A look at the clubs, some of the stars of Italy’s Euro 2020 now represent the cuts at the heart of the problems facing the national team today.
Captain Giorgio Chiellini, the tournament’s top defender, is now Gareth Bale’s teammate at Los Angeles FC. Lorenzo Insigne, a key man that summer, is at Toronto FC with Federico Bernardeschi, who scored in the shoot-out win over England at Wembley.
Although Major League Soccer has improved greatly in recent years, it still lags far behind top European football.
Italy won at Euro 2020 last year, beating England on penalties at Wembley
A few months later, they shocked North Macedonia in a World Cup play-off
At 38, Chiellini is winding down, while Insigne accepted a £11.5million-a-year deal in Toronto and former Juventus forward Bernardeschi had few buyers in Europe.
None of the trio will be involved when Gareth Southgate’s team tackles the Azzurri in San Siro on Friday.
When three key players are already in MLS, barely a year after becoming European champions, it shows the delicate balancing act Roberto Mancini performed at Euro 2020.
The shocking failure to qualify for the World Cup – the second straight Italy has missed – means that victory at Wembley seems like a moment in time, not the start of a winning cycle.
But if Italy were not really world champions in the summer of 2021, they are not hopeless now either.
The Azzurri felt obliged to stay with Roberto Mancini despite failing Qatar
A much-changed team looked in shambles when they lost 5-2 to Germany in the Nations League
Although they were the better side in the final, the ball ran in Italy’s favor in crucial stages of the knockout wins over Austria, Belgium and Spain, just as it bounced against them in the final World Cup qualifier and then the stunning home defeat against North America. Macedonia in the play-offs in March.
There are many examples, but one is enough: Juventus star Federico Chiesa scored against Austria and Spain and was one of the best strikers of Euro 2020 but missed the play-off due to a serious knee injury he sustained in January, from which he is still alive. still not returned. Italy is not the same without him.
With a major tournament not scheduled to take place until 2024 at the earliest, Mancini has chosen the only possible route once the Italian Football Association decided to stick with him. Take some risks on lesser-known players and hope they can pay him back over the next two years.
So winger Wilfred Gnonto, recently signed for £4million by Leeds, and Federico Gatti, the Juventus centre-back, hadn’t even played in Serie A when they were brought in for the Nations League games this summer, but they’re sitting this year in the selection. time.
Veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini no longer plays for Italy and is now with Los Angeles FC
Chiellini plays alongside Gareth Bale at LAFC after they both joined over the summer
So is Pasquale Mazzocchi, a low-profile right-back who has started the season well for Salernitana.
His name is said to have left England’s coaching staff scratching, as have those of defender Federico Dimarco, forwards Matteo Cancellieri and Alessio Zerbin and midfielder Tommaso Pobega.
However, look a little closer and the picture will be brighter. Dimarco is no Paolo Maldini, but he has broken through at Inter Milan and is a reliable full-back with a super left foot.
Pobega scored for AC Milan in the Champions League last week and Zerbin was featured in Napoli’s victories over Liverpool and Rangers.
Leeds United player Wilfred Gnonto (right), 18, has been called up to Italy’s latest squad
Salernitana right-back Pasquale Mazzocchi (right) has called himself up for the selection
Roma skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini and Napoli pair Matteo Politano and Giacomo Raspadori are very good players.
At times it can feel like Mancini has called up every qualifying player since Italy’s nightmare in North Macedonia, although there’s a strange omission this time.
After two knee injuries, Nicolo Zaniolo has blossomed under Jose Mourinho at Roma and is a powerful, dynamic striker who could mean so much to this team. So where is he?
Zaniolo is only fit again after shoulder problem, while Italian newspaper La Republica speculated that the 23-year-old had been left out as he was filmed last spring targeting an offensive chant at city rival Lazio.
Federico Gatti, the Juventus defender, got his first Italy outing against England
West Ham’s new striker Gianluca Scamacca must prove himself as Italy’s striker
Anyway, if Mancini wants to revive Italy a second time, he must have Zaniolo in the tent.
Some of the senior stars who have stayed since the playoff gaffe are just as important. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, defender Leonardo Bonucci and midfielders Jorginho, Marco Verratti – injured again – and Nicolo Barella should still be there in a few years. If only Italy could find a reliable striker.
West Ham’s Gianluca Scamacca is the latest to earn a crack, but few believe he is the answer.
Donnarumma risks being booed by his own supporters against England, while AC Milan fans are still angry about the way he moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021.
Mancini hopes the rest of his players don’t get the same treatment after another 90 minutes against England.