Motorcycling ace Valentino Rossi has slammed critics of himself and fellow Italian Gianluigi Buffon who are defying the years in their sports.
Rossi, 39, has signed a new two-year contract with Yahama and will now remain in the sport until at least 2020. His existing contract runs out at the end of 2018, his 23rd season.
Goalkeeper Buffon has been criticised for performing a u-turn on his international retirement after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup and making himself available at the age of 40.
“I feel I’m still at the top and this boosts me. I advise Buffon to follow my example. People enjoy saying we’re finished,” Rossi told Thusday’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Buffon absolutely must continue, if he wants to. I think he knows if he can still be at the top.
“It’s easier to say that someone’s finished, instead of recognising their balls and whether they still have them.
“There are two types of people: those who appreciate and enjoy someone else’s greatness, and those who are jealous and rub their own inferiority on others.
“In Italy it’s the fashionable thing to do.”
Rossi finished third at the first Grand Prix of the season in Qatar this month as he targets a tenth world title and eighth in the MotoGP category. His last world title was in 2009.
And he insisted he remains as motivated as when he started racing in 1996.
“So many things have remained, I won’t say the same, but similar, especially the desire to drive the bike and that experience when I have a good race, the taste I feel,” he said.
“To go down the track, alone, with your bike is always special. To try to win a race, the world championship.
“In the last few years I have really liked going to the races to work with my team, to give my best from Thursday to Sunday, having put all the little details in place.”