Motta is Italian danger man, says Benitez
Italian midfielder Thiago Motta is the player that England should be most wary of in their Euro 2012 quarter-final on Sunday, said former Liverpool and Inter Milan coach Rafael Benitez on Saturday.
The 52-year-old Spaniard - who guided Liverpool to two Champions League finals winning the 2005 edition - wrote in his column for 'The Independent' he believed Mario Balotelli - who like Motta was at Inter when Benitez arrived in June 2010 - would be fine despite his volatile temperament.
"It would be some result for England to beat their opponents tomorrow evening (Sunday in Kiev) and while everyone has been talking about Andrea Pirlo, you should look out for Thiago Motta," said Benitez, whose troubled reign at Inter lasted six months as he was sacked days after winning the 2010 World Club Cup paying the price for a poor start to the defence of the Serie A title won under Jose Mourinho.
"Believe me, Motta can play.
"He played for me, when I was managing Internazionale, and against me, in Barcelona's team versus our Liverpool side in the game we won 2-1 in the Nou Camp on the way to the 2007 Champions League final (where they lost to AC Milan).
"I'll never forget how Motta was substituted before an hour of that game had passed in Catalonia, because things were not so difficult for my own team in midfield after he had left the field."
Benitez, who had taken the Inter post in June 2010 just a few days after he had been sacked as Liverpool manager after a six year reign, said that the 29-year-old Brazil-born Motta. who left Inter for French giants Paris Saint Germain last season, was the most rounded of all the Italian midfielders.
"Motta is left-footed, good in the air, not fast, but he passes the ball so very well. His left foot is really very, very good.
"I knew him from Barcelona when he was young, breaking into the team at the time when I was managing Valencia, and though he was born in Brazil he fitted in very well with the other players.
"You want to hear Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain goalkeeper) talking about his time at the Barcelona academy, working with Motta, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Mikel Arteta!
"When I first arrived at Inter, Motta was injured, but when he came back he did really well for us. He was a quality player in our midfield - our Pirlo, if you like."
Benitez while admitting that Balotelli was in need of care and attention in trying to curb his exuberant and temperamental behaviour believed he would be kept out of trouble by his team-mates hould he start the game.
Motta for one has expressed his mild disapproval of his childish antics and also demanded he plays for the team and doesn't do anything to destabilise them.
Benitez, though, doesn't share Motta's concern.
"We were already preparing to sell him to Manchester City at the time (when Benitez arrived at Inter) so he was not part of the plans.
"We were trying to protect him for that transfer. But in the training sessions you could see the talent.
"Finding space, scoring goals, good in the air: these were the qualities I saw in him.
"He is a very special talent who - how can I put it? - needs a very special understanding from a manager.
"I think he will be fine tomorrow (Sunday).
"Everyone in the Italy set-up will be talking about the risks that come for him and everybody will be looking out for him, to make sure he does not do something crazy on the pitch.
"Italy will be managing the situation, whether he starts the game or comes on from the bench."