‘You are at the heart of everything’ - Bennacer on playing Pirlo’s Regista role at AC Milan

Ismael Bennacer Valon Behrami Milan Genoa
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The Algeria international is occupying the role which the Italian maestro was exceptional at playing at the Rossoneri

AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer has exclaimed he is happy about playing the role of Regista at the club, a position Italian legend Andrea Pirlo excelled in.

The retired 41-year-old was on the books of the Rossoneri between 2001 and 2011, making 401 appearances and winning nine titles including the Serie A and Champions League.

After he departed for Juventus, no one was able to fill in the boots of the midfield maestro. However, Bennacer played the role with exception during the just-concluded 2019-20 Serie A season.

He made 31 league appearances and scored once as Milan finished in sixth place to qualify for the Europa League. The restart of the league in June which was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic saw the 18-time Italian champions finish unbeaten, the only side to achieve that.

“I like everything about this role because you’re at the heart of everything,” Bennacer told The Athletic.

“It’s my second year playing in Italy as a Regista. I’m still working at it. I think I’m improving. I’m definitely learning a lot.”

Bennacer is considered to be very hardworking on the pitch and admitted he looks up to the likes of Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti and Thiago Alcantara of Bayern Munich.

“I watch a lot of [Paris Saint-Germain’s] Marco Verratti and Thiago Alcantara [of Bayern Munich] too. Thiago’s so, so good,” the Algerian continued.

“I have to give the ball away as little as possible. To do that, I have to be concentrated whenever I get the ball. I’ve always got to be in the zone. I have to read the game. I need to look first and look early. I do all that already but I have got to get even better at it.”

Bennacer started his career at youth level with Arsenal, but never made it into the first team and was ultimately sold to Empoli in 2017. He has no regrets about never making a name in north London.

“I had three years left on my deal, but I wanted to play and besides, they weren’t against my sale, so I left,” he said

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Bennacer made mention of Algeria’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph in 2019 as a sweet moment for him and his country. The Desert Foxes overcame Senegal 1-0 thanks to Baghdad Bounedjah’s first-minute strike for their second continental title and first since 1990.

“It was the sweetest moment of my career,” he stated.

“We hadn’t won the Cup of Nations in 29 years. It was only the second time too. There were five million people on the streets. The population of Algiers, the capital, is three million, but there were five million people on the streets. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”