Competition for places in Cesare Prandelli’s midfield is fierce, and while seasoned campaigner Thiago Motta may be pushing hard for a seat on the plane to Brazil with good club form, an injury-troubled past could damage his selection chances.
Following his unceremonious exit from the peninsula in the summer of 2012, when he joined the raft of Serie A players switching allegiances to nouveau-riche Ligue 1 juggernauts Paris Saint-Germain, many had expected that Motta would fall off the radar slightly, especially with respect to his opportunities of a national team call-up.
The 31-year-old Sao Paulo native made his bow for the Azzurri in a friendly against Germany in February 2011, becoming the latest Oriundo to pull on the coveted blue jersey, and he went on to make 12 further appearances for La Nazionale before he left Inter for the French capital just over a year later.
However, after his inclusion in the European Championship squad for Poland and Ukraine 2012, and his subsequent move, Motta was not called upon by Coach Cesare Prandelli for a very specific reason.
Having featured in four of his side’s games on their way to their final encounter with Spain, the Italo-Brazilian replaced Riccardo Montolivo in the 57th minute of the match. He only lasted for four minutes of the 4-0-showpiece defeat however, and limped off with a hamstring injury to leave the Azzurri one man short for the last half hour.
Motta then spent over a year in the international wilderness, being overlooked for national team duty in favour of Alberto Aquilani, Montolivo and Claudio Marchisio, among others. He was also left out of last summer’s Confederation Cup squad, and was made to wait until last September’s World Cup qualifying clash with Bulgaria to make his next appearance in an Italy shirt.
Despite playing just 184 minutes of Italy’s qualifying campaign though, Motta seems to have won his way into the Coach’s good graces, as he has been included in every squad selection since returning to the international fold. Prandelli’s previous reluctance to call upon a midfielder who has been notoriously injury prone in the past has been dispelled by a consistently high level of performance for club side PSG.
The battling midfielder certainly has quality in abundance. Two Champions League winners’ medals and four League titles in three different countries can attest to that, and he has quietly and effectively gone about his work once more in France.
As Les Parisiens march towards their second consecutive championship, Motta has proven pivotal, securing three goals, an assist, and an impressive 92.6 per cent pass accuracy in his 28 games. Along with his international teammates Salvatore Sirigu and Marco Verratti, the former Barcelona man is also one of only three Italians left competing in the quarter-finals of this season’s Champions League.
Expect experience and tactical versatility to play in his favour. Prandelli has experimented with him in the trequartista position in the past, and he is capable of playing almost anywhere in midfield.