Pirlo: Juventus have missed Conte

The experienced midfielder has nothing but praise for the successful coach, while also offering words of encouragement to young Italy centre-mid Marco Verratti who is at PSG
Andrea Pirlo feels that the absence of head coach Antonio Conte has hurt Juventus in the opening months of the 2012-13 campaign.

The 43-year-old was handed a 10-month ban at the start of the season for his failure to report instances of match-fixing during his spell in charge of Siena, which was later reduced to four months, and Pirlo is glad that Conte is on the verge of a return.

"We miss Conte a lot on the bench, especially at half-time. He always has a word for everybody, and can turn a match around with his tactical changes," Pirlo was quoted as saying by Tuttosport.

"Fortunately, his ban is almost over. It's only one more week. He really is an exceptional coach. He's always well prepared and is capable of transmitting his philosophy to the team."

The influential midfielder then had his say on Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti, labelling the youngster as his natural heir.

He added: "Verratti is quite similar to me. He's a great player. We must give him time to develop and let him make mistakes in order to improve. I see him as my heir."

Verratti, 20, joined PSG from Pescara in the summer transfer window, and has been one of the revelations of this season so far.