x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Thiago Motta’s moxie a positive when it is controlled

A hard edge has always been part of Thiago Motta’s game. As a young man maturing alongside the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta at Barcelona, it set him apart.

Thiago Motta, right, plays with plenty of aggression but sometimes it gets him in trouble. For Italy's sake he needs to find the right balance. Gerry Penny / EPA
Thiago Motta, right, plays with plenty of aggression but sometimes it gets him in trouble. For Italy's sake he needs to find the right balance. Gerry Penny / EPA

Plenty of World Cup encouragement could be drawn from Italy’s friendly matches with Germany and Nigeria in the past week.

Neither ended in victory. That means it is four draws in a row in non-official contests for Cesare Prandelli’s Italy.

But that will not worry the head coach. He has seen clear competitive zeal among those aiming for a spot in the party chosen for Brazil for the finals next summer.

In the closing moments of the 1-1 draw with Germany, that competitive zeal boiled over when midfielder Thiago Motta appeared to aim his finger towards the eye of Toni Kroos.

“I think that’s known as violent conduct,” Kroos said. Motta escaped a red card. In a World Cup, he almost certainly would not.

A hard edge has always been part of Motta’s game. As a young man maturing alongside the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta at Barcelona, it set him apart.

He is a talented all-round midfielder, an asset to Prandelli and to Italy, who persuaded him to commit to the Azzurri when he could have chosen to play for his native Brazil.

But the Paris Saint-Germain player needs to use his aggression positively and intelligently if he is to be an asset to the Italians in the finals.

Prandelli, who has made high professional standards a principle of his management, will be scrutinising the pros and cons of Motta’s game closely over the next six months. In Brazil, referees and their assistants will be watching him, too.

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