Italy have come a long way since putting out the oldest starting XI at Euro 2016. Well, not in terms of success – they missed out on the 2018 World Cup altogether.
But that near unprecedented crisis set in motion a series of events that have got the Azzurri where they are today – filled with young, strapping lads ready to take on the world. And it wasn’t just the retirement of Gianluigi Buffon that lowered this average. Or Daniele De Rossi.
Actual exciting young talent has grown a-plenty in the proceeding years, leading some bold folk to present them as potential Euro 2020 winners! How you ask? Well, these young guns (anyone under the age of 25, in my book) might help.
Moise Kean has long been touted as one of the potential saviours of Italian football. At the lowest points, it was his name – forged by the brave players of Football Manager? – that helped quell the tears.
And now here he is, expected to make his second cap. The record breaking brace-scorer for Juventus is now well and truly established in the hallowed hues of the Azzurri, and he’s here to stay. Sure, he’s still raw, as that botched one-on-one prior to Cristiano Ronaldo’s clinching penalty against Atletico Madrid showed. But he’s got it.
And that it is what Italy have been missing for some time.
The man of the hour. Well, maybe not the hour. But at least the most important hour of Italian football in recent times. Yes, Leonardo Spinazzola was the unsung hero of that dramatic night against Los Rojiblancos. Move over, CR7. This is LS37’s time.
And look, at 25, you may not think Spinazzola’s the springiest of chickens on this list, but thanks to injury issues he’s made less than half the Serie A appearances of the only 25-year-old on this list. So, there’s still some spring in that step. And he’ll be 27 by the time the Euros roll around – that’s peak major tournament age.
Plus, his agent has said he’s better than Alex Sandro. So, yeah.
The Culled Kid of Milan has become the Golden Boy of Rome in just a few short months. Incredible. Our introduction to Nicolo Zaniolo may have been brief so far, but there’s no denying his incredible potential.
With his first cap beckoning, the 19-year-old looks set for plenty more in this Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and, with AS Roma’s prime target this summer just to keep hold of the attacking midfielder, he should be allowed to blossom a little further at the Stadio Olimpico before the brighter lights come calling.
Poor Jorginho. No sooner was the central midfielder – who has been restricted to just 12 caps in his career – rid of the likes of Andrea Pirlo and De Rossi that Nicolo Barella came through, all ridiculously accomplished and poised and versatile and mature at the age of 22.
But, aside from the Chelsea man’s perspective, Barella’s breakthrough has been a breath of fresh air, tinged with sunshine and rainbows and sardines (Sardinia, innit). And, he’s already been able to translate his easy-going mentality to the international stage, with his debut against Ukraine as good a showcase of his talents as any.
I know we’ve spoken a lot about the so-called MVPs from that Atleti clash, but let’s be real for a second, it was Federico Bernardeschi. And that showing was just the tip of the iceberg for the former Fiorentina man this season. He’s been electric.
Sure, he may not possess the suit-wearing suaveness of the legends that have come before him, but he’s got class on the field. And that’s just about enough. I mean sure, it’s not ideal, but it’s enough. At least for Euro 2020 success. So the fresh-from-the-plane pics will have to take a back seat. Big deal…*sobs*.
While he may have been forced to pull out of this particular national team squad through injury, this is not the end of Federico Chiesa. And that is not a hot take. With 31 games played across competitions, he has already doubled his goalscoring tally from last season with 12, as his transfer value continues to skyrocket.
Though the wait for his first international score is set go on beyond this month, rest assured he will break this duck in the upcoming qualifying campaign. And, if not then, how about mid-July at Wembley Stadium next year?
The only player on this list who is yet to wear the true blue shirt of a fully fledged Italy international, but Patrick Cutrone does not plan on kicking it with the Under-21s for too much longer.
While his progress at Milan may have been curtailed by the arrival of a certain Polish marksman who is incapable of going scoreless in any game ever, he remains a precocious frontman. Besides, word on the street says that he could be used as a makeweight in a deal for the man standing above him here, so, potentially, problem solved.
Either way, don’t be surprised to see him super-subbing it at the Euros when the time comes.