Jonathan Zebina: I would've quit Juventus if Ranieri had stayed
Juventus defender Jonathan Zebina accepts this season is make-or-break for him at the club. Zebina concedes he would've quit Juve if coach Claudio Ranieri had remained in charge and expects a fresh chance under new boss Ciro Ferrara.
"There cannot be anymore excuses," said Zebina, "I must prove myself this season.
"I know the expectations. For the first time, the newspapers are naming me in their starting XI's for the coming season. I know I must deliver."
From Juve's preseason training HQ in Trentino, Zebina was happy to reflect on a difficult season under Ranieri and also his hopes for what lies ahead of himself and Juve.
The past year you had a rash of physical problems: how much did this affect your disappointing season and your unhappy relationship with Claudio Ranieri?
"Sure, my injuries did not help the relationship with Ranieri, even if both of us tried to strengthen it - I with my professionalism and he trying to involve me in his tactical plans.
"But then he has preferred others to me, as is his right, but this did not help me when I was trying to recover psychologically after getting over my physical injuries. You need to be mentally fit, above all else. If not, then the entire castle crumbles.
"If Ranieri had stayed, I know I would have had to leave the club at the end of last season."
Have you had a chance to speak with Ciro Ferrara in recent days?
"No, but there has been no need to. He already has demonstrated his confidence in me and has appreciated the efforts that I have made in order to get back into the team.
"With the two last operations, a beautiful weight has been removed from me.
"It was difficult not to play and above all not to be understood from the point of view I was someone who never sought excuses when I wasn't selected. Four years ago I accepted the plan to stay with Juve, even in Serie B, I am now convinced we are on the verge of again winning the game's most prestigious trophies."
With the return of Fabio Cannavaro and the signings of Diego and (probably) Felipe Melo do you feel Juve are now equal to Inter Milan?
"I've always felt myself equal of Inter, also when we were in Serie B. The level of quality in the squad has been raised, Inter is one of the better teams in the world, but Juve have the same mentality as always and we feel stronger than anyone.
"Indeed, that feeling will be greater this season with these new, splendid purchases."
Won't it be strange if Pavel Nedved joins Inter?
"If he were to sign for Inter, I can only be happy for him. I cannot be unhappy for him and I hope it all works out for the best. Pavel is a friend and has been a fantastic teammate - for this, even if it can seem strange, I understand, and I will respect any decision he makes."
What are your first impressions of Diego?
"He seems young and in fact I still consider him a kid. A very humble kid and one with unquestionable technical qualities. I repeat myself: Juve has up to now guessed correctly with all our signings in reducing the quality gap that we had with Inter.
"This is making me feel very optimistic for the future."
You have a 'history' with Juve's fans. How is it now?
"Not good with a small group, I emphasize small, part of the bianconeri tifosi. My appeals to them have never been successful, goodness knows why. However, I do not allow them to become a problem me.
"I just value the respect and the friendship of my teammates, the esteem of the trainer and the affection of a family that wants me to do well."
So what about the protests against Cannavaro's return?
"There's a small group of anti-Cannavaro, yes. But he is unaffected by this. He certainly doesn't need my advice."
How would you rate Jose Mourinho's first season in Italy
"In truth, sometimes he speaks a little too much and he lacks a little respect, also to trainers who have won as much as people like Carlo Ancelotti. But this is his style and evidently it works and appeals to the tifosi because he has been supported in winning the championship last season.
"But I repeat, for him, even if I understand perhaps that this is part of his personality, often Mourinho exaggerates."
A last question: Will David Trezeguet stay with Juve?
"I would like to say yes. Because he was part of the plan when we went down to Serie B. Because he is a friend. Because he is an extraordinary player. Because he is a forward whom always scores many goals and our game revolves around him.
"I do not know what his intentions are or those of the club, but I sincerely hope he remains and helps us realize the dream that is within us all."