Former Torino boss Giampiero Ventura has shown that he is looking towards the future with his recent selections for the Azzurri.
Italian soccer fans have plenty to be excited about when looking at Ventura’s recent selections for the ‘La Nazionale’. Ventura is the first boss in recent memory to give youngsters a chance with the senior side. It is evident that the 69-year old is a man that is not easily influenced by the intense Italian media which has seemingly persuaded coaches in the past. With 15 of the 26 players called up aged 25 and under, Italy’s future is brighter than ever.
While some may argue that Ventura has gotten lucky with his timing, there is no doubt he is committed to allowing Italy’s young stars to grow. In recent times we have seen names like Antonio Conte, Cesare Prandelli, Roberto Donadoni, and Marcello Lippi take control of the bench. Conte assembled quite the impressive side for his only competitive tournament in EURO 2016, while Donadoni was dismissed somewhat prematurely following Italy’s shootout loss to eventual champions Spain in EURO 2008. However, the likes of Prandelli and Lippi saw their squads crumble in their second major tournament because they failed to field and develop young talent when they had the opportunity. Almost every Italian soccer fan can recall the disasters that were World Cup 2010 and World Cup 2014, where on both occasions the Azzurri crashed out in the group stages. In 2010, Lippi fielded the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Fabio Cannavaro and Mauro Camoranesi, all who were easily past their prime. Only three players on the roster were under 25 at the time and it showed with Italy’s lack of fitness as they failed to manage a single victory against the likes of Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia. It was clear that Lippi insisted on carrying over a portion of his team from Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning side and did it ever come back to haunt him. Likewise, in 2014, led by former Viola coach Cesare Prandelli, Italy were eliminated in the group stage after losing 1-0 to the likes of Costa Rica and Uruguay. Again, Prandelli failed to have any real young talent in the roster, and when things went south against Uruguay, all he had on the bench to turn to was a washed up Antonio Cassano. Safe to say both coaches didn’t last much longer after the turmoil the ensued at these tournaments.
Now, lets look at the current situation. Ventura has incorporated a fine platform for the future of the Italian National Team. With an 18 year old superstar keeper in Gianluigi Donnarumma ready to take over following the 2018 World Cup, two young dominate central defenders in Daniele Rugani (22) and Alessio Romagnoli (22) in the wakes, and a variety of fullbacks to choose from, Ventura’s future defense is a scary site for opposing outfits. Meanwhile, Italy possess youngsters by the names of Lorenzo Insigne (25), Manolo Gabbiadini (25), Andrea Belotti (23), Simone Verdi (24) Federico Bernardeschi (23), Matteo Politano (23), and Andrea Petagna (21) who are all brilliant attacking players whom have yet to hit their peak. In midfield, Ventura has the diminutive Paris Saint-Germain technician Marco Verratti (24) and a potential star in the making in Inter’s Roberto Gagliardini (22).
Potential U-25 side based on Ventura’s latest call-ups (4-2-4): Donnarumma (GK), Zappacosta (RB), Rugani (RCB), Romagnoli (LCB), De Sciglio (LB); Gagliardini (CM), Verratti (CM); Bernardeschi (RW), Belotti (ST), Gabbiadini (ST), Insigne (LW).
The most important thing to take away from Ventura’s tenure thus far is that he has found a balance between youth and experience. With the likes of veteran leaders including Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi in the side, the up and coming future of the squad can lean on exceptional role models and learn what it means to wear azzurro.
Although he has faced heavy criticism over his teams previous performances, Giampiero Ventura has shown he is the most forward thinking Azzurri coach in recent memory.