A long-awaited resurgence of the Italian central defender allows Prandelli at least four promising options for the central duo, but the formatting of the full-backs is still very uncertain. While numerous interesting players have emerged for the role, few combine technical excellence with apposite equilibrium in the offensive and defensive parts of the game. The grounds for a rebirth of the legendary, rocky Italian central defence are there, but such a defence will be incomplete if proper full-backs are not found and forged to guard the flanks.
Marco Andreolli (Chievo)
Description: Ex-Inter youth, later sold to Roma, Andreolli caused a real sensation with his first performances for the Italian U-21 team. Numerous unfortunate injuries combined with a lack of trust by the Coaches led his career to plummet, but the man still has the time to re-emerge by 2014.
Davide Astori (Cagliari)
Description: Astori has been holding together the Cagliari back-line almost on his own this season and is probably going to be playing for Milan next year. Young, less physical but more precise than his competitors, he is a blooming talent in want of nothing but experience. It would not be a surprise if he emerged as a challenger for a starter’s spot in the next few years.
Andrea Barzagli (Juventus)
Description: An anonymous veteran of the 2006 and 2008 campaigns, Barzagli has struggled to reproduce his best form of the time. He is currently proving of some use as at Juventus, but he still seems a very second-rate option, with little or no space for growth.
Daniele Bonera (Milan)
Description: An eternal promise who never bloomed. Bonera is a ductile player with some experience under his belt, but he lacks continuity, and his skills too often appear to black-out for no apparent reason. Ultimately he still seems unconvincing.
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus)
Description: Sturdy, strong on aerial balls, perhaps less elegant than his fellow bastion Chiellini, Bonucci is another example of the physical central defender which Italy’s youth squads seem to be producing at the moment. Skilled and relatively experienced, his tested partnership with both Chiellini and Ranocchia make him a very serious candidate for a starter’s spot.
Michele Camporese (Fiorentina)
Description: Has settled wonderfully well into a Fiorentina team that have not always been the most stable. Camporese has age on his side and with the potential he has shown in his Serie A appearances so far, he could well mature into a fine defender for 2014 and beyond. Will need to play regularly over the next few seasons.
Michele Canini (Cagliari)
Description: A powerful defender, excellent in the air, surprisingly technical at times and deserving far more attention than he is getting. At his age, he still has plenty of room for improvement, though it will take some very clamorous performances to challenge his present competitors.
Paolo Cannavaro (Napoli)
Description: Cannavaro is part of a particularly brilliant Napoli team this year. His technique is passable, if not very spectacular, and his performances are of a very high standard, but his age is a problem. Pushing 30, it may be too late for him to earn Prandelli’s consideration.
Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
Description: By consensus the best young Italian defender at this time. Confident, robust and tenacious, he is more reliant on power than on precision – his style is to crush the adversary out of space, rather than carefully snatching the ball from him. A versatile stopper capable of playing on the left and in the middle, the Juventus centre-back provides many tactical options and is a guaranteed starter for the next two years at least.
Daniele Gastaldello (Sampdoria)
Description: One of the last valid elements of a Sampdoria team that has been all but gutted this year. Though not a very prominent player, Gastaldello is a reliable and competent option to play centre-back. Whether he can perform at international level is something which needs to be tested. Potentially a decent substitute.
Lino Marzorati (Empoli)
Description: An intelligent, dependable central defender who has never been given sufficient opportunities in Serie A. He cannot be considered seriously for la Nazionale until he returns to the major league, but he is young for a central defender and he could improve significantly.
Andrea Ranocchia (Inter)
Description: Long reputed to be the most brilliant Italian promise in defence, he is another physical, confident and imaginative player. Supposedly an heir to the legendary Alessandro Nesta, Ranocchia exploded into the scene of the media this January when he was called to join Inter’s superstar team. Despite initial skepticism, he has lived up to the task brilliantly, and now seems set to demolish anyone in his way. Competitors be warned.
Marco Rossi (Bari)
Description: Featured heavily for Bari this season, building on his regular appearances for Sampdoria last season. Still prone to make rookie errors, a tendency that must be eradicated if he is to challenge for an international place, and any future call-up will also depend on where he ends up after Bari’s seemingly inevitable relegation.