Sunday September 6 2015
Pt2: Assessing Italy's youth

Italy must reshape its roster to regain international success. In part two of his analysis, Vincent van Genechten evaluates the new breed of strikers.


Lorenzo Insigne (24, Napoli)

Insigne made his way through the youth ranks at Napoli and had very successful loans at Foggia and Pescara. The winger scored 37 goals in only two seasons and returned to the Partenopei in 2012. In three Serie A campaigns Insigne sits at 10 goals and an impressive 21 assists. He hasn’t made the expected big bang as he’s only played six times for the Azzurri, but he’s developed into a very good player for a strong Serie A side, being valued at €15m.

Stock: EVEN

Stephan El Shaarawy (22, Monaco)

El Shaarawy made his Serie A debut back in 2008 with Genoa at the age of 16, but was sent on loan to Padova two years later. He scored nine goals for the Serie B side and was sold to Milan for €15.5 million in the summer of 2011. In his second season for the Rossoneri, the Little Pharaoh scored 16 goals and was at one stage valued at €27m, but then struggled with foot injuries. He joined Monaco on loan with option to buy this summer, as he didn’t fit into Sinisa Mihajlovic’s plans. El Shaarawy has played 14 Azzurri games so far, but hopes to rediscover his fitness and form in France.

Stock: DOWN

Manolo Gabbiadini (23, Napoli)

Gabbiadini made his Serie A debut in 2010 with Atalanta before joining Serie B side Cittadella in 2011. He scored five goals and recorded four assists. Gabbiadini moved from Juventus via Bologna to Sampdoria. With the Blucerchiati Gabbiadini scored 15 goals in one and a half seasons, and was sold to Napoli for €12.5m in January 2015. The striker is now valued at €18m, but has only played six times for the Azzurri since his debut in 2012.

Stock: UP

Domenico Berardi (21, Sassuolo)

Berardi joined Sassuolo at the age of 16 and made his professional debut in 2012. He helped lead the Neroverdi to Serie A for the first time by scoring 11 goals and was sold to Juventus for €6m. Berardi didn’t miss a beat, as he scored 31 Serie A goals in 61 games before his 21st birthday. Berardi is now valued at €17.5m, has a future assured at Juve, but is yet to be selected for Italy’s senior squad.

Stock: UP

Mario Balotelli (25, Milan)

Balotelli made his professional debut with Serie C side Lumezzane in 2006 at the age of 15. He went to Inter and scored 20 goals over three seasons, before being sold for €29.5m to Manchester City. Balotelli was hampered by knee injuries and recorded 20 goals in two and a half seasons. Milan bought the striker for €20m and he scored 26 times in 43 games. Balotelli returned to the Premier League when Liverpool shelved out €20m, but failed to impress and was sent back on loan to Milan this summer. He’s now valued at only €11m, just over a third of what Manchester City paid in 2010. His Italy career has been contentious, marked by highs in Euro 2012 and lows in the 2014 World Cup. His tally isn’t bad at 13 goals in 33 Azzurri appearances.

Stock: DOWN

Mattia Destro (24, Bologna)

Destro came through the youth ranks at Inter, but joined Genoa in 2010. He made his Serie A debut at the age of 19, then exploded during a loan spell at Siena, where he scored 12 goals. Destro joined Roma for €16m, netting 24 goals in two and a half seasons, but struggled for regular playing time. He failed to impress during a six-month loan at Milan and Roma sold him to Bologna this summer for €8.5m. Destro has registered eight international appearances since his debut in 2012, finding the net only once.

Stock: DOWN

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Have your say...
All the germans did was accept non-germans. We will have to be like Germany and create italians. Hachim mastour, a kid that can do afew kick ups, billed the next messi (just like Balo) decided he was Moroccan, many are outraged but i respect him more now than when he had to 'decide' what nationality he is! The kids Moroccan, even if he decided he was italian he would still be Moroccan, his parents are Moroccan, his name is Moroccan. Serie A ruins Italian's. We turn our backs on Italian's!
on the 11th September, 2015 at 6:40am
@luca - People just say throw a bunch of youngsters together like Germany did and watch them flourish. The problem is they don't consider that those German youngsters were a part of a long term strategy by Germany to revamp their footballing style and approach - which started after they were knocked out of Euro 2000 with no points. They had learnt to play together through all the junior levels so by the time they were finally promoted to the senior team knew each other and the system inside out.
on the 8th September, 2015 at 2:48pm
@anonymous you are correct, there is no substitute for stupidity. The same can be said for class though, which clearly you do not possess as you find the need to resort to petty insults to get your point across. I respect your opinion though.

See: Class.
on the 7th September, 2015 at 5:02pm
@Dennis My math is quite good as I was referring to Serie A goals only. A quick wikipedia check will verify those facts. @gi_al_lorossi Balo has only played as an out and out striker at Milan and Liverpool. At inter and man city he was played as an outside right forward. Please understand context people. At no point did I say that Balo was the same talent wise as Baggio, Del Piero and Totti, just that statistically he measures up to all of them and it is too soon to write him off.
on the 7th September, 2015 at 4:57pm
... add Gabiadinni, Giovinco, Destro, and Vasquez to that list as well.

Don't bother anymore with the likes of Pirlo, Buffon, Rannochia, Astori, Moretti, Cerci, Valdifiori, Barzagli. They're either too old now, or at an age where they have reached their potential and are simply not good enough, and never will be. Give youth big tournament experience which will be invaluable in future events.
on the 7th September, 2015 at 4:40pm
Italy should just do what Germany did in the 2010 World Cup. They brought a squad of youngsters and novices and completely revamped. I'd use the next Euros in a similar way. My squad:

Perin, Sirigu, Scuffet

Darmain, Florenzi, Chiellini, Bonnuci, Rugani, Romangoli, De Sciglio, Criscito

Veratti, Marchisio, De Rossi, Bertolacci, Soriano/Cataldi

Rossi, Berardi, Candreva,

Then 4 of El Sharaawry, Insigne, Zaza, Immobile, Pelle, Belotti, Paloschi, Eder, Bernadeschi depending on form and fitness.
on the 7th September, 2015 at 4:33pm
come on baggio is easily the best Italian attacking player of the last 40 years comparing him even to totti is absurd. In any case he wasn't a pure striker which is what conversation should really be about.

It is unfortunate that Italy are in this position they probably have had 3 very talented forwards in g rossi balotelli and cassano two of whom are head-cases and sabotage their own careers and g rossi who has the talent and the right mentality but just the worst injury record imaginable
on the 7th September, 2015 at 2:06pm
You are forgetting Beppe Rossi. Once he is back to full fitness. I agree with Pelle isn't international material. Mario Balotelli just needs care and attention. He might be 25 but he is very child like. Needs the right coach. I don't think Conte is the man for the Italian Job.
on the 7th September, 2015 at 1:06pm
What more does berardi have to do to justify a call-up? Balo has been given countless chances to prove himself. It's time to move on and give some of the younger players some international exposure.
on the 7th September, 2015 at 10:39am
iam largely disappointed to c our mathes against malta&bulgaria....v lacks a killer up ftont..pelle done well he provides some good balls after might understand the main objective of da striker is to score goals...el sharawy makes some good runs but never belive he can score.his finishing is poor..candreva not bad bt not a good v lacks a poacher a great forward..iam realy un impressd to Conte he is not an attacking coach..wen he subs zaza to pelle it is the worst decision..Zaza is verry poor lacks every thing..y he never use Vazquez ?? he is simply btr he can make great dribles&assists..v lack dat..we must focus our young talents other wise no future for Nazionale.dats wat Prandelli saying..iam stiil believe Tacticaly Prandelli is far btr dan Conte...
we need a attacking minded coach..he can make us a strong nazionale..
my Italy for Euro 2016
Darmian-bonucci-Rimagnoli-De sciglio
berardi-vazquez-el shaarawy/eder
Balotelli(if he backs his bst)/Pelle

motta verratti pair is btr..they both playing superbly in Paris...
on the 7th September, 2015 at 6:03am
There is no substitute for stupidity, any man who claims to understand football and then compares Balotelli to a legend like Baggio just needs to be ignored! I, like you see an nothing special,
He simply is the most overated player of all time. We have wasted countless years waiting for this footballing 'God' to emerge- and as we wait and waste precious time on this waste of space, players like beradi, belotti and gabbiandini have to make way for him, they sweat yet he strolls about
on the 7th September, 2015 at 1:42am
@Mil_Int I am not sure about your maths but Baggio had 104, Dp had 91 and Totti had 82 top flight goals at 25 when serie A was a serious league and not the nursery playground it is now in terms of defending. Besides all of that u cannot win an argument comparing Balo to any of those 3. After watching Italy against both Malta and Bulgaria he is not far off being Italy's striker. Zaza is not a footballer to me and Pelle is so 1 paced it is not funny.
on the 7th September, 2015 at 12:01am
@Mil_Int - comparing Baggio, Totti & Del Piero to Balotelli is a little disingenuous. The first 3 rarely played as out and out strikers until later in their careers, featuring more as no.10s and attacking midfielders. Those 3 had/have so much more to their game and were/are on a different planet talent-wise compared to Balotelli. Also, consider the defences they were playing against - Maldini, Baresi, Ferrara, Cannavaro, Nesta, Thuram, Aldair etc. much harder to score goals back then in Serie A.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 11:49pm
Looking ahead to next qualifiers, would like giovinco to get a shot with pelle and candreva. I was glad gabbadini got a look and El shaarawy looked up. Who thinks conte will stick with Pirlo when Euros actually start?
on the 6th September, 2015 at 11:37pm
@eric star fury In terms of Italians Sassuolo is certainly leading the way with their mixture of youth and experience. It sickens me that teams such as Udinese, Chievo, Verona and even my Inter field little to no Italians on their teams. Not to mention a newly promoted team such as Carpi who gained promotion with an Italian majority but now have a starting lineup with a foreign majority in Serie A.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 10:47pm
FYI Gabbiadini is one year younger than Balotelli and has scored 32 goals less with a strike rate of 1:4. Balo has a strike rate of 1:2.5. He also has 13 goals for Italy, most of which have come in qualifiers and major competitions. I am a fan of ALL Italian football and I am certainly not a Balotelli apologist, but please give the man his due.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 10:40pm
He is also not a bust. That is your opinion, which you are certainly entitled to, but like I said, his numbers don't lie as he has been as prolific or better as three of the best Italian strikers to ever play at similar points in their careers and that is not based on opinion. Only facts.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 10:29pm
@Anonymous Yes I was comparing Balo to those three simply based on the the number of goals he has scored at a similar point of their careers. If his work rate, skill and pace are exaggerated then just how has he managed to outperform both Totti and Del Piero at this age. He must have some talent or are you saying he scored those goals by luck? Oh and yes he scored one goal last season. I didn't realize that one season is a basis to write off an entire career.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 10:25pm
continued…Balotelli has never scored more than 14 goals in a single season. Berardi has already outperformed him twice with a whole team on his back. Gabbiadini scored 15 goals last year with limited playing time after he left for Napoli. He also possess more pace, is better at free kicks, and is two years younger (with zero disciplinary problems). When it comes to Balotelli…the dream is over. Get over it. He's a bust.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 8:59pm
Mil_Int…you are clueless. Balotelli scored one goal domestically for Liverpool last year. He is almost certainly not going to start for Milan with Bacca and Adriano on the team. On top of that, his work rate and skill level is exaggerated. But even funnier..he doesn't actually posses much pace. He's basically a hype job by media types for a variety of reasons. Domenico Berardi on the other hand has had two seasons by the age of 21 with 16 goals and 6 assists, followed by 15 goals and 10 assists.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 8:56pm
@mil_int, I hope your not comparing balotelli to 3 of the best Italians to ever play the game. Balotelli is shameful and should never be allowed to wear the Italian jersey again.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 8:01pm
2/2.... give the others a chance, give those who work week in and out a sweat their balls off week in and week out. What kind of a msg does this shambolic behaviour surrounding this waste of space send out to the world. You people speak as if he is a messi or Ronaldo, THIS MAN IS A FRAUD, he doesn't realise how lucky he is to even be able to kick a ball and you ppl worship like he will do something special, what kind of a grown man has to have good behaviour clauses?? Come on he is 25!!!
on the 6th September, 2015 at 7:26pm
I am sick constant of Balotelli. No team on earth has this utterly ridiculous problem, only Italy. We have Zaza, beradi, gabbiandini, pelle, eder, belotti, insigne, okaka, ses and plenty other goalscorers who a) want to play. b) want to learn. c) play with the correct attitude, work rate and effort. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A STRIKER THAT SCORED 2 GOALS IN A WHOLE SEASON! If this fool put more effort in to playing than tweeter it would be a start! We have wasted 5 years on this donkey.... 1/2
on the 6th September, 2015 at 7:21pm
In the context of last season the only player worth talking about is berardi not just in terms of form for sassuolo but for italy under 21 side, he was their only decent player at the tournament. It is also the source of frustration as a serie a fan to see sassuolo being the only Italian club on this list actually providing a environment for young talented players to succeed.

ps it was a shame that Bernardeschi Zaza and Belotti were omitted from this list they for me are intriguing prospects.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 5:17pm
While Balo must shoulder most of the blame for his behaviour over the years it is undeniable that successive coaches have used him as a scapegoat to hide their own shortcomings with the latest being Brendan Rogers. It is not too late for his career though and I firmly believe that Balo will end up being a legend of the Italian game for all the right reasons.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 4:08pm
@Anonymous Baggio, Totti and Del Piero scored 71, 56 and 50 goals respectively by the time they were 25. Mario Balotelli has 67 top flight goals between Italy and England. While I agree that Berardi should already be starting Balotelli is by far Italy's best center forward. Gabbiadini has only put up 35 goals so far between Serie A and B and unless he scores 32 times this season is not even close to Balo's output.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 4:04pm
After watching how pathetic Italy was against Malta and how good Spain was against Slovakia even as they rebuild our chances in the World Cup qualification will be slim and none. Time to play the youth and hope and pray soneone bursts forth
on the 6th September, 2015 at 3:32pm
Berardi and Gabbiadini are Italy's best forwards…period. By next month's fixtures they should both be starting. Gabbiadini should be a central forward, leaving Candreva to play on the right. And Berardi can either play as a support striker or attacking midfielder. It's the only chance Italy have of developing a consistent threat in attack. Every other striker is way below world class.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 2:48pm
Too bad Mastour choose Morocco over Italy. As for those listed above, Berardi aside, Insigne is the only one that gets a decent run of games with Napoli and even then his form is very inconsistent. All the other players have bit part roles and again this is down to the clubs who would rather play mediocre foreigners rather that talented Italian youth.

Too bad the days when most Italian clubs contained at least one great Italian striker are long gone.
on the 6th September, 2015 at 2:31pm

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