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Wednesday September 2 2015
Conte's MLS endorsement

Selecting Sebastian Giovinco and Andrea Pirlo, Antonio Conte made a significant statement about the relevance of Major League  Soccer, writes Marco D'Onofrio.

Antonio Conte made history with his progressive nature at Juventus, and on Saturday he did the same with the Azzurri. For the first time ever, two players based in North America's Major League Soccer were called up to represent Italy during European qualifiers against Malta and Bulgaria.

Conte may not have fully realized the extent of power and influence he wielded regarding the future of MLS, but the tactician made an important statement when he selected both Sebastian Giovinco and Andrea Pirlo.

It was the first time since opting to make the move across the pond that Giovinco or Pirlo were called up by Conte. The selections garnered international headlines, with football fans on this side of the Atlantic aware of the significance of Conte's decision. They saw the implications of Jermain Defoe not being called up to represent England in last year's World Cup and the fallout that occurred as a result.

“I am very happy. Given my performance I kind of expected the call," Giovinco said through a video released by Toronto FC. "It means that I have worked well up to now. But the hardest thing is to remain in the squad and I hope to keep playing this way.”

It was particularly important for the Atomic Ant to be called up, with little doubt as to what Pirlo brings to the table. The maestro is in the twilight of his career and has already accomplished everything for club and country that one dreams about, but the same could not be said of the younger Giovinco.

Through 25 matches in MLS, Giovinco has 17 goals and 13 assists, which is already a single season record in both categories for TFC. The striker is having an MVP year in his inaugural MLS season, and for him not to be recognized by his country would have been devastating for the club and the league.

For a player to put up the numbers that Giovinco has since arriving in Toronto, and still be ignored by his national team would have sent a strong message about the requirement to remain in Europe.

At 28 years old, the diminutive striker opted to take the chance and ply his trade in a foreign land, with a club that isn't even a decade old yet. It’s a decision that had him ridiculed across the peninsula.

“Most of them were saying, ‘You’re afraid to challenge yourself. It’s simple to go into an easier league. That’s why you’ve chosen Toronto,’” Giovinco told the Globe and Mail in a recent interview.

However, Giovinco might be laughing the loudest at the moment - even after the injury he suffered in Toronto FC's match against Montreal on Saturday. He won't be available for the Azzurri because of that adductor problem, but he has managed to become the highest paid Italian player on the planet, a hero in a city of millions, and was still able to earn the call to represent his country.  

Many were quick to write off Giovinco and even Pirlo when they declared they'd be playing in MLS, but with the added exposure of the league in Europe because of new television contracts, and bigger names coming over, the league is becoming increasingly relevant every season. Conte's calls for both Giovinco and Pirlo may have been the league's biggest endorsement yet.   

Have your say...
Hahahahahaha how bad has the Italian NT gotten that Giovinco and a 100 year old Pirlo get called up?
on the 4th September, 2015 at 2:29pm
Some of the other callups were equally telling. Fabian Castillo (age 23) for Colombia; Laurent Ciman (30) for Belgium; Kaka (33) for Brazil; Robbie Keane (35) and Kevin Doyle (31) for Ireland; Ambroise Oyongo (24) for Cameroon. These are respectable to top international football powers, and don't include selections for the US, Canada, or less well-known but solid sides (Iraq, Hungary, Finland, etc.), and Giovani Dos Santos would have been called up if Herrera were still manager.
on the 3rd September, 2015 at 6:30pm
This article is all about Giovinco as it should be. I am surprised that Pirlo has been called and I do not believe it is due to any recent performance. Conte knows what he is doing and "hoorah" to the mls for this stepping stone.
But thats actually the problem with this league. we rate our league performance by revenue numbers. Yes, these players sell jerseys but will putting pirlo, lampard, and villa on the same team make a club succeed, obviously not. lets start producing instead of purchasing
on the 3rd September, 2015 at 4:52pm
So far the performances for me haven't been much different to under Prandelli. We need as big win tonight to generate a bit of belief. Against Malta no matter how much they have supposedly come on we should be putting them to the sword. We need to be ruthless and clinical. Top teams would hammer the likes of Malta. The narrow wins against Malta away and Azerbaijan at home where a disgrace, truly embarrassing. We need an early goal tonight and then hopefully we will kick on from there.
on the 3rd September, 2015 at 9:48am
Pelle and Eder must start tonight. Can anyone explain to me how the hell Zaza and Immobile get anywhere near the national team. Also amazed that neither Rugani or Romagnoli have been called up, even Benassi or Bernardeschi you could argue deserves a shot. It also amazes me how Rigoni is always over looked he is consistently good for Palermo. Also how Ranocchia gets called up is beyond me, thank God Astori didn't get called. How is Ranocchia better than Rugani or Romagnoli. I have real doubts.
on the 3rd September, 2015 at 9:44am
If everyone is fit I would have picked this 30 man squad: Buffon, Sirigu, Sportiello. De Maio, Rugani, Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini, Darmain, De Silvesrti, Criscito, Pasqual. De Rossi, Florenzi, Pirlo, Verratti, Candreva, Vazquez, Soriano, Rigoni, Bertolacci. Rossi, Balo, Berardi, Eder, Pelle, El Sha, Giovinco, Gabbiadini, Insigne. I would love us to hammer malta and Bulgaria. Buffon said it all," we always struggle against the weaker teams" so expect no different tonight. I think 1 or 2-0.
on the 3rd September, 2015 at 9:40am
Juve could use Giovinco now that Tevez is gone. They have Dybala as the creative forward, but after selling Coman, they could use another creative player like Giovinco. He'd fill the requirement for home grown players for the champions league.
on the 3rd September, 2015 at 2:59am
Shall we guess that Marco D'Onofrio is a yank?

the MLS is a joke, OAPLand, Pensionersfund, OldPeoplesLeague, MatureLadsSoccer
on the 2nd September, 2015 at 11:57pm
Also, where are Montolivo, Insigne, Rossi, Berardi, Bernardeschi, Cerci, Destro, Rigoni, and Sansone?
on the 2nd September, 2015 at 10:26pm
Giovinco just needed playing time to show his worth, something he struggled with at Juve. Many gifted players just need that confidence and responsibility put on their shoulders in order to prosper. Miccoli at Palermo, Di Natale at Udinese, Toni at Verona, etc. It frustrates me to see good players at good clubs leave for the bigger names in the game, I get it... but still, most die out on a bench and never see such prolific days again, Matri at Cagliari. Forza Italia.
on the 2nd September, 2015 at 10:21pm

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