Without a doubt the player who best represents Juve’s renewal, in this early part of the 2011-12 season, is midfielder Claudio Marchisio. Grinta and heart by the truckload, leadership on and off the field, tons of decisive goals, and a style & personality to match; all have contributed to make “Principino” (as he’s affectionately known) the new idol of the entire tifoseria bianconera, who has just recently voted him “Pallone d’Oro Bianconero” of 2011. The player’s accolades aren’t just isolated to Juventus and Italy, as the rest of Europe is taking notice at what is progressively becoming one of the strongest midfielders in circulation today.
As a special treat for JuventiKnows readers, we are bringing you two wonderful interviews Marchisio did over the course of the current season. The first, was recorded on Juventus Channel’s “Filo Diretto” show back at the end of October (and republished by TuttoJuve.com); the second came out just recently, after the midfielder spoke with Italian newspaper La Repubblica. We have integrated the two pieces together, keeping the general flow of the topics and conversation, with questions from Juve Channel marked “JC” and those from La Repubblica “LR“.
A truly wonderful insight into the heart of the Juventus midfield, and future captain of the Bianconeri. Not long before this prince takes his rightful place on the throne. Enjoy!
LR: Claudio Marchisio, is it safe to say that 2011 saw you enter a different dimension?
“Not just me, but Juventus as a whole. The first part of the year was very hard, but what we are now we have tried to be for quite a while, and we have finally found a way to do it. We’ve been working on it since this Summer: it’s all about maintaining it now, just like this determination to win that we have.”
LR: But how do you explain this personal explosion of yours?
“In recent years, between Juve and the Azzurri we often changed, not just my role on the field but also our team tactics. This year at last, I was definitively slotted into my ideal position. The role which I’m currently playing is one which I like best, it always keeps on the move, allows me to go forward and penetrate and therefore also to score, which is the thing that usually stands out. After all last year I wasn’t playing so badly, but seeing me score goals changes a viewer’s perception. Goals put you into the spotlight, all eyes on you. In fact I noticed that in recent games, where I’ve stopped scoring, a few opinions have already changed about me. If I don’t score, people won’t even notice how many balls I retrieve.”
LR: Yet the fact that it took five years to find you the perfect role remains unexplained. How is that possible?
“It’s the coach who must decide where to put me. I am always available, even though deep down I know what is best for me. In fact, I was already a mezz’ala with Ferrara and that won me a call-up in the national team, but then the coach changed and so did our line-up. Even with Italy I had other duties. Conte as well had started with the 4-2-4, but as the intelligent coach that he is he realized what’s better for everyone. Everyone has benefited from that change, not just me: Pepe, Vidal, even Pirlo, who is numero uno.”
JC: Your entente with Pirlo is extraordinary. Using this tactical module is it easier for you to get in front of goal and score?
“I’m not the only one who has this connection with Andrea, but Arturo and Michele as well. Playing with him is easy because he’s a great champion, he demonstrated that at Milan and is showing it again now. I already knew him from the national team, we played many times together. I think the most important thing in this module, is that with one extra midfielder there are more possibilities to penetrate, give support to the forwards, look for scoring opportunities. Compared to two center mids where you have to try and cover your midfield partner better, the balance is different.”
JC: How much have you bettered yourself thanks to the work of Conte?
“I don’t think that how much *I* have improved is what’s important, but rather the determination il Mister brought along with his work, and which he then transmitted to us. It’s the will and determination we then show on the pitch, by working midweek with the various tactical schemes, playing ideas about the game of football that the coach has instilled in us. We are very good at bringing them out onto the field, and believing in them. Because everyone has ideas on how the game should be played, but if you don’t really believe in them, then their practical application isn’t easy. So I think this is the important thing: that we all work on the same wavelength. And it’s something that’s showing since the season started.”
JC: Conte demands a high playing intensity. At the end of the match, you and the rest of the team are drained…
“Yes, this is true. Even when we played with a 4-2-4 or with an extra midfielder, the manager always asks for great pace and we have seen this especially during the first half of games, in which we have pressed a lot.”
JC: The first half against Fiorentina was fantastic…
“Right. We pressure a lot, and the defense is also very good at keeping our team narrow and that helps greatly, because we recover the ball in the opponent’s half of the field and we are then closer to their goal. So in the end, we run a bit less. If you retrieve the ball in their half, you are closer to their goal, but if you retrieve it in your own box, getting to the other side takes longer. It seems like we run more but in reality… we run the same amount, but in smaller spaces and with greater intensity. Giving so much on the field is normal, because we have to keep in mind we just have the campionato to play in. That is our target, we have no cups or anything else, so giving 100% and getting so tired is fair.”
JC: So it’s fine. You *have* to be knackered when you come out…
JC: Is this your best season since you started playing football?
“My answer is to wait until June, because I wouldn’t want to jinx anything. It’s true we started the season well, that I started well, but the road is still long (…) As I said before, it’s a road we must follow and we are working hard on that. Besides when you only have one competition to worry about, it’s easier, because you can focus on only one thing. Perhaps that has been good to us this year, because other years with two competitions, we went through a bit of trouble. This year, focusing on only one thing is the best way to return to Europe I think.”
JC: By the way let’s say hello to Roberta, your wife, who is waiting for #2…
“Yes, another baby boy.”
JC: Have you chosen a name?
“No, that’s quite a challenge. We’ve been on it for a while, thinking. Even fighting.” (smiles)
JC: You chose the first one (Davide – Ed.), right?
“Yes, that’s true.”
JC: If next year, the Juve changing room and il Mister decided to give you the captain’s armband, how would you feel?
“I would surely be happy and proud, but there are players with more experience and many more match appearances than me. As it should be, there are Gigi and Giorgio: this year, when Alessandro isn’t on the field, they are ahead of me. So I think that it is up to them. Should they choose me it’s normal that I would be happy to wear it, but I think it’s more fair that they continue first, because they are older and have more experience.”
JC: For someone like you, a born and raised Juventino, what does being coached by a former great like Antonio Conte signify?
“It’s very important. As I said before, beyond determination he also still carries the spirit of Juventus. He lived it as a player and you can see it many times during our celebrations: when we score it seems as if he’s still on pitch with us, he still lives it a bit like a football player. This gives us a lot of drive though. He was already familiar with the environment, knows what Juventus means, what it means to go to the field wearing that shirt, what you need to give. And he transmitted all of that very effectively to whoever never wore the shirt, also reminding those who have worn it for many years. ”
JC: How do you live Conte’s official seal of approval, who sees himself in you?
“It give me enormous pleasure. I remember him as a player, never giving up on the field, scoring important goals, always penetrating forward; that’s something that resonates with my own way of playing. The only thing, as I said at the beginning of the season, I that I hope to win as much as he has during his career.”
JC: You always had grinta in you, but this year it seems you are even more determined…
“After a few letdowns your character becomes stronger. Also I think that with age, your personality, character, being more expert…it all leads to the betterment of yourself, and improvement of the smaller things of your personality.”
JC: Conte said the Juventus Stadium should be a bedlam. All the stand sections are full, also with many DOC Clubs.
“Yes, we have seen and heard it, they have literally been our twelfth man on the field. But we must be careful because many times it charges you up so much that… it leads you to do things without thinking around you. We could push up in numbers and forget to cover for instance, so in a small way we have get used to it. It’s a new thing; a great, beautiful new thing, and as the coach said (and as my teammates have said) it must truly be an extra weapon. Especially at home we must not lose points, because we have this great audience who is giving us so much this year.”
JC: Has Conte brought back a winning mentality that has always characterized Juve’s history?
“Yes, but besides the fact that he played so much with Juventus, he transmits this mentality because it’s part of his own character as well. Even if he had not played here, I think his character is what it is, he has that mentality as a person, not just a Juventino. That drives you to give more, to be tougher and more tenacious.”
JC: Among the many things that Conte has recommended and told you, which is the one that’s impressed and stimulated you the most?
“One of the important things that can help you continue a match, he said it against Fiorentina. My shoulder was hurting bad, it was difficult for me to run, but I heard him say ‘Don’t give up on me now, try to keep going‘. For a player, for me, as for all of my teammates, that is very important: it keeps you motivated. If you’re in pain, it makes you endure it better. Just the right words may instill extra strength in you.”
LR: Do you think Juventus fans are beginning to see a symbol in you?
“I think not just me, but Chiellini also. Over the next two or three years there will be a lot of changes: Del Piero will leave us at season’s end, Buffon’s already at a certain age… now it’s up to my and Giorgio’s generation. We tried to learn from them, and we are ready to take the relay baton.”
LR: Compared to Chiellini though, you are Turin-born and a lifelong Juventino: doesn’t this count?
“Loving a shirt isn’t a birthright; it’s demonstrated through practice. It seems like Chiellini has been here since he was seven years old.”
LR: Meanwhile, you are the sole survivor of a good generation of Juventus youth products… why is that?
“Because many times, more than talent you need good luck. Because a coach will take lesser risks by trying out a defensive midfielder instead of a playmaker. Because if you are a goalkeeper with Buffon in front of you, you have to wait a lifetime before you get your chance. Sometimes it’s a matter of seizing the instant: get on the train while it’s moving and never step down. It went well with me.”
JC: You are a great friend of Giovinco, you grew up together football-wise. [Earlier this year] he released some controversial statements, saying he would not want to return to Juventus. Have you heard from him during that period? Have you spoken?
“Yes, we also see each other with the Azzurri. But I believe his statements were not related to not wanting to come back to Juve. I think he just wanted others to see and hear about what he’s doing at Parma, where he is doing very well. I think his desire to return to Juve hasn’t changed. He just wanted to show that he’s playing with continuity and scoring goals.”
JC: It was a declaration of love more than anything else, then…
LR: Be honest: have you ever thought of leaving, due to playing role or contract concerns?
“The contract, no; other stuff, yes. These last few years have been a heavy weight on me, and made me reflect. I asked myself: isn’t it possible you might be the problem, that you might need to switch teams to make a change in your life? But they were little doubts, not great ones. And I got around them.”
LR: You’ve been playing in Bianconero since you were a child: do you know there’s another world out there, besides Juve?
“I would be a fake if I said I wasn’t interested in that world, one I have known for a small part when I went to Empoli. But until I win something I’ll stay here. Only victory can give sense to all these years in Turin.”
LR: How much of a tifoso were you as a child, and how much are you now?
“I was a lot, but I managed to split the two roles well: being a footballer and thinking like a tifoso, that’s the wrong approach. It penalized me the first few years. Certain emotions can hurt you: going home at night, suffering as a professional and on top of that, suffering as a fan… that weighed heavily on me. In addition, my character is to keep everything on the inside: I incubate the pain and don’t feel well. I’m like Buffon in that sense. In fact, recently him and I have joked a lot, telling each other ‘look how relaxed you are… what a beautiful calm face that you have‘. Working well helps to live well. I still cheer ever so much for Juve, but when I step out of the field and get back with the family I have to unplug. Otherwise I’ll consume myself.”
LR: What do you think people know about you?
“The right stuff, I think. Sometimes, too much too. That thing with the national anthem just before South Africa 2010? People have thrown that in my face while I was at the beach even, despite it not being true. Also because I don’t try to make people understand how I am, but rather show them directly.”
LR: And how do you think people see you?
“On my Facebook page they write to congratulate me, not just on how I play but also my behaviour, how I speak, the way I deal with issues. I’m glad, because a good portion of those comments aren’t even from Juventus fans. There isn’t anything better than an interista who says nice things about a juventino. And vice versa: I respect a lot Javier Zanetti for instance. I’m glad that football, even though it’s changed my life, has not changed me.”
LR: Is it so hard to stay normal?
“I see myself, my wife, my parents… and I realize that something is different about them because of my work. It changed the life around me, our way of life. The real effort is to maintain the balance: life as a football player moves fast and lasts very little, so the risk of losing touch with reality is great. I understood that at the Christmas party.”
LR: Christmas party?
“The one with boys from the Youth Sector: they were lined up in front of me, and just then I remembered when I was in their place, and what the great ones from the senior team had represented for me. I’m from another generation: I had clear, shining examples like Buffon, Del Piero Zanetti. Now, given the information available on players and their enormous public exposure, it is easier to identify yourself with a negative example. For this I feel I have to be a model; in difficult times like these, it’s a small contribution that people like me can give. It is a duty that we owe to the community. ”
LR: You also stand out with the fact you don’t have an agent: is this another thing you want to lead by example in?
“I’m not saying that player agents aren’t useful, quite the contrary: if one day I finish off my career in Brazil, I could not do without one. During the talks for my last contract though, I saw that my father was saying more or less the same things as my manager. So maybe Dad wasn’t so stupid after all. In addition, I have the certainty that people from my own family will really serve my interests.”
LR: In conclusion, what do you expect from 2012?
“I tell you what I expect from the first month: we mustn’t mess it up as we did in the past. We must reflect on the fact that despite never having lost a game, we couldn’t get more points than AC Milan. And that means we must work harder, because what we have done isn’t enough. Let’s put it this way: what happens in January will shape up the rest of the year in its entirety.”
EDIT: Here’s another fantastic Marchisio video, by the immense Esoesgallo. With a 6-minute piano track, this is simply VISUAL POETRY. Enjoy.