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Italy

Serie A has a foreign problem

5:11 AM EDT 9/6/18
Italy national team
The lack of Italians in the starting line-up is a cause of worry for Italy's footballing Eco-system

Italy has obviously seen renewed interest in its top-flight thanks to the footballing behemoth that is Juventus’, capture of Cristiano Ronaldo. It does bring the Italians hope that their league is improving although on the peninsula many tend to be wary given how disaster is always only one step away.

While Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure to Serie A has dominated the chatter of Italy and the world to a large extent, it does however drown out the numerous issues that surround the league.

Serie A’s decline has been linked to corruption, fan violence and bad infrastructure but recently the hot topic that is dominating headlines is how coaches in Italy tend to favour foreign players compared to Italian ones in the league.

Now Italy as a nation is highly nationalistic and conservative to a large scale. Just ask Mario Balotelli and he will elaborate how just getting to be accepted in the national team was a severe challenge, due to the colour of his skin. Moreover in such a globalised world which effects have spilled over to football highlighted by nations such as France and Switzerland; where their national team is made up of players with migrant backgrounds, Italy in comparison has been slow to change.

However the likes of Balotelli and emergence of Moise Kean prove that the country can’t forever hide away from the globalised world but I am digressing. The issue being discussed here is how foreigners are being preferred over locals in Serie A.

In 2015 Arrigo Sacchi created controversy when he pointed out there were too many black players in at youth level in Italy – evidence that the nation is now “without dignity or pride”. More recently Andrea Pirlo echoed Sacchi’s comments when he lambasted Italian coaches for not picking Italians as he believed that local players are better than foreign ones. They both enunciated how such a situation hurts the core of the Italian national team, especially after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup in the summer.

Recent statistics show how in 2006 there were 73% of Italian players in the starting line-up for Serie A teams compared to 2018 where there is only 39% of Italians in starting line-up. It also does not help when coaches in the league prefer to scout talents from Eastern European nations given that they are a cheap option. For example, Poland has 15 Serie A representatives which is considered a staggering number.

All of this points to the reasons why Pirlo and Sacchi made those comments. It is not to court controversy but merely to spread awareness that unless Serie A starts grooming more Italian talents, Italy’s footballing eco-system will continue to suffer. Bringing Ronaldo to the league only papers over the cracks, but the officials need to come up with a concrete plan to provide solutions.

If they can provide the solutions then it is major step towards rehabilitating the league and makes it a shining beacon of how local talents can co-exist with top foreign imports among Europe’s top leagues. Then finally, we can see the English Premier League sit up and take notice.