Mancini praises Ramos as Italy face 'strong' Spain in Nations League
Roberto Mancini sees similarities between his Italy side and Spain after they were drawn to face each other in the Nations League semi-finals.
Italy were confirmed as hosts for the finals of the tournament in October 2021, Milan and Turin selected as the venues to stage fixtures.
The Azzurri qualified from Group A1 ahead of the Netherlands and are on a 22-game unbeaten run, though they will have to get past Spain if they are to play in the final at San Siro.
Luis Enrique's side progressed from Group A4 at the expense of Germany, who they sensationally thrashed 6-0 last month in the final round of qualifying games.
Belgium will face France in the other half of the draw, but Mancini believes, like his own squad, Spain are starting to see the benefits following a period of change.
"I think Spain are in a similar position to ours," the former Inter coach said after the draw. "They changed many players but they still have some strong and experienced players like Sergio Ramos.
"They have built a strong team, playing slightly more vertical than previously but still with a midfield so technical. Their style of play, it's not completely different.
"Maybe they added some fast wings that make their play more unpredictable. It will be a very interesting game."
Ramos remains one of the old guard still around for Spain and Mancini sees no signs of the centre-back losing a step, despite now being 34.
While his club future remains unclear – Ramos' contract with Real Madrid runs out at the end of this season – Italy's boss insists the defender still remains one of best in the world at his position.
"I'm not Real Madrid president but I think Sergio Ramos is one of the best defenders in the world for many years," Mancini said.
"He is a great player, he has unique technical skills and he is a very charismatic player. For sure he is the most important player for Real Madrid, but also for Spain.
"He is able to transmit that determination that is very important for a captain."
Both Italy and Spain will compete in Euro 2020 – delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic – prior to the conclusion of the Nations League, though Luis Enrique is a fan of the tournament.
"It is far on the calendar but it is like that because there are no other dates," the Spain boss told the media.
"That it is far away does not mean that we do not have much desire and great enthusiasm to lift this title, which would be wonderful. I consider the Nations League to be a great success and I am delighted to be able to participate in it."