Goal caught up with the former World Cup winner to get his thoughts on the state of Italian soccer and the progress being made in North America.
Canada is one of the academy’s main stomping grounds for talent, as nearly one third of the players that it has managed to promote to the professional ranks are in fact Canadian.
Goal spoke with Gattuso this weekend just before attending a training session with players from the ACP Soccer Academy, a Montreal-based academy under the technical direction of former Montreal Impact forward Eduardo Sebrango.
The former AC Milan and Italian international midfielder was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the instruction and the quality of the young players on display.
“I don’t think we [Italians] realize what soccer is in this country or in other countries,” Gattuso said. “There’s an impressive pool of kids here that are passionate about playing the game.”
Gattuso is currently completing his UEFA Pro license at the Italian Soccer Federation headquarters in Coverciano outside Florence and he will be on the market this summer after his current contract with Palermo expires.
Part of the next generation of Italian coaches, the 36-year-old said Italian soccer is now lagging behind other nations.
“The problem is that we think we know everything about soccer and are the best at it, but the reality is that today we’re no longer the best,” Gattuso said. “Germany has surpassed us in terms of attendance, in terms of quality of soccer; as for England, it’s already been some time since they’ve surpassed as well, Spain too. So today we have to be more careful, because there’s a lot of movement.”
He added: “Even in MLS you see a lot of change, with the players that are coming here and a lot of money is being invested in the game, so things are really moving here too. Already you see it with the U.S. national team that already plays very well.”
Given the precarious financial situations that many European clubs now find themselves in, Gattuso also explained that more and more players, even in the prime of their careers, will now consider moving to MLS since it has the unique advantage of offering the stability of a salary cap.
Gattuso will return to Italy on Tuesday and says he looks forward to returning to Canada, where he is always recognized by locals for having helped Italy hoist the World Cup in 2006.
As for Italy’s chances at this summer's World Cup in Brazil, he concluded that the Azzurri can never be discounted.
“The World Cup is always difficult, you need to come physically prepared,” Gattuso said. “Italy always has a chance. I hope it gets to the World Cup with some problems as our history teaches us that every time there are problems or scandals, we’ve always responded well.”