As Italian football continues to reel from their catastrophic failure to qualify for the World Cup, it appears things are not going so well at the youth level either.
Picture this, a mighty footballing nation such as Italy only has four listed in the CIES top 100 Under-21 players. Meanwhile, the French have three in the top 10 and two Germans make the cut.
It must be said that Gianluigi Donnarumma, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Federico Chiesa were placed 12th, 13th and 14th respectively, but the resounding evidence is clear – there is a major problem in the youth development pipeline.
Out of the 100 players, 28 ply their trade in the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga has 24, Germany’s Bundesliga with 19 while Italy’s Serie A has 15.
11 out of the 15 top U-21 players in Italy are not Italian, which will again raise questions as to why Italian clubs trust foreign youth so much more than the native Italians. The topic of youth development in Italy has been thrust into the forefront in recent weeks after the defeat against Sweden. Many now see the need to place caps on the amount of foreign players on the rosters in order to give more Italian youngsters a chance – an issue which has been hotly contested.
The French, Spanish and Germans have flooded European football with talent the past decade and have collectively left Italians in the dust. With such a tiny portion of the players listed Italian, the conversation needs to begin on why the system has crashed and why so many U-17 to U-21 players cannot make the leap to first team quality.