Italy's Riccardo Montolivo says Andrea Pirlo embodies the sport of football in the country, adding that he hopes the midfielder is given a place in Antonio Conte's Euro 2016 squad.
The 36-year-old was left out of Italy's squad for this month's friendlies with Belgium and Romania, with Conte suggesting on Monday that the New York City midfielder may not feature at the European Championship.
With the MLS season having drawn to a close, Pirlo's lack of match action appears to have cost him, amid rumours of interest from Serie A side Inter.
And Montolivo remained hopeful Pirlo could feature for the Azzurri again, telling a news conference: "To say Pirlo you mean football and I hope he will be part of the squad.
"It is hard to imagine a national team without him, for all he has given in recent years. The decision is up to the coach to make the best choice for Italy.
"There are many assessments that are not mine to make, but if he is not part of the group, it will not be for a lack of quality.
"In the national team I've been there with him, so I do not see myself as an alternative."
After injury struggles curtailed his season with AC Milan last term, Montolivo has started 10 of 12 Serie A games this term with his fitness troubles seemingly behind him.
As he bids to feature for Italy at a third major tournament, he added: "There is great quality and competition in midfield and each of us will give our best to convince the coach.
"I lost some time because of the injury. I am the last one in and that's why I know that I need to win a place by having a great season with Milan.
"I am doing well at Milan and Conte appears to be happy with me."
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