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New season, new faces for the Azzurri

With the World Cup in the mirror, the Azzurri can finally begin on their path to becoming an international powerhouse once again.

Giorgio Chiellini coined it best last November after Italy was stunned by Sweden, saying “this defeat is really going to hurt more when we’re watching the World Cup from the couch.” He was right. On top of everything else that comes with missing out on performing on the globe’s biggest stage, a massive void was left by a slew of retiring international players.

A new captain, a new coach and a new, humble mindset are the three things that glare about this new Italy outfit. Gone are the days of having world champions take the field and having the swagger of being one of the premier national teams in the world.

It’s time to clear the decks and start anew. New boss Roberto Mancini has showed he is willing to call up the youngsters needed to rebuild the side.

One in particular is Nicolo Zaniolo, the 19-year-old Roma attacking midfielder who hasn’t even made his debut in Serie A. Zaniolo possesses many positive traits and dispatched a strong UEFA Euro Under-19 tournament, in which Italy finished runners-up to Portugal. In addition, he was named by UEFA in the team of the tournament, along with Moise Kean, Raoul Bellanova, Alessandro Plizzari, Davide Bettella and Sandro Tonali. The aforementioned players all have moved onto more senior level teams since the tournament.

Then there’s Pietro Pellegri, the 17-year-old striker who was called up but forced to withdraw due to injury after being declared unfit to train this week. The Genova born forward was sold to AS Monaco in January as a 16-year-old for a mind-boggling €21 million.

These are all teenagers who are compiling one of the country’s most (raw) talented generations in decades. Not to mention a whole host of other names that are showing true signs of potential.

The Next Starting XI

Any of these players could receive their first senior Azzurri call this season, if they have not already. While playing time may be an issue and space so scarce on the national set up, I wouldn’t exclude anybody from making a surprise leap to the top.

One player who has already made his way to the senior side, Nicolo Barella, believes that the Under-19 team that made it to the Euro finale has several players who deserve a shot at the higher ranks.

“This summer, I followed the Under-19 National Team’s matches at the European Championship. I saw lots of good players. There are quality guys out there and they’re ready to make the step up,” Barella said. “Us young players must look to improve and raise the standard.”

While Barella may be the “New-Verratti” in terms of hype, the 21-year-old decided to take a more humbling path by remaining in Cagliari instead of seeking a high profile move this summer in order to secure more playing time.

Mancini has little to lose and much to game by being courageous and giving the youngsters a go. Calling Pellegri and Zaniolo gives much reason to believe to the teenagers that their Azzurri dream may be right around the corner. To the fans, this gives reason to believe this decade-long nightmare may be finally over.



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