As Serie A prepares to come out of lockdown and complete the 2019/20 season, the last of our series looking at players outside of the peninsula covers both the Netherlands and Portugal, which did not have an Italian representative until the late-nineties.
First to take the plunge were Vitesse of the Eredivisie in 1997, signing Marco De Marchi from Bologna. The defender had won Serie B twice and Serie C with the Rossoblu, but was arguably better known as a 1993 UEFA Cup winner with Juventus.
Despite making 43 league appearances with the Arnhem-based club during three seasons in the Netherlands, De Marchi remained the sole Italian representative until departing for Dundee in Scotland.
Although replaced by countryman Paolo Ramora, who joined Roda JC from Salernitana in the summer of 2000, his two years in the Netherlands were quickly forgotten, after making just four appearances and heading home.
During De Marchi final year at Vitesse, the Liga NOS were welcoming the first Italian into the Portuguese top-flight, as midfielder Ivone De Franceschi was sent on loan to Sporting Clube from Venezia for the 1999/00 campaign.
Across town, Lisbon rivals Benfica were quick to follow them into the Italian market, signing former Sampdoria defender Emanuele Pesaresi, also on loan, from Lazio two years later, but couldn’t convince the club to make his stay permanent.
Although another temporary arrival, Fabrizio Miccoli’s time with the Eagles from 2005 to 2007 was far more successful and remains the best Italian import to Liga NOS.
Unwanted at Juventus despite starting to star in Serie A with Perugia and Fiorentina, the attacker was loved by the Benfica fans, particularly after a stunning acrobatic volley to knock Champions League holders Liverpool out at the Last 16 stage.
As Palermo outbid the Lisbon club to take Miccoli home in 2007, the Netherlands finally had an Italian beginning to shine in front of goal with Graziano Pelle using the Eredivisie to reignite a career that had stalled in Italy.
During four years at AZ, the striker may have netted just 16 times, but increased his profile by winning the 2009 league title with the club. However, after a failed return to Italy with Parma and Sampdoria, headed back to the Netherlands where 55 goals in 65 appearances in all competitions convinced Southampton to pay €8m for his services.
High performing Italians in the Eredivisie were in short supply, though, with Luca Caldirola rarely used at Vitesse during the 2010/11 campaign, as was fellow Inter loanee Andrea Mei when sent to VVV Venlo a year after.
Back in Portugal, Braga signed Tommaso Berni from Lazio. After appearing just once for the Braguistas, the goalkeeper is probably considered another failed Italian experiment, however, the next decade with Sampdoria, Torino and Inter brought just three more professional outings.
Algarve-based Olhanense then decided to hedge their bets with Italian trio Mirko Bigazzi, Mario Sampirisi and Federico Dionisi arriving on loan for the 2013-13 season. Eight goals in 24 from Dionisi displaying the ability that would later help Frosinone to Serie A, but not keep him in Liga NOS.
Then came the curious case of AC Milan midfielder Bryan Cristante who, somewhat surprisingly, joined Benfica for €5m on the final day of the 2014 summer transfer window, yet spent most of his four-year contract back on loan in Italy.
As Cristante headed to Portugal, Ghanian-born Italy youth international Kingsley Boateng was being released by the Rossoneri and moved to Dutch side NAC Breda, but could not settle away from his adopted home.
While a youthful Cristante moving to Lisbon was a surprise, Sporting CP offering an out-of-contract and injury-prone Alberto Aquilani a €1m-a-year contract was mind blowing, as was the signing of fellow free agent Ezequiel Schelotto in some eyes.
As the Azzurri duo became Portugal’s last Italian representatives, Sassuolo loanees Gianluca Scamacca and Alessandro Tripaldelli were making Eredivisie debuts with PEC Zwolle in September 2018, but are very much at the start of promising professional careers.
Neither the Eredivisie or Liga NOS, though, look obvious pathways for future success in Serie A or continental Europe for others to actively seek to follow.