Antonio Conte wants Andrea Pirlo to play on for Italy
Italy coach Antonio Conte is to speak with Andrea Pirlo in the next few days to try to convince him to hold back on his international retirement.
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Although Pirlo did not officially retire from international football following the World Cup, he did say prior to the tournament that he would likely play his last game for the Squadra Azzurra in Brazil.
However, with his former Juventus coach Conte appointed as Cesare Prandelli's successor, there appears to be a realistic prospect of seeing the 35-year-old wearing blue again in September.
Conte was the man who revived Pirlo's career when he joined Juve after a difficult season with AC Milan in 2011. They won three Serie A titles together, and Conte says he has plans for the midfielder.
"I'm going to talk to him in the next few days," Conte said in an interview in La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He had called it a day, but I have a very clear idea and I want to discuss it with him.
"But I cannot start today with a squad that I'm going to keep for the next two years. New players could arrive; others may stop providing the assurances I need. In the next two years, either Andrea is going to give me those assurances or else he's going to retire."
Conte names his first squad as Italy coach this Saturday, for the friendly against the Netherlands on Sept. 4 and the Euro 2016 qualifier against Norway in Oslo five days later.
Most of the names who featured in the World Cup are likely to figure on his list, with the 45-year-old saying it is too soon to make wholesale changes.
Conte said: "People keep asking me if there are going to be any surprises, and I just say 'What surprises?' The group is the same one Cesare had, with maybe one or two additions or exclusions based on my own ideas of football.
"Also because -- and I want to make this clear straight away -- two or three minutes in Serie A, or maybe a couple of goals in one game, aren't enough for me. The national team is a reward, something that you have got to earn and suffer for, something that creates anxiety and hurts you if you are not selected."
Conte will therefore wait until his second nominations at the end of September before determining who, based on their early-season form for their club, is deserving of a call-up, or who has not done enough to warrant keeping their place in his squad.
AC Milan's Stephan El Shaarawy is one player Conte is considering, but for all his flashes of brilliance in preseason, he too must deliver the goods regularly and consistently.
"El Shaarawy's fit again now and I remember him playing against Juve two years ago -- he was amazing," Conte said. "He's got skill, pace and he's complete. He could really become a top player.
"We're going to need a bit of time and be good teachers. There are scientists on paper who struggle to put their ideas into practice. I believe I can get my concepts across with a good teaching method, and then of course we need players who put in the effort. When I start seeing somebody just strolling around then I know he's not going to fit in my mechanisms."