Italy coach Roberto Mancini should have selected the evergreen Fabio Quagliarella instead of Sebastian Giovinco for the latest Azzurri internationals.
Ukraine in a friendly on Wednesday is the first challenge at hand for the Azzurri before playing Poland away in the UEFA Nations League on Saturday, but the selection of the Toronto FC forward is bizarre.
Not only has Giovinco not played for Italy since 2015 but he has not played in European club football for almost four years. With all due respect to Major League Soccer, it is not of the same standard of the big European leagues or even their South American counterparts.
Giovinco has scored 82 goals and provided 50 assists in 140 competitive games for the Reds but the lack of quality in the competition makes him stand out more. His record for the Azzurri is not impressive reading either, having scored just once and creating another three in 23 games.
The 31-year-old does have different characteristics to some of the other attackers in the squad and can play in a number of roles. He can dribble, he is a dead-ball specialist and he can play as either a winger, attacking midfielder, or support striker.
Despite what he possesses, playing outside of Europe is a concern due to the lack of competitiveness compared to the European based players. If he was playing in another strong European league, his inclusion might not be so concerning, but there are other footballers playing outside of Italy that still feature in better leagues than the MLS.
The likes of Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti and Valencia full-back Cristiano Piccini ply their respective trades in other European leagues so they would be expected to adapt to international football better than Giovinco.
If Mancini wanted an in-form striker, there is one Serie A striker that he has ignored and would be more worthy of selection than the Atomic Ant. Fabio Quagliarella might be 35-years old but Italy’s young strikers are not establishing themselves and those that are meant to be in their primes like Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti have not lived up to expectations in the Azzurri shirt.
Sampdoria tactician Marco Giampaolo was asked if Quagliarella was good enough to still play for Italy and he was more than happy to endorse the veteran after he provided two assists in a 2-1 victory over SPAL in Serie A.
“It would not surprise me because he is a great player, an assist maker, [and] for him it would be an extraordinary gift,” he told Sky Sport Italia in early October.
The 35-year-old scored a career-high 19 goals in the 2017/18 Serie A season and so far in 2018/19 he has found the back of the net twice and provided four assists. He is level with Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo for assists and only Suso from AC Milan has created more with six.
Although he is a different type of player to Giovinco, he can still offer something to the Azzurri. He is a striker that can create something out of nothing, he links-up well with his teammates, knows how to get into the right positions, possesses valuable experience, and he is the captain of his club.
Despite being a disappointment for Italy, Immobile was made the Italian captain by Mancini for the 1-0 defeat to Portugal in September and the Lazio striker played a woeful game. Quagliarella might not have been capped since 2010, but if Immobile can captain the Azzurri, why not the Samp forward?
These are desperate times for the Azzurri and Mancini is still searching for forwards that can provide some inspiration going forward.
Quagliarella might not be anyone’s idea of a long-term solution but when considering the dearth of attacking options, giving him an opportunity is perhaps not the worst thing, especially if you are desperate enough to choose someone from struggling MLS club.