The following series of articles means to list all the players, by position, who may be expected to be called up for the Italian national team under Cesare Prandelli’s reign. Going by the consensus that Prandelli will keep his position at least until summer of 2014, we shall consider those footballers who are eligible not just for the next European Championship, but also for the next World Cup. For every player a brief commentary and (where relevant or necessary) possible position(s) are provided, as well as an estimate of his chances of getting called up for Euro 2012 or the 2014 World Cup, even if for only one of the two tournaments (injuries notwithstanding).
This is not a list of all eligible Italian footballers – we have not considered players who are generally agreed not to be sufficiently skilled to play for the Italian national team. Also, in accordance with Prandelli’s declared intent to rejuvenate, the vast majority of players aged thirty or above have been excluded, such as Simone Perrotta, Luca Toni, Francesco Totti, Antonio Di Natale, Alessando Del Piero, and others. The exceptions to this rule are those who may still be called up in spite of their advanced age, like Gianluigi Buffon or Andrea Pirlo, or those whose role and/or potential is not completely clear in the popular mind, such as Stefano Mauri.
Italy are in a state of growth. Like France and Germany, the other two nations with the youngest and most interesting teams in Europe, they can be expected to play major roles in the next three international tournaments. On this account the list cannot hope to be exhaustive, especially with respect to the candidates for 2014, since new talents are constantly cropping up while injuries never stop depriving us of established athletes. Still, though the catalogue cannot be complete, it should at least give an idea of Italy’s potential for the future, as well as their core issues in need of being resolved.
With Gigi Buffon still the undisputed No.1 for Italy, the competition in this area exists for the second and third choice ‘keepers. There are a number of excellent candidates in their mid-20s who could be in a position to take over from Buffon once he retires.
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
Description: Truly this man needs no presentations. Italy’s greatest goalkeeper along with Dino Zoff and one of the best in the history of the game, Buffon has no apparent weaknesses. Some argue that his recent string of injuries, along with age, have somewhat dulled his skills. Even so, he remains the untouchable starter.
Gianluca Curci (Sampdoria)
Description: Overrated in his youth, Curci is finally getting some real Serie A playing time. Regrettably the team he plays for, Sampdoria, has recently been dismantled by its own President. Still insecure on occasions, and vulnerable to dead-ball situations, he has a long way to go before becoming a keeper worthy of the Azzurri.
Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli)
Description: A perennial third-choice goalkeeper, albeit a reliable one. With two young guns in Viviano and Sirigu both proving their capabilities at international level, his time with Italy could well be over. Only likely to be involved if injuries strike the trio of first-choice ‘keepers.
Federico Marchetti (Cagliari)
Description: A brilliant few seasons with Cagliari have magnetised attention to this young ‘keeper and his remarkable reflexes. Marchetti has a long range and a natural talent, though his timing on one-on-one outings needs some work. Potentially a promising heir, if he finds a new club.
Antonio Mirante (Parma)
Description: Has benefitted hugely from regular football and is on Prandelli’s radar. Has not put a foot wrong for Parma so far this season, and it is a sign of the strong competition that he has not had much of a look-in so far. Plenty of room for him to improve and push for a squad place.
Salvatore Sirigu (Palermo)
Description: Not as eye-catching as Viviano, but more steady and consistent. He has not let his mistake against Estonia in August (which saw him subsequently lose his place to Viviano) hinder his club form, despite playing behind one of least efficient defensive teams in Serie A.
Emiliano Viviano (Bologna)
Description: Capable of the spectacular, but lacking a little self-assurance with the Azzurri. He has everything needed physically, but could do with using that to exert greater dominance over his penalty area. May move to Inter (who co-own him) in the summer, which may reduce his first-team chances if he cannot beat Júlio César to the No.1 jersey.