Claudio Marchisio’s Euro 2016-ending injury suffered in action for Juventus last month creates a conundrum for Antonio Conte and a position he must fill, with Italy’s tournament opener against Belgium around the corner.
Marchisio’s disappointment opens the door for somebody else. Whoever Conte calls into the squad at this stage is not likely to start, but there is the opportunity to play a part in France. The Coach says he has most of his 23-man squad in mind, but an injury to a probable starter does require a rethink.
Conte may need to look outside the box for the call-up. That’s where Sassuolo’s Francesco Magnanelli could come into play. In the same vein as Marchisio, the captain is the central fulcrum for the Neroverdi. Their good work funnels through the 31-year-old, who has led the Reggio-Emilia club up through the professional ranks.
Sassuolo are enjoying a stunning Serie A campaign and currently sit sixth. Magnanelli has played a big role, only missing four matches. He is somebody Coach Eusebio Di Francesco relies on, having not been substituted this term.
If Domenico Berardi is Sassuolo’s star, Magnanelli is the quiet achiever. He makes on average 19 more passes per game than any of his teammates, highlighting his importance in the centre of the field. That is something Conte can look to as he searches for a replacement in the upcoming month.
Good with the ball, Magnanelli is also astute without it, his tactical awareness and reading of the game helping him to an impressive 2.7 interceptions per game and as many tackles.
But it would be a gamble. This is a player who has never been considered for international football, let alone worn the Azzurri shirt. Time is running out for such an experiment when there have been others Conte has looked to ahead of Magnanelli in the recent past.
The illustrious Andrea Pirlo could return to the fold, while Daniele De Rossi is another option. Others such as Jorginho and Thiago Motta were selected for the March friendlies.
Yet a run in the extended squad, with one friendly to be played before Conte must announce his final 23, would allow for a closer look at the Sassuolo captain.
Magnanelli fits the Marchisio mould, which is inviting for Conte. While he hasn’t played at international level, he is an experienced head and comfortable in the role. It’s a risk, but the tactician may need to verge into that territory.