Italy coach Roberto Mancini is lamenting the lack of Italian players in Serie A and he is now learning the consequences of not playing enough of them while he was coaching Inter at club level.
The Azzurri play Poland on Friday and then Portugal on Monday in the inaugural UEFA Nations League but the lack of experienced players has prompted the 53-year-old to focus on youth, including 19-year-old Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo, who is yet to make his Serie A debut.
Although there have been a few starlets emerging in the last couple of the seasons, there still are not enough earning playing time in the eyes of Mancini.
“I don’t remember a time when there were so few Italians playing,” the Italy coach said in his press conference on Monday.
“Certain young players that are on the bench are better than some of the foreign players that are starting.
“In the National youth teams, there are plenty of impressive youngsters and a good 19-year-old should be playing in Serie A.
“In other countries, the young players play. They have the courage to put them on the pitch. We must find some courage to play them and let’s hope that they are given more space over time.”
To say that Serie A clubs need to have the courage to play youngsters is hypocritical of him because he failed to do that in two stints with Inter. He is basically telling his club counterparts to do as he said, not as he used to do.
Although he was not obligated to play Italians with the Biscione, he should have given more playing opportunities while he was there, especially during his second stint when the squad was not as strong as it was in the 2000s.
Mancini was the coach Inter in their infamous 3-1 victory against Udinese in Round 35 of the 2015/16 Serie A season. This match has gone down in history as the first Italian league game in which neither side had one Italian player in the starting line-up and he had the opportunity to stop that from happening but he didn’t.
Former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni responded to Mancini’s comments on a radio interview by saying that the new Azzurri tactician is doing nothing more than look out for his own interests.
“The words of Mancini on the few Italians available are a part of him playing his part,” Donadoni told Radio 24.
“I have been a club coach and a national team selector and it is normal that if the one who takes the role of the national team wants more Italians and if the one who takes the role of a club coach picks who he believes are the best.”
It would not be surprising if the 20 Serie A coaches are thinking along the same lines of Donadoni, prioritising their club’s interests and their own careers instead of worrying about just providing players for the Italian national team.
Why should they worry about Mancini when they have to worry about themselves? Moral obligations? National pride?
When Mancini returned to Inter, the club had issues with Financial Fair Play, but he still demanded that money had to be spent in the transfer market to improve the quality of the squad. If the patriot in him was that eager to see more starlets emerge, he could have done something at Inter but he didn’t.
He criticised Antonio Conte in March 2015 for selecting oriundi like Eder and Franco Vazquez but he ended up coaching Eder at club level.
“The Italian national team must be Italian,” Mancini said at a conference in March 2015.
“Those who aren’t born in Italy but have distant relatives shouldn’t be called up, that’s my opinion.”
In hindsight, those comments sound more hypocritical than ever. Not only did he rarely select Italians during his reigns at Inter, he created history for the wrong reasons in that Udinese fixture in 2016, and he has selected Italo-Brazilian defender Emerson Palmieri for his latest Azzurri squad.
It would be different if Mancini had addressed what he did at Inter was hurtful for the national team and said that the current Serie A coaches should learn from his mistakes and be bold when it comes to playing kids instead of constantly looking towards the transfer market.
There might not be enough Italians gaining playing time at club level but Mancini was no better than the other club coaches when he was with the Nerazzurri.