Former Spain international Luis Suarez believes Andrea Pirlo is a more complete player than Xavi Hernandez.
Reigning champions Spain take on Italy in their opening match of Euro 2012 on Sunday looking to take charge of a group also containing Croatia and Republic of Ireland.
Xavi and Pirlo are expected to play key roles for their teams in the game, and former Barcelona and Inter Milan star Suarez, who was inspirational in helping Spain to European Championship glory in 1964, believes that the Juventus star has greater all-round quality.
“I have to point out first that Italy is my home, but my heart is Spanish,” Suarez told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “These are two champions with a great sense of positioning and know how to pick the right moment to start a move. They both have experience and technique.
“They are similar players, but in my view Pirlo has more of a range, can spread the play more and seek the longer passes. It’s true Xavi gets fewer passes wrong, but that’s because he plays them short and at most will pass 20 metres to the wings, so there are fewer risks. Andrea aims for more difficult passes and that brings with it the risk of getting it wrong sometimes.
Andrea strokes the ball better, which is why he’s also better with free kicks and scores a few goals Luis Suarez explains his preference for Andrea Pirlo over Xavi
“At the end of the day, I think Pirlo is a more complete player than Xavi. Andrea strokes the ball better, which is why he’s also better with free kicks and scores a few goals. He’s also more determined in the tackle, whereas Xavi is light and just uses his positioning to defend.
“If they were to exchange teams, they would both do well, but the Catalan seems built to play for Barcelona and Spain. The Italian is more adaptable and can speed up the pace of his team-mates too. This is why I believe Pirlo is more important for Cesare Prandelli than Xavi is for Vicente Del Bosque.”
Xavi, meanwhile, has said he expects Italy to take an attacking approach on Sunday.
“Italy has changed its system,” he told Marca and Adidas. “Now the team wants to play the ball more with a packed midfield diamond, and Andrea Pirlo is the outstanding player in that area of the pitch.
“They also have two great strikers like Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano. They no longer hold back like in the catenaccio years. Now they try to play the ball and take the initiative, as they have the players for that. We are going to see an entertaining spectacle tomorrow. It’s not going to be one of those games in which they are closed up and Spain has the ball constantly.”© ESPN