Christian Vieri thinks Juventus should have pushed the boat out to try and sign Mauro Icardi rather than bring Moise Kean back to the Allianz Stadium.

Kean returned to Juve from Everton ahead of the transfer deadline on a two-year loan deal following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, who sensationally joined Manchester United.

Italy striker Kean, who Juve have an obligation to buy, scored 13 goals in 26 Ligue 1 games during his loan spell at Paris Saint-Germain last season and is back in Turin two years after joining the Toffees.

Former Bianconeri striker Vieri believes Juve ought to have tried to lure Argentina international Icardi from PSG.

He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Before Ronaldo left, I had said that Juventus' attack is stronger.

"Juve were stronger. Now, I put Inter in front. Cristiano's 25 to 30 goals are gone, those who said it wasn't going well will be happy. When Ronaldo leaves, there are no better options.

"But someone else must score the goals he scored. I don't think Kean will be able to get that many, but I think it's right to give him a whole championship to judge him.

"Icardi is someone who plays little for the team, but he's a finisher by trade, it's easy for him to score 20 goals. Since there's a need for those 20 goals, maybe I would have done more to get him.

"But in the market, it's not always possible to do what seems best."

Icardi has scored 21 goals in 43 Ligue 1 games for PSG, providing five assists.

 

Roberto Mancini is the mastermind behind Italy's transformation and Christian Vieri believes the Azzurri will be in the mix to win Euro 2020.

Italy are among the contenders at the rescheduled European Championship – delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic – as the 1968 winners prepare to face Turkey in the tournament's curtain-raiser in Rome on Friday.

A proud football country but a national team on its knees after failing to qualify for Russia 2018, their first World Cup absence since 1958, Mancini has overseen a drastic recovery following his appointment more than three years ago.

Banishing the nightmares of Gian Piero Ventura's dismal tenure, Italy are in the midst of a 27-game unbeaten streak – a run dating back to September 10, 2018. Heading into Euro 2020, Mancini's men have won eight successive games in all competitions without conceding a goal for the first time in their history.

Italy were one of only two teams – alongside Belgium – to win 100 per cent of their games during the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign (10/10). The Azzurri scored 37 goals in their 10 qualification matches (3.7 per game) – this was the same tally in qualification for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup combined (37 goals in 22 games).

As Italy gear up for their Euro 2020 Group A opener at the Stadio Olimpico, where they have never lost in a major tournament – they have won six and drawn two in the World Cup and European Championship combined, having not conceded a goal in each of the last seven fixtures – Azzurri great hailed the impact of Mancini.

"Mancini is one of my best friends," former Inter, Milan and Juventus striker Vieri, who earned 49 caps for Italy from 1997 to 2005, told Stats Perform.

"He did an amazing, amazing job. Getting the Italian team back together and getting all the fans in Italy to watch again because no one was watching.

"They have big players, big quality players – real quality like what we used to have 10-15 years ago. We had a situation for 10-15 years after the 2006 World Cup, we didn't have any big players. That's how it is sometimes, you don't have big players coming up.

"Now we have big players, we have experienced players. They play fantastic football and haven't lost for so many games, but they are really, really strong."

This is Mancini's first major tournament as Italy head coach. As a player, he only featured at one major final: he played four games at Euro 88, scoring the opening goal of the whole tournament during a 1-1 draw with hosts West Germany.

Italy, who will also face Switzerland (June 16) and Wales (June 20) in Group A, are taking part in their 10th European Championship finals. They won the tournament in their first appearance (1968) and have since reached the final twice without lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy (2000 and 2012).

"I told him [Mancini] I don't know if you're going to win the Euros, but you're going to get there," added Vieri, who scored 23 goals for the national team. "The team is strong, and they have big players again and everyone is following."

Another former Italy international, Walter Zenga, also lauded Mancini's work at the helm of the four-time world champions, while highlighting the quality of the entire coaching staff that includes Gianluca Vialli and Daniele De Rossi.

A three-time winner of the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper award, ex-Inter star Zenga – regarded as one of the greatest keepers of all time – played 58 games for Italy between 1987 and 1992, including appearances at the World Cup in 1986 and 1990 and Euro 88.

"The important thing right now is we have a great coach. Not only a great coach but a great standard of staff," said Zenga, who still holds the record for going 518 minutes (five consecutive clean sheets) without conceding a goal at the 1990 World Cup.

"All the technical staff were involved in football – Vialli, De Rossi, et cetera. This helps the team to grow up and arrive at the Euros with a big chance to win."

A lot of attention will be on number one goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has played a key role amid Italy's undefeated streak under Mancini.

There is also uncertainty over Donnarumma's future, with the 22-year-old star out of contract at Milan and tipped to join Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

"You have to consider one nice thing in life and football: you can improve yourself every day," Zenga said when asked about the quality of Donnarumma, who debuted as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015. "There's no one day that you say you're at the top level, especially when you're 22.

"I've met him a lot of times in Milan and his character is very strong. He is strong because either if he makes a big save, makes an unbelievable game or the worst game of his life, he looks like he is [in] complete control of himself. This is the most important thing in life. He is the top goalkeeper in Italy."

Cristiano Ronaldo and "many others" will leave if Juventus fail to qualify for the Champions League, according to Christian Vieri.

It has been a forgettable season for Juve, who had their run of nine consecutive Serie A titles snapped by newly crowned champions Inter, amid doubts over Ronaldo and first-year head coach Andrea Pirlo.

Pirlo's position is under intense scrutiny as Juve languish fifth in the table, with Champions League qualification now out of their hands ahead of Saturday's showdown against Inter.

Ronaldo also continues to be linked with a move away from Juve amid reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain and former club Manchester United.

Italian great Vieri – who played for both Juve and Inter – warned of a mass exodus if the Bianconeri were absent from Europe's premier club competition for the first time since 2011-12.

"For me, Inter will win in Turin and Juventus won't play the Champions League next season," Vieri said via his Twitch program 'Bobo TV'.

"Without Champions League football, Ronaldo will leave and many others will follow him, Juventus will face a severe financial crisis.

"It will be a dramatic failure and many players will leave."

Juventus have conceded at least one goal in each of their last 13 games in all competitions; they last suffered a longer such run in 1955 (21 games in a row).

After winning 2-0 in the reverse fixture, Inter could claim two consecutive Serie A games against Juve for the first time since 2003-04 under Alberto Zaccheroni, while the Nerazzurri last beat the Bianconeri on the road in the league in 2012.

Ronaldo made his senior debut with Sporting CP against Inter via a Champions League qualifier in August 2002. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored four goals in 10 matches in all competitions against the Nerazzurri (W5 D4 L1).

Lazio can win Serie A's Scudetto race this season according to Christian Vieri, who lauded Simone Inzaghi's "amazing" team.

Spearheaded by highly rated head coach Inzaghi, talisman Ciro Immobile and star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lazio are once again challenging in 2020-21.

Lazio can move to within six points of top spot with victory over second-placed Inter on Sunday as they prepare for a blockbuster Champions League last-16 tie against holders Bayern Munich.

Inzaghi has renewed Lazio's fortunes since taking charge in 2016, guiding the capital club to Coppa Italia (2019) and Supercoppa Italiana (2017 and 2019) success. The Biancocelesti had not celebrated silverware since 2013.

Ahead of the Inter showdown, Lazio have found the net in each of their past 17 Serie A games – they last went on a longer streak in October 1994 (18).

Lazio have also gained the most Serie A points in 2021 (19). They are the only unbeaten side (W6 D1) – having also conceded the fewest goals (four, level with Genoa) since the turn of the year.

Vieri spent a year with Lazio in 1998-99 – scoring 14 goals in 28 appearances under Sven-Goran Eriksson as the club won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and Supercoppa Italiana alongside Alessandro Nesta, Pavel Nedved, Marcelo Salas, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Dejan Stankovic before a then-record move to Inter – and he hailed the work of Inzaghi.

"He has been there for four years. You can't change coach every year," ex-Italy striker Vieri told Stats Perform News. "Coaches need time. All the teams that are changing every year aren't doing well.

"Lazio are doing amazing. They have an amazing director – [Igli] Tare, fantastic. They have big players at Lazio.

"Lazio are a fantastic team. They played amazing football. In the Champions League and qualified very easy.

"Lazio are there to win everything. Lazio can win the Scudetto, you never know. Let's see what happens in the Champions League. Anything can happen, but they're doing amazing."

Lazio have not won the Scudetto since 1999-2000 – Inzaghi was part of that triumphant team as a player – but threatened to end their drought last season.

They were only a point adrift of Juventus when the league was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic in March last year.

But when the 2019-20 campaign resumed, Lazio stumbled and eventually finished third – four points behind Juve as the Turin powerhouse claimed a ninth consecutive Serie A crown.

"Everyone stopped playing, not only Lazio. The thing is, when you play and you don't need to win the Scudetto, you play with no pressure," the 47-year-old Vieri explained.

"When they say to you, there's 8-10 games to go and we have to win all eight, and tomorrow we have to win, it changes. You stop sleeping. You're nervous because you have to win.

"One thing is winning the game and no one says anything – you're second or third but no one expects you to win. But when they say there's five games to go and you have to win all five, that changes everything.

"When they started again after COVID-19, they had to win the last six or seven games and didn't do that. Juventus are used to the pressure. That's how it is."

"I think I would've been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket."

Christian Vieri is regarded as one of the greatest strikers to have played football.

Once the most expensive player in the world, the former Italy international won titles with Juventus, Inter, Lazio and Torino, while he claimed numerous individual honours – the Pichichi Trophy and Serie A Footballer of the Year to go with his FIFA 100 selection and other awards.

But it could have been a lot different for the cricket-mad 47-year-old after growing up in Australia – a far cry from his birthplace in Bologna.

"My whole family is a soccer-team family," Vieri, who also played for Milan, recalled to Stats Perform News. "My father played, I played, my grandfather, my brother. So when my father at the end of his career in Bologna, they asked him if he wanted to go play in Sydney with Marconi. He said yes and the whole family moved there. He played for some time and coached there. We all went with him. 

"I think I was about four years old and I stayed 10 years there, till about 14. I grew up there. It was good. Growing up with the kids, for me it wasn't strange. Now, if you tell people, it's a bit strange that I grew up in Australia but when I was there it was normal – going to school, playing soccer, playing cricket, playing different sports. I was a big fan of cricket. Even if we were 13-14, we would go watch Australia play Test matches, ODI matches in Sydney. I'm a very big, big cricket fan."

"I just love playing," Vieri said. "I was probably playing more cricket than soccer at school. You know what we would do? The tennis ball, we would tape it up to make it go faster and swing. I think I would've been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket. I was an all-rounder. I was really good. 

"You know what happened now? Two months ago before the second coronavirus wave, I spoke to someone from the cricket association, I'm going to start playing in March, April. It's a small thing in Italy, in Milan there is a cricket team. I spoke with the Italian cricket captain. They said listen, when you want to play with us, just come. I said listen, one thing is playing with a tennis ball when you're 14, one thing is playing with professionals. I want to come three or four days, train with you guys and see how it is. 

"I just love the game. I watch all the West Indies' games – Viv Richard, Clive Lloyd, Joel Garner, all those guys. I would watch Australia but in those days, the Windies were too strong for everyone. I'm on YouTube a lot watching cricket. My wife always says 'what are you watching? what is this?', three hours a day watching games from 1984 and 1986, and she is going 'what is wrong with you, why aren't you normal?' I say to her, 'listen, I grew up there, these are the days I was there following cricket'. She takes the p*** out of me. Pakistan had Imran Khan, I know the players. England had Ian Botham. It was fun. 

"I love the game. Couple of months when it gets a bit warmer and we can start to go out a bit easier, I would like to go training with the Italian team, see how fast the ball really comes at you, with your pads and everything. I think it would be a good experience."

So, as Vieri prepares to dust off his pads and helmet in Italy, who would he compare to in the current era of cricket?

"I think Chris Gayle from West Indies. I'm a left-hander," he added. "When I used to play, I'm not a Test match guy, I want to smash the ball outside the stadium. I think I would've been good."

And if Vieri remained down under in Australia, rather than returning to Italy at the age of 14, would he have opted for cricket over a football career?

"Cricket, soccer or tennis," Vieri, who retired in 2009, responded. "I play paddle, I play tennis for 30 years. I like tennis too because it's an individual game – it only depends on you."

Vieri went on to make 49 appearances for his beloved Italy, scoring 23 goals (ninth on the all-time list) following an international career spanning eight years between 1997 and 2005.

He made two trips to the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 – his nine goals across the two major tournaments a joint national record alongside Paolo Rossi and Roberto Baggio, while he also featured at Euro 2004.

While Vieri joined forces with the likes of past greats Paolo Maldini, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo for the Azzurri, his younger brother Max followed a different path.

Max Vieri, who was part of Juve's youth team before going on to play for Napoli in a notable spell, opted to represent Australia.

A midfielder, Max earned six caps for the Socceroos, but Christian Vieri never considered wearing the green and gold.

"I had two dreams when I was in Sydney playing and I was only 12, 13, 14, so you're going to school playing soccer. That's why I left Australia when I was 14 – my two dreams were to play in Serie A and for the national team – the blue jersey," said Vieri. "I remember in 1982 when Italy won the World Cup – Paolo Rossi and all those big players – I had it stuck in my head that I wanted to become an Italian player. When I was 14, I started breaking my dad's head about going to play soccer in Italy.

"When I started playing for Marconi, I started left full-back and then after I while, I said to the coach 'put me up front' and that's it, I was scoring goals and that's how everything started. My brother wanted to play for Australia always and I just had my dream to play the World Cups with Italy."

"I think the Australian team has done well in the last 10-15 years World Cup-wise and qualifications," he added. "They've done good. Of course when I was there – the big sports were AFL, rugby league, cricket – football wasn't the main sport but I think it's getting bigger. The evolution of football around world is just so big now, so much money behind it. When I was there, we were playing soccer and it wasn't the main sport but the passion we have and the kids have, it was bigger than the other sports."

Vieri's choice to chase his dream in Italy proved a wise decision, winning the Scudetto with Juve in 1997 before joining Atletico Madrid after just one season in Turin.

An incredible return of 24 goals in as many LaLiga matches for Atletico, and 29 from 32 appearances across all competitions in 1997-98, led to head coach Radomir Antic famously saying: "Vieri dead is better than any other attacker alive".

"We had a good relationship. I won the goalscoring award. I was a bit crazy those days. I would go out a lot. He would always say don't go out too much, train," Vieri recalled. "He knew I wanted to go back to Italy after about seven, eight months. He said, 'where are you going? you are going to stay here, LaLiga is your competition. You stay here and you just train a little bit, you score 50 goals a year with a cigarette'. I said yeah but I wanna go back home. 

"I think it was the best experience in my life playing in the Spanish league. It's the best quality league. There is so much technique and the way all the teams play, they all play to win. A lot of ball possession. Those days, you had to be really good to play. I had an amazing season."

Like his time at Juve, Vieri's spell with Atletico was brief as he returned to Italy via Lazio in a €25million deal the following season.

After 14 goals in 28 appearances and a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumph in the Italian capital, Vieri became the most expensive player in the world when he reunited with former Juve boss Marcello Lippi at Inter, who splashed out €49m to partner the Italian with Brazilian great Ronaldo.

"The thing is that, if you play in Spain, Italy, England – they're the biggest competitions, so you can't block it out," Vieri said when asked about the pressures of being the world's most expensive player. "Automatically, from being normal to 100 times of pressure on you because 90billion Italian lire in those days, the player who cost more than anyone, every game you play you're judged… even more than before. 

"At Atletico, I was sold to Lazio – big scandal came out – then when I went to Inter for 90b [lire], the world went crazy. From Lazio, moving to Inter, going to play at San Siro, it's a heavy thing because San Siro – the biggest players in the world have played there, 85-90,000 people judging you all the time. They whistle if you don't play good. They've seen everyone. 

"When I went there, I said to myself, 'Bob, first game is at home, when I went to camp, in a month and a half, your first game is at home and whatever happens, you have to go score in that game. if you score in that game, you're gonna fly'. I trained a month and a half in camp, I wouldn't go out anywhere. First game, I scored three goals at home, 90,000 people went crazy. Took a lot of pressure off my shoulders that first game. Here they call me Mr. 90m guy, even today. It's a thing you're gonna call you that for the rest of your life."

Now, Vieri watches the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Mohamed Salah, Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe bang in the goals across Europe. 

How would he fare in 2020-21?

"I think it's easier to score these days because there's less marking. Before, football, first thing was not to concede, in Italy league at least," Vieri said. "It was probably the hardest league in the world in those days. All the biggest players in the world were there. We started the competition where seven teams were trying to win the league, not one or two but seven big teams with big, big players. If we would shoot twice in 90 minutes, we were happy. Those two shots, we would score one goal, we had to score once. 

"Today, the game has changed. The defenders don't mark as much, they play. They're more like midfielders, you have to play with the ball at your feet – the whole team have to attack. Now you have 15 strikers who score more than 20 goals. It's fun to watch still but changed a lot."

Popular on social media and Italian television in his post-playing days, Vieri has ventured into coaching as he works to complete his UEFA A and B license alongside the likes of former team-mates Del Piero and De Rossi.

"All of us, the former players, when we talk about things, we only miss one thing – staying together and training... having fun. The everyday stuff. The dressing rooms, we had the craziest dressing rooms, people. Taking the p*** out of everyone 24/7. 

"I speak with all my ex-team-mates. It's just fun. Now, I'm doing the coaching course… We just laugh, we have fun. We are doing UEFA A and B together. The way we talk to each other, it's just like back in the days. With a lot of former team-mates, we play paddle ball here in Milan. When we can, we hang out."

"The first thing is you need a license to coach. It's very hard, it's not easy. When you're doing two courses together because the federations asked UEFA if just the top 10 players could do it, so we're doing it," added Vieri, when asked if he was eyeing a coaching career.

"We'll see what happens. If I have a nice project, anything can happen. 1,000 of doors will open like I always say."

Andrea Pirlo exudes composure and shows little emotion on the sidelines but that is only half the story according to Christian Vieri, who believes the "fun" first-year head coach can lead Juventus to a clean sweep of silverware in Turin.

Eyebrows were raised when nine-time reigning Serie A champions Juve turned to club great but unproven coach Pirlo following the dismissal of Maurizio Sarri at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Pirlo had only re-joined Juve as Under-23s head coach a week earlier before the Bianconeri gave the 41-year-old his first senior coaching role at the Italian powerhouse, where he won four Scudetto titles among other honours during an illustrious playing career.

While there have been teething issues and a stuttering start, World Cup winner Pirlo has already tasted success for the first time as a coach in the Supercoppa Italiana, while Juve are seven points off the pace in Serie A, through to the Champions League last 16 and preparing for Tuesday's mouth-watering Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter.

Vieri spent time with Pirlo at Inter and within the Italy national team and he talked up the playful side of his former team-mate – who remains in the hunt for a Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia treble in his maiden season at the helm.

"Listen, Juventus can win anything every year. They have a fantastic side," Vieri, who won the 1997 Scudetto with Juve before later joining Inter for a then-world record fee in 1999, told Stats Perform News. "When you have Cristiano Ronaldo with you, you always start 1-0.

"Pirlo is a fun guy. He is the opposite of what everyone sees. He is a fun dude, he takes the p*** out of you the whole day.

"Of course, everyone is different on TV, right? He is calmer. You never see him go crazy. He is the opposite of [Antonio] Conte. You see Conte, it's like he is playing.

"It's his first experience. He is having a good time. He won a trophy already. You win games and lose games, it's part of coaching. Maybe lose more games than win, some coaches do that. But he is happy coaching, that's what he wanted to do.

"He has an amazing team. He can everything this season. Let's see what happens. Nine years in a row winning the Scudetto, of course, sooner or later you will lose it because motivation-wise, you can't have that motivation every year."

Inter will host Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final at San Siro on Tuesday.

It will be a chance for Juve to avenge their previous Derby d'Italia loss to Inter, who outclassed Pirlo's men 2-0 in Serie A action on January 17.

Inter – boasting the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Achraf Hakimi and Nicolo Barella – are widely viewed as the favourites to put an end to Juve's domestic dominance, which dates back to 2011.

The Nerazzurri, where Vieri spent six successful years, are second and only two points behind leaders Milan through 20 Serie A matchdays.

But Italian great Vieri believes Juve remain the "strongest team in Italy" due to their depth.

"They have 23 fantastic players," the 47-year-old added. "They have a big, long bench. [Paulo] Dybala stays on the bench, [Juan] Cuadrado stays on the bench, Arthur stays on the bench… they're fantastic players.

"I don't think the other benches are as strong as Juve's. I think Juve are still the strongest. But motivation wise, you can't win forever.

"Inter have a fantastic team this season. Hakimi, [Arturo] Vidal, [Ashley] Young, [Alessandro] Bastoni, they're all good players. They're solid, more solid defensively than three-four months ago. Up front they're fantastic. Anyone can win.

"Against Juve, Inter played fantastically [in Serie A]. Technical wise, physically. Let's see what happens in the semi-final."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.