The former Real Madrid defender came up against some wonderful Serie A teams during his 14-year spell at Los Blancos. In that time he won five La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues.
Real Madrid will face Atalanta in the first leg of their round of 16 tie on Wednesday evening, and Hierro has been discussing Gian Piero Gasperini’s side with AS. Whilst keeping it respectful, he suggested Atalanta are a very different proposition to Serie A sides of yesteryear.
“With all the respect in the world, Atalanta are a wonderful team playing very offensive football,” Hierro said. “But in our time, the Italian clubs we met were of a different caliber.
“If I think of Juventus, Inter, AC Milan, it is quite a different thing. The Italians, at that time, were the rulers of Europe.
“Then in the first decade of the 2000s we overtook them. That’s why Madrid must now have faith in their abilities because Atalanta are not a team to be intimidated by.”
Whilst this may seem like an unfair assessment of the current Atalanta side, who were minutes away from the UCL semi-finals last season, Hierro did face some of the best sides Europe has ever seen.
“The first memory is [Arrigo] Sacchi’s Milan,” Hierro said. “I wasn’t there but my teammates told me about that 5-0. The last time was against Juventus, in 2003. An extraordinary team, we lost 3-1, [Luis] Figo missed a penalty, Ronaldo got injured, and [Zinedine] Zidane’s goal wasn’t enough for us.”
The fact that Real Madrid are in their worst shape for many years suggests it should still be a fascinating first leg in Bergamo.