Five of our writers give their opinions on whether Sebastian Giovinco should be recalled to the Italian national team.
In order to understand the reason as to why this is such a hot topic of debate, we need to first understand a few basic facts.
There are many factions in this debate and it’s a very important battle in many different ‘war’s’. There are MLS fans who are trying to prove that the league has the players and quality to keep sending their stars to premier national teams. There are also people who believe the generation of 5-6 years ago needs to be completely scrapped. And then there are others who just believe Giovinco doesn’t have what it takes. In my eyes, Giovinco’s time with the Nazionale came and went.
Another fact we have to acknowledge is that Seba left Serie A to come to MLS at the prime of his career, knowing that he’d be on the outside looking in. He’s claimed the league as his own, and has been undoubtedly MLS’ best player.
For me, Giovinco’s time with the Azzurri is over. He had 23 games to prove his worth under different coaching regimes and managed to score only one goal. Many people forget this, but Giovinco was supposed to be the new Italian talent that would link up the battle-hardened midfield of Marchisio, De Rossi and Pirlo to Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi. Giovinco was supposed to be the new Totti – it never happened. When you score one goal in 23 matches in international play, and eerily similar numbers with Juventus in both the Champions League and Europa League, I’m sorry, it’s simply not good enough.
The parallels that MLS fanatics are trying to draw between Giovinco and David Villa, who recently was called up to the Spain side at the age of 35, are unfounded. David Villa was the world’s purest striker for several years who was a part of the Spanish golden era. He was the catalyst behind Spain’s total domination from 2008-2012. Giovinco, was not.
The Azzurri have to move on. There are countless young talents who need and deserve a shot at making their mark for the Italy setup. If the four-time World Cup winners are ever going to make an impact at a major tournament again, they have to look forward, not behind.
The case of Sebastian Giovinco missing out on another Italy call up is one that I do not find surprising, given Gian Piero Ventura’s inclination to disregard Major League Soccer as lower competition and pick players in European leagues. It’s a strange back and forth to wrestle with: Giovinco is one of the top two players in MLS. He is the fourth-leading scorer with 15 goals in 22 matches, behind Nemanja Nikolic and Diego Valeri (16), and David Villa (19). He also has six assists, third most of those four behind Nikolic and Villa (nine). While Giovinco is one of the league’s best, and deserves full credit for that, the league is not at the competitive level that Serie A, La Liga, the Premier League, Ligue 1, or the Bunesliga are. One can debate how good MLS is as a league, and it certainly has its merits, but the fact is that it is not the same league as others. This is not to discredit Giovinco, as much as Ventura may use it to.
MLS aside, it is hard to continually make the case to not even give Giovinco the chance in camp. The forwards that Ventura have called up for the next World Cup Qualifiers are: Andrea Belotti, Ciro Immobile, Eder, and Manolo Gabbiadini.
He also called up Lorenzo Insigne, Stephan El Shaarawy, Federico Bernadeschi, and Antonio Candreva, who play in an attacking role. Looking at the four forwards alone: Belotti has locked down his spot for a while, Ciro Immobile scored 23 goals in Serie A last season, and Manolo Gabbiadini has played well since making the move to the Premier League.
But I find it very hard to argue that Eder deserves that spot more so than Giovinco does. Eder has done nothing special in recent months, while Giovinco has proven consistently he is one of the best players in his league. Meanwhile, if you move to the attackers, how does Candreva get the call while Giovinco stays at home? While they are in different positions, you can make the same case: Giovinco proves how special he is in MLS every match, while Candreva has in no way turned in a better performance.
Other players in the Italian player pool in the forward position that can be selected include Mario Balotelli, Graziano Pelle, Gianluca Lapadula, Simeone Zaza, etc. In my mind, here it becomes nearly impossible to argue any of these players would come close to deserving it more than Giovinco.
Giovinco may not play in the world’s top league, but he plays who is in front of him, and plays out of his mind every week. He has done nothing to count himself out of consideration for a spot in the national team camp and deserves respect and recognition from the manager for what he is: one of the best-performing players in the pool week in and week out. He is not a fringe player: not while a player like Eder is somehow in front of him. Ventura needs to give him the chance. Villa is getting a chance with Spain, a better team than Italy. Why should Giovinco be left out any longer? #GiovINco
Should Sebastian Giovinco have a starting spot on Gian Piero Ventura’s Italian national team? Probably not. Should Seba, however, be at least given the opportunity to show that he can translate his current form to the national team in some way? Undeniably, yes.
These are the precious years leading up to the World Cup in which a coach must structurize the best possible team to win. As a coach, to not give Giovinco a call-up- a player who is currently and, for the past three seasons, lighting a league on fire- is a sin. Of course, Italian football is politics. Could you imagine an Italian player finding the form of his life outside of Italy and doing well? Nonsense! Gio being called up could give other young Italian players ideas of leaving Serie A which could weaken and drain the league in FIGC’s eyes. The FIGC couldn’t handle an outcast mixing in with Serie A players and potentially outshining them- especially someone they cast out in the first place.
There is no doubting Giovinco’s talent. He was seemingly made MLS look like a playground for him at times and has shown that he is a MVP type caliber player in North America. However, I can see why Gian Piero Ventura has hesitated calling Giovinco to join up with the Azzurri. Although Giovinco does possess more talent than the likes of Eder and even Ciro Immobile, he simply does not have the work rate that Ventura is looking for in his squad. Despite this, it is hard to ignore what he has done in MLS the past two seasons. The logical explanation for his exclusion from the national team is that Ventura believes Giovinco is succeeding at a lower level of competition and his success will not equate when it comes to competing against other European powerhouses on the international level.
On the other hand, Giovinco has a built himself a solid case in terms of being selected for Ventura’s Azzurri squad. Despite missing time with injury earlier this season, Giovinco has been on fire since his return. Scoring free kick after free kick and making plays with his feet that leave viewers awe. Despite his small stature, the atomic ant always seems to find his way to goal and has been excellent at drawing fouls in striking distance. There is no reason to think that the 30 year old could not play a prominent bench role for Ventura’s squad. With Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile ahead of him on the depth chart, Giovinco has the ability to play a prominent role as a substitute who can make things happen late in matches.
Ultimately, I can understand why Giovinco has yet to be called since Ventura has taken over as head coach. There are many politics involved with him playing in MLS and Ventura’s idea of how he wants to play. However, based on talent and skill alone there is no reason why Giovinco shouldn’t be able to earn a call up for the Azzurri.
Since landing in Toronto two years ago, Sebastian Giovinco’s set Major League Soccer ablaze with his pint-sized stature, inducing endless amounts of trickery, flair and set-piece magic. A strong case can be made about the former Parma spark plug being the league’s best player since settling in ‘the Six’, however, despite impressing at every turn in North America, he has just two international appearances to show for it.
First, former Azzurri boss Antonio Conte shunned the 30-year old from his Euro 2016 roster, along with Andrea Pirlo – also plying his trade in MLS with New York City FC. Gian Piero Ventura has followed the pragmatic Chelsea coach’s strict policy of excluding those playing outside Europe from his plans. Do I believe playing in an inferior league, talent wise, and dominating should be taken with a grain of salt? Absolutely, but what Giovinco’s done for Toronto FC cannot be understated.
One impressive display after another, Giovinco’s gaudy goal and assist outputs indicate that he is arguably the MLS’ top player, and be that as it may, it shouldn’t be ignored. Sure, Giovinco is playing in league notoriously poor defensively, but he is dominating in all facets of the game. Andrea Belotti, Ciro Immobile remain the top strikers for Italy; the two play extremely well together. Assuming we consider Giovinco in a wide role, Ventura is well stocked with Insigne, Candreva, El Shaarawy and Bernadeschi.
Plus, there are four wingbacks on the current squad, and Giovinco does not boast the defensive qualities to cover in this role. Essentially, Giovinco’s role would be nothing more than a third or fourth forward replacing Gabbiadini or Eder. But, the former starts for Southampton in the Premier League and has shown to be a threat from deep with his lethal left foot, while the latter is a mixed bag but still turns up on occasion for club and country. That being said, Giovinco should still be in contention for the National Team as a deep bench option, but Ventura altering his selection criteria this deep into his tenure – and World Cup qualifying – is unlikely. An injury to one of the four forwards is Giovinco’s only passageway into the Azzurri picture.