x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

All of a sudden, the Italian football market is flooded with talent

The recent signings of Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi to Serie A teams has Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli happier than ever, writes Ian Hawkey.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli showed some excitement about recent Serie A signings during a press conference on Tuesday. Gabriele Maltinti / Getty Images
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli showed some excitement about recent Serie A signings during a press conference on Tuesday. Gabriele Maltinti / Getty Images

Even in the age of austerity, trade flourishes.

Although the season began with Serie A worrying about its long-term ability to compete in the market for the most talented footballers, Italy's clubs can now afford to feel tentatively satisfied with the newcomers happy to call it their home.

Consider this: by the time of the next World Cup finals, it is plausible that Spain and Italy's national sides might both be spearheaded by Italy-based forwards. Maybe France, too, will be unleashing a gifted young Serie A striker by then.

For much of his time in charge of the Azzurri, Italy's manager Cesare Prandelli has felt his ideal striking partnership would be formed by Mario Balotelli, who joined AC Milan from England's Manchester City last week, and Giuseppe Rossi, who signed for Fiorentina from Spain's Villarreal last month.

Expect Prandelli to be a regular visitor to Tuscany from March when Rossi, still recovering from the cruciate ligament injury he sustained last April, is expected to make his Fiorentina debut. Rossi's injury kept out of Euro 2012, and he is eager to make up for that disappointment.

As for Balotelli, his homecoming could hardly have been more emphatic. After only one English Premier League goal in the last five months, he has two from the first 90 minutes of his Milan career.

He should win his 17th cap for his country on Wednesday night against Holland, well aware his impressive showings at last summer's European Championship have turned him into a senior figure in the national squad's set-up.

Milan, naturally, made a fanfare of Balotelli's capture for around €22 million (Dh109m), and were thrilled with his match-winning contribution in Sunday's 2-1 win over Udinese, where he featured in a young and lively forward line.

Mbaye Niang was its junior member. The Frenchman is still a teenager but if his excellent potential develops quickly, he could very well be in France's senior squad in 12 months' time.

Fernando Llorente, who has just signed a deal that will make him a Juventus striker as of June, is already well established in the Spain national team.

If Llorente brings his many assets to bear in Serie A, Juve will not look on in envy at Milan's capture of Balotelli or their foresight in scouting Niang.

Nor will the Italian top flight fret too much about being the place the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wesley Sneijder chose to leave, because it will be the environment some notable young talent has elected to grow up in.

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