By Fabrizio Ponciroli
AC Milan defender Philippe Mexes has voiced his admiration for team-mates Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta, but insists that he is enjoying the challenge of trying to prove himself worthy of a place in the Milan defence.
After arriving at San Siro still suffering the effects of a knee injury, the 29-year-old struggled for form and fitness during the first half of the season and then, after finally getting a decent run of games, he picked up a three-match suspension for an off-the-ball punch on Marco Borriello during Milan’s 1-1 draw with Juventus in Serie A at the tail end of February.
Only now, after Saturday's 2-0 win at Parma, is he again available for selection in the league.
However, in spite of his struggles this season, Mexes is determined to prove his worth.
"We all know about Thiago Silva: he has all the talent in the world,” the former Auxerre man gushed to Goal.com. “He is a fantastic player. Nesta, meanwhile, has great experience.
"But we all work together to improve and successfully correct our limitations."The centre back then went on to discuss the rise to prominence of young attacker Stephan El Shaarawy, and had nothing but praise for the forward.
"Stephan El Shaarawy is an incredible talent,” Mexes enthused. “I hope that he will soon reach a high level because he is a kid who trains hard and has great technical ability.
“Milan are doing right by gambling on him."
Mexes then revealed that he would happily sacrifice the Coppa Italia for the Serie A title ahead of the semi-final second leg away against Juventus.
The Rossoneri travel to Turin on Tuesday night trailing 2-1 from the first leg of their semi-final tie with Juventus at San Siro last month.
Mexes insists that Milan will be going all out for victory against the Bianconeri, but he has confessed that the title remains the primary objective for Massimiliano Allegri’s men
"The Scudetto for Milan and the Coppa Italia for Juventus? Sure, I'm there!”
Mexes’s admission is hardly surprising given he twice won the Coppa Italia during his seven-year stint with Roma and, even more significantly, finished as a runner-up on three separate occasions (four in total, on account of 'Calciopoli').
It is this desperation to win the title which motivated him to quit the Italian capital for Milan last summer. However, the France international reveals that the Giallorossi retain a special place in his heart.
"I follow Roma, but I am here now and I can't be there too,” he said of his feelings towards his old club.
“However, I always keep an eye out for their results and to see how they're playing; to see if [Francesco] Totti and [Daniele] De Rossi are on the field because they are my friends.”
Consequently, Mexes is pleased that Roma are enjoying something of a resurgence following last year's arrival of new owners from the United States and coach Luis Enrique from Barcelona.
"I think that they have found a good coach with a good squad, and that the change of ownership has been a great turning point for them,” the Toulouse native opined.