x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Prandelli must ride the patriotic wave of big Italian clubs

The summer transfer market has brought into Italy's top-flight a lower number than usual of foreign stars to take up club first XI places.

Italy's national football team coach Cesare Prandelli. FABIO MUZZI / AFP
Italy's national football team coach Cesare Prandelli. FABIO MUZZI / AFP

A couple of days before the final of the last European Championship final, Cesare Prandelli spoke to small group of reporters about the challenges of his job.

The Italy coach had concerns. Some would be shared by national team coaches across the world, notably the pre-eminence of club football at the expense of country-versus-country competition. "People only speak about AC Milan, or Juventus most of the time in Italy," he said.

"In Spain, England and Germany, they have strong reserve leagues for younger players. Italy needs to produce more of our own."

Well, here's some good news for Prandelli. The summer transfer market has brought into Italy's top-flight a lower number than usual of foreign stars to take up club first XI places. At the weekend, AC Milan had 10 Italians in their starting line-up, more than they had fielded in any Serie A match since 1994-95.

And it is important that, despite the 4-0 defeat in the Euro 2012 final against Spain, Prandelli maintains the momentum that Italy's stirring progress to that final gathered around the Azzurri, starting this Friday against Bulgaria in World Cup qualifying.

Italy's problem as a national side over the last decade has been its tendency to lurch between embarrassing early exits (Euro 2004, World Cup 2010) and medals (World Cup 2006 and Euro 2012). Prandelli is in a position to lay strong foundations, and harness the new, patriotic leanings of some of the bigger clubs.

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