Italy is a football country that is identical to a latch defense system called Catenaccio. For years, Italy seemed to have never stopped giving birth to a tough-defender defender who forged perfectly in the tight competition Serie A. However, lately, the original steel barrels of Spaghetti State began to disappear from circulation and Calcio replace ‘controlled’ by a series reliable difensore from the outside.
Until the 7th giornata this season, looking at Opta stats (via WhoScored), there are only three Italiano in the top 10 defenders with the best performance rating in Serie A. The rest are outsiders, including Hugo Campagnaro of Argentina at the top.
In fact, Italy is famous as a warehouse difensore board. From time to time, there is always a star back line from Italy, which not only reap respect in their own country but also throughout Europe, even the world. Call it Gaetano Scirea, Claudio Gentile, Giacinto Facchetti, Franco Baresi, Giuseppe Bergomi, Mauro Tassotti, Paolo Maldini, Christian Panucci, Gianluca Zambrotta, to famous duets Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta.
Since the last two names have disappeared from Serie A, the defensive defender’s regeneration wheel in Italy seems to be running very slowly. This has an impact on the Italian national team.
Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli was inevitably faced with a very limited choice to build a team with a back line as strong as steel. Prandelli has only one ‘source’, namely Juventus, where La Vecchia Signora has four of Italy’s best central defenders in Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Angelo Ogbonna and Giorgio Chiellini.
For Prandelli, looking for a reliable Italian defender at a club other than Juventus is not an easy thing. Because the clubs are now more rely on import players to guard the defense.
For example, AC Milan. The Rossoneri, known as the home of the tough Italian defenders, now roam on Philippe Mexes (France) and Cristian Zapata (Colombia).
The neighbor, Inter Milan, also makes no difference. From back-to-back coach Walter Mazzarri, two came from Latin America, Campagnaro and Juan Jesus (Brazil). Andrea Ranocchia is the only Italian there.
The capolista AS Roma has undoubtedly had the best defense in Serie A so far with a new one-goal conceded. However, the central defender duet (again) outside players, namely Leandro Castan (Brazil) and Mehdi Benatia (Morocco).
Napoli was the same. Since the arrival of Rafael Benitez, an identical 3-4-2-1 scheme during Mazzarri’s tenure before moving to Inter, was abandoned. The result, Paolo Cannavaro thrown into the bench, because Benitez put forward Raul Albiol (Spain) and Miguel Britos (Uruguay) in the starting lineup of his team.
Similar cases can also be found in Fiorentina who favor Gonzalo Rodriguez (Argentina) and Stefan Savic (Montenegro), Lazio with Michael Ciani (France) and Lorik Cana (Albania) and Udinese with Brazilian duo Naldo and Danilo with Thomas Heurtaux (France) for three parallel defenders.
If Prandelli wants a regular Italian defender at his club, he should look at other smaller clubs. One of them is Davide Astori, a Milan college graduate who now strengthens Cagliari. However, Astori is still not good enough to be compared with the Rossoneri and Azzurri legends of the past.
For Italy, a country once known for its defensive steel walls capable of muffling almost all types of offensive attacks, this situation is very worrying.
How long will Italy and Prandelli continue to depend on the Juventus quartet? Parma’s Alessandro Lucarelli and Atalanta’s Guglielmo Stendardo do include brilliant performance when looking at the chart above. Only, they are both aged over 30.
For the sake of regeneration, Italian clubs should immediately give more portion as a starter to their young talents, as Parma, Milan and Lazio have done for Cannavaro, Maldini and Nesta many years ago.