Juventus’ Giorgio Chiellini in action during a Uefa Champions League match last year. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus captain and the rock of Italian defence, said the maverick Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought out the best in him during their duels in Serie A.

“Ibra? He is the opponent who got the best out of me. He was 24 years old and so strong physically, just the fact I could keep up with him and showed no fear earned me his respect. I had to give my best every time against him,” Chiellini said in an interview on Instagram as quoted by juvefc.com.

Speaking about current teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, Chiellini feels he is ‘on another level’ and he is happy to have the superstar in his side now.

“Unfortunately, Cristiano Ronaldo scored many, many goals past us before he joined Juventus, so thankfully he is now my teammate! He is on another level, you can tell that and it’s only right to admit it,”he said.

“When you have a champion like this, you need to get the most out of him,” the 35-year old said of the Portuguese who was at big fishes Manchester United and Real Madrid before joining the Italian giants.

Chiellini continued to study while playing for Juve, earning a Masters’ Degree in Business Administration.

“I was already playing in Serie B at 19, so I didn’t get to study. When I had some free time, I thought why just go on the PlayStation? I’d do something different and managed to get the three-year degree done in four years thanks to a study plan.

“There are those who are 17 years old and have so much pressure on them, so many expectations that it ruins their careers. I am grateful that I had trials at Juventus, Inter and Milan, but Livorno insisted on keeping me, because it meant I got to have a normal adolescence.

“In my view, there are two really difficult things about being a professional football player. The first is keeping your feet on the ground, the second is dealing with solitude. You need mental strength within you to emerge from those dark moments. Family also helps, as the business makes you become more egocentric, so at home you’re brought back down to earth.”