 2010 World Cup.
While the Barca duo were more renowned for their creativity than goalscoring exploits, albeit Iniesta got the crucial strike in Spain’s World Cup triumph in South Africa, Barella has established himself as a real goal threat for both Inter and Italy.
Indeed, the former Cagliari man opened the scoring in Italy’s 2-1 quarter-final win over Belgium with a fantastic finish, teed up by some excellent footwork.
And while Barella is inspired by the Spain greats of the past, he finds it hard to compare his own game with theirs.
“They had great champions who inspired everyone, like Xavi and Iniesta,” Barella told a news conference.
“It’s easy to say that we were inspired, but all those who love football are. I have different characteristics, seeing me in them is difficult.
“The Spain side that won the Euros in 2012 had an incredible midfield. There were amazing champions there, here there are great players, but we hope we can reach their level and possibly do even better.”
Italy inflicted a 2-0 defeat in the last 16 of Euro 2016 to gain revenge for their 4-0 loss in Kyiv nine years ago, and a final against either England or Denmark is the prize for the victor at Wembley on Tuesday.
“[Sergio] Busquets has been one of the best midfielders in the world for many years,” Barella continued.
“Then they have Pedri and Koke. It will be a nice game, we’ll try to beat their midfield and beat Spain.
“It will be a tough game, we are similar as we both want to dominate the possession. I hope it will be a nice game, we want to enjoy it in a fantastic stadium.”
Italy did suffer a blow in the win over Belgium, with influential left-back Leonardo Spinazzola suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon.
“It was strange not to celebrate because one of my team-mates had suffered a serious injury,” Barella said when asked about Spinazzola, who has travelled to Finland for surgery.
“It was the first time I didn’t celebrate a win at the end of the game, all we can do is to make Spinazzola proud and celebrate for him.”
Only three defenders – Andrew Robertson (nine), David Alaba (10) and Jordi Alba (11) – have created more chances than Spinazzola (eight) so far at Euro 2020, though Barella is confident that Chelsea’s Emerson, who is set to replace the stricken Roma full-back, will prove an able deputy.
“Emerson and Spina have different characteristics, they are two great players and nobody is worried,” he said.
“[Emerson] won the Champions League and he will help us as he’s always done. He’s played many games for us and we all trust him.”
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