Italy Has Young Talent and a Lot of It

Danny PenzaSenior Writer IJanuary 22, 2009

I recently found my way onto an article discussing the way Italian clubs handle their youngsters on the London Free Press website, entitled “Failure to develop young stars will come back to kick Italy.”

The author brought up a few valid points in the piece, saying that calcio is becoming more and more a foreign game.

Inter Milan’s roster looks like a roundtable at the United Nations, and AC Milan seem to be on a mission to sign any Brazilian who has some kind of talent.

However, the league he compares Serie A to is the English Premier League—not exactly filled with 100-percent domestic players either. In fact, England is probably filled with more foreign players than Italy is.

The author points out two of the most-known youngsters in the Italian game who have been affected by this: Juve’s Sebastian Giovinco and Inter’s Mario Balotelli.

But that’s the problem—he only concentrated on two players. That doesn’t mean that Italy doesn’t develop any kind of talent coming up in its system, as this author claims.

There is plenty of other young talent at mid-to-lower ranking Serie A clubs, and a good portion of them are owned by the bigger clubs in Italy.

What the big three in Italy prefer to do is to send their youngsters out on loan to lower level Serie A or to the better Serie B sides to gain first-team experience to prove to their clubs the weekly grind of Italian football.

Giovinco went on loan last season along with teammate Claudio Marchisio at Empoli. Now Marchisio is one of Juve’s most consistent players and he is one of the stars of Italy’s Under-21 side. Even Giovinco has now featured for Juve more times than even his idol Alessandro Del Piero did in his rookie year, and it’s only midway through the season.

It’s true however, that he currently trains every single day with some of the best strikers in Serie A, (Del Piero, Amauri, David Trezeguet, and Vincenzo Iaquinta). You can see how the youngster would have trouble finding consistency with such competition.

Obviously the Azzurri are not very deep in their attack at the moment, but Italy has never been known to pump out players at that position than say Brazil or Argentina has.

But he loses me when he says, “You need look no farther than the trouble the Italians are in when they are missing Andrea Pirlo. It's a sad statement when Pirlo is the best the Italians can offer.”

Unfortunately for the writer, his point has no validity considering Pirlo is one of the best midfielders in the game. He makes it sound like he is just some hack who barely gets any playing time in Serie C. As any knowledgeable football fan knows, this certainly isn’t the case. Pirlo is in a class where only few reside.

But Italy manager Marcelo Lippi will have plenty of options to replace the Milan midfielder once he steps away from international play.

Just take a look at the options at Roma. They have two of the best midfielders in all of Italy, Daniele De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani. They are 25 and 24 years old respectively and are closing in on milestone appearance numbers.

His final line of “As the 2010 World Cup approaches, some of that Italian talent must get a chance to develop or the tournament may be as disastrous as Italy's 2008 European Cup campaign” is quite the contrary to what is actually happening.

The Italy U-21 squad is as competitive as anybody in every tournament they participate in.

Take the 2008 Summer Olympics as case in point. Unlike Brazil and Argentina, Italy didn’t bring in any overaged stars. Manager Pierluigi Casiraghi only brought in then-30-year-old Tommaso Rocchi of Lazio.

Not exactly in the same class as others like Ronaldinho, Leo Messi, or Diego who were brought in by their respective countries.

However, the Azzurrini were still competitive in the tournament, taking the top in their group and reaching the quarterfinals before losing an extremely competitive 3-2 decision to Belgium.

So while many outsiders look at Italy’s senior squad as getting older, the fact of the matter is that it’s just a matter of time before the elder statesmen are replaced by the youngsters who will continue in the tradition of winning at the highest level.

The bottom line is that Roberto Donadoni’s attachment to Milan last summer drove him in the wrong direction and now Italy’s status has suffered. Lippi will likely not make the mistake of bringing over aged players to the big show in 2010.

Maybe before accusing Italy of neglecting its youth one should look to the league it is using as a point of comparison.

Mere months ago UEFA President Michel Platini had to pass a rule impeding English clubs consistent pillaging of European youth. The example he made? Chelsea’s outlandish attempt at landing Sebastian’s little brother, Giuseppe Giovinco.

The author made a simple mistake of focusing on two players that hit headlines for having generated interest abroad but clearly knows few other young Italian starlets.

Remember, the star of Italy’s Euro 2008 campaign last summer was the youngest player on its roster—Giorgio Chiellini.