Benitez warns Spain: Italy are more than just Pirlo
Kiev: Rafa Benitez has warned Spain that Italy have players other than Andrea Pirlo capable of dictating the Euro 2012 final at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.
The Juventus midfielder has earned many plaudits for his performances in the tournament to date, but the former Inter and Liverpool boss pointed out that Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta could also prove influential if ignored by La Roja.
"Spain, like England and Germany, will do their best to control Pirlo," Benitez wrote in his column for the Independent.
"It is easy to overlook the way that if Pirlo is being controlled, De Rossi will drop deep, to receive the ball and dictate play.
"If De Rossi is being controlled, Thiago Motta - who I consider one of the best in Italy`s squad - will do the job
"In short, if you control Pirlo, Italy will find others who will play. It looks likely to be a fascinating final. The wide areas are the key."
Benitez identified Andres Iniesta and David Silva as the key players for Spain, explaining that the centre of midfield was likely to be congested, given the number of men Italy usually deploy in the middle of the pitch.
"For Spain, look out for David Silva or Andres Iniesta as the key players - they will need to use the wide areas," he continued.
"It will be very busy in the middle of the field, so it is very important for them to wait out in the wide areas as long as possible and then go inside at the last minute, maybe creating a surprise for the Italians. It will be important to wait, wait, wait and then go inside."
The 52-year-old believes the success of some of the Azzurri`s more senior players during Euro 2012 has illustrated the value of experience and acted as a lesson to coaches who are too concerned with looking for the next big thing.
"One of the parts of the Italy story which has surprised people is the age of some of the players," Benitez added.
"Not only Pirlo, who is 33, but De Rossi, Thiago Motta, Andrea Barzagli and Antonio Cassano, who are all also ageing.
"In football and in life, everybody wants the next new thing and that`s why so much importance is attached to the next young manager, the next brilliant young player.
"But what Italy have taught us is that experience has a very big value - and that goes for every profession.
"This is the end of a long season for the players at this championship and all of them are tired but Italy`s older players have the experience and organisation which allow them to succeed despite all the fatigue."
Italy, like England, still have problems developing young players, Benitez opined, but he nonetheless praised Cesare Prandelli for finding the right balance between youth and experience in Poland and Ukraine.
"Italy actually have a similar problem to England - a massive problem - when it comes to developing new talent because they don`t promote young players," he mused.
"But what Prandelli has on his hands now is the right mix of old and young. The young include Mario Balotelli, of course, who, with players like Claudio Marchisio, will be around in four years` time.
"Prandelli also has Italian pride at his back. Italy were poor at the last World Cup and making up for that is important to the country."