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Euro 2020: Italy bets on youth and fun



There are a number of explanations for why this may be. Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus’ coach in the past and present, claims that youth football in Italy is actually too tactical: Coaches are so worried about their jobs that they mask their player’s individual shortcomings with strategy.

“Instead of letting kids learn to defend one-on-one, they give them coverage,” Allegri said. “They are doubling. But that means the child is not learning. So when it comes to playing one-on-one, they do not know how. “That is, in his opinion, why ‘Italy does not produce champions anymore.’

Paolo Nicolato, the country’s coach under 21, claims that Italy’s football culture is too intolerant of mistakes, which he calls “a necessary growth step”. It suffers from a “bad relationship with the future,” he says. “We are very focused on the present.”

This claim is supported by facts. Last season of the 50 youngest teams in Europe’s top 20 leagues was only one Italian: AC Milan. Only three Italian sides appeared in the top 100. More striking was that only five percent of all the minutes that Serie A teams played last season were handed over to home-grown, academically bred players. Italian football remains a culture that is deeply distrustful of the youth.

“It’s a strange championship,” said Maurizio Costanzi, head of youth development for one of the few teams that got the trend: Atalanta. He has spent four decades working with young players in Italy, and he has noticed a definite, unmanageable change in both the quality and quantity of new prospects.

He wonders whether it can be partly related to the demise of street football or to the rise in athletics in the sport that pushes out the kind of players – playmakers and planners – who have long characterized the Italian game. But he is confident that those who do will not get a chance either quickly or reliably enough to succeed.


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