In the absence of Andrea Barzagli, the Roma captain put in a majestic performance at the heart of the defence as the Azzurri drew 1-1 with Spain on Sunday.
And he was quick to give credit to his former coach, who had previously spotted his potential to excel in the role.
"I would like to thank [Italy coach Cesare] Prandelli for giving me confidence in that role, and especially Luis Enrique who saw me first of all as a central defender," he told Corriere dello Sport. "I have already played there [at centre back] but never against opponents of that level.
"Prandelli didn't want to put a pure defender in, but a midfielder who would join the defence with the offence; and he chose me."
He then continued by discussing La Roja's decision to start the game without any recognised forwards.
"We joked that there were going to be no strikers, but it did worry us because there were no reference points. When Torres came on though, he did cause us problems."
Italy will continue their Group C campaign by travelling to Poznan to face Croatia on Thursday.