It seems to be their fate whenever the search begins for a scapegoat. When the finger-pointing starts after a poor Azzurri display, you can be sure they are in the firing line. If in doubt, blame it on the creative ones.
History shows this has always been the case. From the ludicrous staffetta between Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera to the critiques of Roberto Baggio, via the doubts expressed over Giancarlo Antognoni and Giuseppe Giannini, they have continually been called into question. On Friday night in Sofia, it was Sebastian Giovinco's turn.
In the interests of objectivity, it is only fair to say the Juve man did not perform well. But it seemed a little harsh to single him out from an overall team performance that was more disappointing than a spaghetti carbonara swimming in cream. He could hardly hold sole responsibility.
Yet the general consensus was that he underperformed and, I confess, I was as guilty as anyone. Via Twitter I dubbed him the Formica Anonima – the Anonymous Ant – my feeble attempt to make a funny play on words out of his nickname. Sometimes, when a game is particularly dull, I stoop to such things.
On reflection, however, it was harsh on the former Parma man. Cesare Prandelli was much more expert in his defence of his player. He might have been constantly on his case during the game, but in the post-match Press conference he was quick to dismiss any talk of individual failure. Players must appreciate that sort of support.
The trouble, of course, is that the little forward has been here before. He was ditched by Juventus when he seemed unable to cope with the demands of Serie A and banished to Emilia-Romagna. It was a move which ultimately left the Bianconeri wracked with more regrets than the man who found out the blind date he turned down was with Scarlett Johansson.
Italy, of course, can't make the same mistake. There is no question of Giovinco switching allegiances to Switzerland and coming back to haunt them. Nonetheless, the Azzurri would be ill advised to dispense with his services any time soon.
He may not yet be worthy of mention with the great fantasisti and playmakers of the past, but he at least deserves a fair chance. Club Italia does not have that many options in his position and precious few players of his type. At his best, he buzzes around opposition defenders until they are driven to distraction. And that is a precious gift that should not be thrown away lightly – as Juve know to their cost.
With great skills, of course, come great expectations and such players can be infuriating. When they don't deliver a match-winning move of magic, we question why they were included in the team at all. But these players also need time to grow and get the confidence to perform to the best they can. That's why it's not time to turn the bazooka of blame on Giovinco just yet. Salviamo la Formica – let's save the Ant.