BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble praised Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday for his efforts to reform his country and expressed hope that he would continue to play an important role in Italian politics even if he loses a referendum on Sunday.

"If I understand correctly, (Renzi) has said that if the referendum doesn't pass then he will step down. But he did not say that he would leave politics," Schaeuble told a foreign policy conference in Berlin.

"I hope that even if it fails, and I've seen the opinion polls, that he will then try to push Italy forward through other means," Schaeuble said.

He added that if he were Italian he would vote in favour of the referendum even though he is from a different political party than Renzi.

(Reporting by Noah Barkin)