Speaking ahead of Roma’s Europa League tie with Villarreal in a recent interview on Italian Football Show Ultimo Uomo (The Last Man), Federico Fazio spoke of his regrets of not representing the Argentinian National team in a competitive match and opened the door to a possible call up with La Nazionale. But should Fazio play for Italy?
On loan from Tottenham Hotspur, the 29 year old Centre Back has been in fantastic form for Roma this season. Fazio has been a rock at the heart of the Giallorissi’s defence this term, whether playing in the middle of a four or three at the back. Roma have been a joy to watch going forward in recent seasons, however, their defensive abilities have often let them down.
Spalletti’s men now boast the best defence in Serie A outside of leaders Juventus and the towering 6’5″ Il Comandante has played a huge part in Roma’s chase of the Bianconeri this season. This is in stark contrast to his time at Spurs the previous year. Having struggled with a number of poor performances in England, Fazio failed to impress fellow countryman Mauricio Pochettino resulting in a loan deal that has no doubt served both parties well. Spurs have pushed on again this year while Fazio has rediscovered the form that saw him become a two time Europa League winner with Sevilla, even managing to get himself on the scoresheet, his first goal in Serie A, in Roma’s recent 4-0 defeat of Fiorentina. Despite all this, Fazio does have one regret;
“I regret not having the opportunity to prove myself with Argentina. The important thing is to always look to the future for the national team…who knows, even for the Italian”
The dual-nationality conundrum rears it’s head yet again. It’s now the norm not only in modern day Football, but in the vast majority of sports, where athletes represent their National team despite not growing up in that country. A Passport or hereditary link to the nation in question is enough to qualify to play for your country.
Despite the very Italian name, Federico Fazio was born in Buenos Aires and started his career with Argentine side Ferro Carril Oeste’s youth team, before breaking into their first. He has represented Argentina at under 20 level 13 times and was an integral part of the side that won the Fifa Under 20 World Cup in 2007 prior to making his full Sevilla debut in 2008 (having moved to Europe to represent Sevilla’s B’ team in 2007). As well as this, Fazio has also represented Argentina on the way to La Albiceleste winning Gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Fazio is an Argentinian and clearly, playing for Argentina is his first choice, his dream. He has been capped three times by the full Argentinian National Team, once in 2011 and twice in 2014. But these came in uncompetitive friendlies, still making him eligible to play for another International side. Fazio already possesses an Italian Passport, making him eligible to play for Italy, much like many other Argentinians have. This is nothing new, there are many South Americans or Oriundi (an immigrant of Italian descent but born outside of the country) who have the same dual nationality. Javier Zanetti is perhaps the greatest Argentinian/Italian to have played the game and who can forget Mauro Camoranesi who helped Italy to World Cup Glory in 2006. Culturally Italians and Argentinians are very similar. This makes sense since Italians immigrated to Argentina prior and post Second World War. Due to Italy’s economic recovery towards the end of the 20th Century, this migration process was reversed. Another Argentine Oriundi to have recently worn the shirt for the Azzurri is Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, while Thiago Motta and Eder, both Brazilian, played for Italy during Euro 2016. In fact in the last 96 years, over 60 Oriundi have returned to Italy with over 40 of them having played for La Nazionale.
Whatever people’s take on the subject of who should be eligible to play for their Country, where they were brought up, whether Italy is indeed his first or second choice…Federico Fazio is eligible. He wouldn’t be the first and certainly won’t be the last Oriundi to represent Italy if Gian Piero Ventura were to include him in future squads. Italy’s tactician has switched from a back three to a back four in recent games for the Azzurri, mirroring the same style he used successfully with Torino. Fazio has shown this season that he is more than comfortable in either formation, with Roma switching between systems during games;
“I’m happy playing in a back three or a back four which becomes a three when we’re in possession”
On this campaigns showing, it is hard to argue that anyone in the form Fazio is in doesn’t deserve an International call up. However, Italy are already blessed with the Juventus trio of Bonnuci, Chiellini and Barzagli at their disposal. However, with Barzagli getting on in years (and having already been persuaded out of International Retirement last summer by Ventura) as well as the injury troubles Chiellini has suffered this campaign, the Azzurri lack experienced heads to fill the void. So far Ventura has looked to Italy’s younger talents with Alessio Romagnoli and Daniele Rugani, both of whom have impressed in the handful of caps between them so far, along with the emergence of the likes of Mattia Caldara, with all three being predicted to have bright long futures with the Azzurri. However, besides the likes of Davide Astori and Angelo Ogbonna, Italy lack highly experienced centre backs, certainly those (including Astori and Ogbonna) in the form Fazio has shown this season, who can step up to the plate to replace the BBC when needed.
On old fashioned principle alone, Fazio should not be given a call up. If his comments above are anything to go by, Italy is his second choice and some will feel, rightly or wrongly, that there should be only one choice to make and that Italy should never be anyone’s second choice. However, there is no doubt that on this form alone, coupled with his eligibility, Fazio would make a useful squad member for the Azzurri. If he can keep this form up and not revert to the Fazio who struggled at Tottenham then it will at least give Ventura something to think about.