For many years Italy could count on an abundance of talented players to build a team capable of contending for trophies but now the Azzurri do not possess a great threat on the international stage and the lack of world-class players is a concern.
There is a lack of stars in most positions but the part of the team where the Azzurri are struggling the most is in the midfield. Aside from Marco Verratti, there are barely any Italian-born midfielders that clearly stand out and he is probably the best of a weak bunch considering that most of his performances for the national team have been underwhelming.
According to Sky Sport Italia, Italy coach Roberto Mancini is contemplating the selection of Napoli midfielder Allan for the Azzurri and the Brazilian reportedly has some distant Italian ancestry. The 27-year-old already has a Portuguese passport but he has not switched allegiances to Portugal or voiced a desire to play for the Italian national team.
For followers of Italian football, the fact that he has not been selected for his native Brazil has been surprising despite having represented them at Under-20 level. The Napoli midfielder has been one of their lesser-sung heroes since joining from Udinese in 2015, frequently displaying great fight and stamina.
Selecao coach Tite already has a wealth of options in midfield but are players like Arthur from Barcelona, Walace from Hannover in Germany, and Renato Augusto from Beijing Sinobo Guoan in China that much better, if at all, than Allan?
The Partenopei player might be a handy addition to the Brazilian national team and he would probably walk into the Italian one due to the predicament the Azzurri find themselves in.
If Mancini is eager to cap Allan and the Brazilian is more than willing to switch allegiances, Italy would be adding another quality midfielder to the squad. There is no clear heir to Gennaro Gattuso or Daniele De Rossi in the defensive midfielder role and the Napoli midfielder would provide some much-needed drive in the middle of the park.
Regardless of if the 27-year-old chooses to represent Italy or not, questions must be raised about the standard of the Italian midfielders. Azzurri coaches have had a habit for picking oriundi for many decades and the Brazilian-born Jorginho is one of the first names picked in the current team but the scarceness of players from the peninsula itself makes it hard to create a competitive side.
Looking at the midfielders that have been selected by Mancini for the matches against Ukraine on Wednesday and Poland on Saturday, hardly any stand out as household names or world-beaters.
The aforementioned Verratti and Jorginho are in there but AC Milan midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura is a player that is good on his day and does not replicate his best football often enough, Nicolo Barella is a promising youngster with great feet but a move from his native Cagliari might provide a better indicator of his ability, Lorenzo Pellegrini has shown that he is a better trequartista than a box-to-box midfielder, and defensive midfielder Roberto Gagliardini has not lived up to expectations since moving from Atalanta to Inter.
There are midfielders that have been selected in previous squads and they either do not suit the 4-3-3 that Mancini has been implementing or they need to improve their game.
Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante has not established himself at his new club yet but he played his best football as an advanced player at Atalanta where he was able to make late runs into the box and score goals.
Marco Benassi was a regular in the Italy Under-21 squad but he has not been capped for the senior squad despite earning selection. The Fiorentina player is great at making late runs in the box but someone in his position probably does not do enough work defensively.
His former Torino teammate Daniele Baselli is another midfielder who should be taking the next step. The 26-year-old can pass the ball around and also score some superb goals but he is another player that suffers from a lack of consistent performances at club level.
There are a few players in the Azzurrini such as Rolando Mandragora, Alessandro Murgia, and Manuel Locatelli that have potential but they need to become less timid and also help their respective club sides exceed expectations.
While results have been unimpressive under Mancini, the performances have been worse, and it is hard to pinpoint when Italy will find the light at the end of the tunnel and become a feared football team again.
Italian clubs need to be producing more local stars and the midfield in particular needs to be seriously addressed. Azzurri coaches looking outside of Italy for players is not a new phenomenon so the likes of Allan and Jorginho will be under consideration if players from the Italian peninsula are not at their best or not being developed properly.