Giorgio Chiellini (l.) says Manuel Akanji (r.) is nearing the peak of his defensive powers. - © imago/ getty images
Giorgio Chiellini (l.) says Manuel Akanji (r.) is nearing the peak of his defensive powers. - © imago/ getty images
bundesliga

Giorgio Chiellini: "Manuel Akanji has always intrigued me"

Evergreen Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini has revealed his admiration for Borussia Dortmund and Switzerland counterpart Manuel Akanji.

Chiellini, 37, and Akanji, 26, were on opposing sides in the UEFA Euro 2020 group stage, and again in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying this past week.

Italy beat Switzerland 3-0 on their way to lifting the Henri Delaunay Trophy in the summer, but were held to a goalless draw by a Bundesliga-heavy ensemble - expertly marshalled by Akanji - in Basle.

"Akanji has always intrigued me because he's not yet the finished article," Chiellini told Swiss TV station RSI, prior to the Group C encounter in which Borussia Mönchenladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer saved a Jorginho penalty.

"He's still got a little way to go but, for me, he's now nearing an age where he he can really hit his peak."

Praise indeed from the Euro 2020 winner and veteran of some 659 competitive appearances. Although Chiellini has 11 years on Akanji, the basis is there for the 34-time Switzerland international to enjoy a similarly long and fruitful career.

Across 127 competitive appearances for Dortmund, including 96 in the Bundesliga, Akanji has lifted the 2019/20 DFL Supercup and 2020/21 DFB Cup. He ranked in the top five Bundesliga-wide for passes completed in 2019/20 and 2020/21, and has played his part in 82 to-nil pro matches for club and country.

Watch: Manuel Akanji - not your ordinary defender

Akanji, who also won back-to-back Swiss Super League titles with Basel, is contracted to Dortmund until June 2023.