Gagliardini: I can’t believe I’m playing with world champions

Roberto Gagliardini has revealed he’s “still in disbelief” over being in the same squad as players he watched win the FIFA World Cup™ with Italy.

Giampiero Ventura handed a shock call-up to the 22-year Atalanta midfielder for the Russia 2018 qualifier against Liechtenstein and the glamour friendly with Germany. Gagliardini finds himself in the company of Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi, both of whom played in the Germany 2006 Final.

“I’m still in disbelief,” said the uncapped Bergamo native. “Seeing champions who you watched on television not too long ago is a dream come true.

“The call-up was totally unexpected. The national team has always been my goal. A year ago I could have never thought it possible, but here I am.

“I’m very happy. I’m going through a great period and I hope it lasts as long as possible. I’m very enthusiastic and more determined than ever, but I’m conscious that I must keep my feet firmly on the ground.”

Italy are second in Group G in Russia 2018 qualifying, behind Spain on goal difference and above Albania and Israel by a point.

The only World Cup Italy failed to qualify for – the didn’t enter the race for Uruguay 1930 – was Sweden 1958, when a team including Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Alcides Ghiggia and Dino da Costa were pipped to a ticket by Northern Ireland.