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National Team Rejects: Serie A Edition

In order to continue our story about players who are still looking for a proper shot in their respective national teams, we need to move from England to Appenine Peninsula and visit the Serie A for a while. Lots of controversy was made about Conte’s decision to involve several non-Italian players in Italy squad, but former Juventus tactician justified his actions with the lack of top-flight players. This is the main reason I will turn your attention to a number of footballers who were (unfairly) left out from the list, while also pointing on a name or two that shined in Italy but never recognized from their respective home countries. The fact of the matter is that Italian leading clubs do not offer a wide range of domestic players who could lead gli Azzurri back to the top, but maybe some of those from “lower clubs” could provide a solution in problematic positions.

The first team we should consider is this term’s biggest hit, Sassuolo. I Neroverdi are in the battle to secure a spot in Europe next term, and currently four points behind Milan in the overall standings. Their remarkable performances mostly depend on their two wingers, Domenico Berardi and Nicola Sansone. Domenico Berardi, was on the verge of joining the Old Lady last summer, and if the transfer was realized, he would have a definite chance of going to Euro 2021, but a small club like Sassuolo cannot guarantee him a ticket for France. His displays draw the attention of the Red Devils, and Juventus will have a lot of trouble making him a permanent squad member next summer. However, Conte left him out from the squad in the current warm-up matches, and chances are he will not earn a cap before the end of the European finals. Nicola Sansone, who started his career in Bayern, did earn a single cap for Italy in June 2015, but that was all for the prolific forward. He still remains on the margins, despite being one of Sassuolo’s leaders and he needs to wait for the switch of managers after the forthcoming summer in order to earn a second chance. While still in Modena, Paolo Cannavaro needs to be mentioned. The rock-solid defender had the misfortune to grow up in the shadow of his much more famous brother Fabio. Former Napoli captain and a member of several Serie A simply could not earn a proper chance in Italy, bearing in mind the fact that during his prime time Nesta, Maldini, Materazzi, Iuliano alongside his brother had the advantage.

Alberto Paloschi was Chievo’s top goalscorer in the current season, which earned him a transfer to Swansea City in the Premier League this winter. The attacker netted 44 goals during his spell with the Flying Donkeys, but never earned a cap for the senior team, which comes as a surprise, especially bearing in mind that Italy lacks strength in the centre of attack. Both Cesare Prandelli and Antonio Conte called him up in training camps, but he was always left out in the final reckoning. The former Milan player was a member of all youth national selections, but it seems he never managed to fulfil his full potential, or so thought by Italy managers, which is why he will probably never leave a permanent mark in the seniors.

Leonardo Pavoletti is Genoa’s leading goal scorer this term. The forward joined the Grifone more than a year ago on a loan deal from Sassuolo, but his memorable showings with 6 goals in ten matches forced Genoa’s management to offer him a permanent deal during the summer transfer period. He continued producing after the summer break, netting almost a third of total Genoa’s goals in the Serie A, thus helping his club to retain a respectable position in the overall standings. However, it was not good enough for Conte to even consider giving him a chance in any of the warm-up matches so far, so the striker will most certainly watch the Euro on television this summer.

Empoli’s Riccardo Saponara is a versatile forward, able to contribute both on flanks as well as in the centre of attack. With 5 goals and 9 assists he presents one of the Azzurri’s best performers. Another Milan reject newer earned a proper chance during his two-season spell with the Rossoneri, despite his outstanding potential proven by his displays in Empoli. He was a part of the Azzurrini squad, alongside Borini and Immobile, which lost the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals to Spain (4-2), but did not flourish into a solid senior squad member, as it was expected.

Milan cannot brag about many things this season, considering their poor performances, but the Alessio Romagnoli is one of the bright spots, since he is turning into quite a star. The young center-back is predicted to become a new Nesta in Italian football, confirmed by the €25 million the Rossoneri spent on the talented defender. Why he still waits for the chance in the senior squad is beyond my comprehension, since I firmly believe he is far better than Andrea Ranocchia, for example.

Mattia Perin is one of the rising stars in Italy and we cannot consider him as an actual reject, but the fact is he made a single appearance during his two-year spell in the national team. The biggest problem for Genoa goalkeeper is that Buffon simply refuses to retire, so the young Perin will need to wait for his chance a little while longer. This is not the case with Andrea Consigli, Sassuolo’s goalkeeper who, despite being one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A, will probably never be given a proper chance in the seniors, since Salvatore Sirigu has the advantage.

Talking about the oriundi, te pejorative term used for naturalized players in Italy squad, always caused division among managers and the whole Italian public, since there were pros and cons for them to earn national shirts. Most recent disputes started with Camoranesi, Ovaldo and Motta, but, truth being told, Italy had such footballers in their team since the very beginning. Eder Citadin Martins from Internazionale was well aware he will never manage to make a cap for his home country, since Brazil is filled with quality forwards. However, Antonio Conte decided to make him a permanent member of the Italian squad, having in mind his grandfather was from Nove. Due to the lack of options in attack, Conte closely followed the performance of Eder during his Sampdoria spell, where he scored 40 goals in 112 matches, which was well enough for the former Juventus tactician, despite the fact a number of Italian managers were against it.

It seems that Antonio Conte will drop Pirlo and De Rossi from the Euro squad, which is thought because he issued a call to two players of Brazilian origin instead. Jorginho is producing solid performances for Napoli this term, but, much alike Eder, he is unlikely to earn a cap at Seleccao and, since he spent the entire career on the Apennines, the midfielder will switch his allegiance to gli Azzurri. Fiorentina’s playmaker, Federico Bernardeschi, is a joy to watch, given his technical abilities. Even though he is more Brazilian than Italian, the creative playmaker has been playing for the Azzurrini since 2011 and will present the future of the senior squad, alongside Jorginho.

Franco Vázquez of Palermo is one of the “foreigners” who earned a cap for the Italian national team, despite the fact he was born and raised in Argentina. The fact his mother was from Italy gave Conte the possibility to include Vazquez in the squad during 2015. The attacking midfielder produced solid performances for the Rosanero, but thanks to their below par showings in the current season, he lost a spot in the gli Azzurri team, despite his 5 goals and 7 assists and he will probably miss out the upcoming Euro in France.

When talking about the foreigners who spent, or are spending their prime time it the Italian league, but were never given a proper chance in their respective countries, the first name that pops to my mind is Rodrigo Taddei. The winger was an integral part of Roma squad for several years, but has never been capped by the Brazilian national team. Since he had Italian citizenship, he was also eligible to play for gli Azzurri, and even though he publicly stated that he would accept a call from Italy, the call never came.

It is right to say that Maxi Lopez from Torino had a rather interesting professional path, considering he changed a number of teams throughout his career. The Argentinian forward spent half of his football days in Italy, but was also a member of Barcelona upon his arrival to Europe. Having in mind the outrageous competition for a place in Argentina’s offensive line, he never earned a call from his home country, despite his outstanding displays during the Catania spell. He is also of Italian origin and also prepared to switch his allegiance, but was never considered as a serious candidate for the Italy squad.

Alvaro Morata is one of the Spanish forwards who clearly had the misfortune to play in the era of Fernando Torres, David Villa and Diego Costa, since he is still waiting for a proper chance in la Furia Roja. Even though he started his international career at senior level almost two years ago, he recorded mere six caps since. However, time is working for the young forward, and, taking under consideration Torres and Villa are out of the team, while Diego Costa is having disciplinary issues in his club, Morata could seize the opportunity and book a place in France this summer through warm-up matches.

The fact is that a wide range of football players who were undeservingly left out from their national selections, but I will conclude the topic with a magician who became the oldest player to win the Serie A Top-scorer award, Dario Hubner. The Bisone was a prolific striker with an eye for goal, an incredible finisher, who played in the higher divisions only towards the end of his career.With more than 300 goals on his account, he was a joy to watch during the Serie A prime, at the beginning of the century. However, he never drew the attention of mayor clubs in Italy, nor the attention of the national squad and, personally, I find he should have earned at least a cap for his miraculous showings.

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