Are youngsters like Santon in danger of eluding Prandelli?

If an award such as Best Newcomer existed, on the evidence of the season so far many of the players competing would most likely be young, imported talent. But while the likes of Josep Ilicic and Kevin Constant are catching the eye, it is of little use to Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli if more and more promising Italian youngsters like Davide Santon are being left with a choice to either stagnate in the reserves or move in search of first-team opportunities.
There is little doubt that having players such as Ilicic develop in Serie A is of great benefit to the league, but is the rise of the foreign youngster having a detrimental effect on Italy’s next generation?
Taking the example of Santon, shortly after making his Inter debut in January 2009, the dynamic full-back was being compared to a young Paolo Maldini, yet Santon has started just four games this season and was even passed over in favour of the completely untested Felice Natalino earlier in the year.
It is difficult to argue against Brazilian Maicon being the first choice right-back at Inter, but a player of Santon’s potential possibly deserves more than his current tally of ten appearances.
Should the current state of affairs continue, it would be harsh to judge Santon for seeking a move away from the San Siro. He would not be the first young player to leave a top Club. Alessio Cerci joined Fiorentina from Roma in the summer in order to continue his development with the help of first-team football, and, more recently, i Giallorossi have allowed Stefano Okaka to join Bari on loan.
Elsewhere, Guido Marilungo joined Atalanta from Sampdoria just weeks after signing a five-year contract with the Genoa Club, and Sebastian Giovinco moved to Parma in the summer after spending a number of years on the sidelines at Juventus.
The phenomenon is not confined to the peninsula either. Young Italians plying their trade abroad are also struggling for game time. Luca Cigarini, a player cited by Prandelli as a possible heir to Andrea Pirlo, remains firmly on the bench at Sevilla, while Mario Balotelli’s playing time will be severely restricted by the arrival of Edin Dzeko at Manchester City, despite the forward racking up an impressive five goals in his first seven games in England.
On the plus side, not all young Italian players are being forgotten. Andrea Ranocchia has been signed by Inter, to the delight of Massimo Moratti, and Juventus continue to field the likes of Alberto Aquilani, Claudio Marchisio, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
It seems, then, that while some young Italians appear underrated and underused by their Clubs, others are still being given the chance to impress Prandelli enough to gain an Azzurri call-up. However, will it be sufficient to allow the national team to fulfill its potential in the coming years?
There is more untapped talent out there and the likes of Santon will need to press further for first-team action in order to break through and bid to be an Azzurri star of the future.

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